Where Credit is Due

10 December 2009

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Obama, Woods and Eddie Aikau

The third sitting American President to win a Nobel Peace Prize was in Oslo yesterday, the first to pick his up in person. Many said that he has not done enough to deserve it, including the man himself. Also, a Congressman who had been pushing to award Tiger Woods the Congressional Gold Medal (America's highest civilian honor) withdrew his support for the idea after Mr. Woods' extra-marital affairs came to light. And finally this week, Eddie Aikau was remembered for the right reasons.

First, Barrack Obama joined Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson as presidents who won the Nobel Peace Prize (Mr. Carter's came after his term expired). Mr. Roosevelt won his for mediating the end of the Russo-Japanese War. Mr. Wilson won his for his role in establishing the League of Nations (and at the same time, he offered international law the terrible idea that nations had the right to self-determination, when it should have been individuals only). Mr. Obama appears to have won his simply for not being George W. Bush.

Mr. Obama himself said, "Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize - Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela - my accomplishments are slight." However, closing Guantanamo Bay, ending torture as a US national policy and offering Russia a nuclear arms reduction treaty all suggest that slightness will not endure. Mr. Obama may well grow into the award.

As for Tiger Woods, he is probably the greatest golfer of all time. Certainly, he is the greatest of his generation. Is the Congressional Gold Medal the kind of thing the US should be handing out to its greatest athletes? Well, why not? In Britain, Sebastian Coe wound up a lord because he ran quickly (and backed Mrs. Thatcher at the right time). A medal for Mr. Woods is appropriate.

Regrettably in this celebrity obsessed society, private problems aren't private. While one is clearly disappointed in anyone who violates the wedding vows, one also knows enough to mind one's own business. Matthew 7:3 (King James Version) says it well, "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" Mr. Woods is not important because he is a loyal husband but rather because he golfs better than anyone on the planet. Should a man married 75 years who was always faithful be denied a similar medal because he can't golf?

When it comes to recognition, the example set on the north shore of the Hawaiian island of Maui on Tuesday is best. The 2009/2010 Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau surfing contest was held for the first time since 2004 because the waves haven't been big enough since then. Tuesday, they were 40 feet high. Mr. Aikau was a surfer, and a lifeguard. Wikipedia quotes maritime historian Mac Simpson as saying, "Aikau was a legend on the North Shore, pulling people out of waves that no one else would dare to. That's where the saying came from -- Eddie would go, when no else would or could. Only Eddie dared." He was lost at sea during an attempt to recreate the ancients' journey between Tahiti and Hawaii. The boat sprang a leak, and Mr. Aikau tried to paddle to Lanai on his surf board for help. The Coast Guard rescued everyone else, but Mr. Aikau was lost. In the 1980s, T-shirts and bumper stickers sprang up that simply read "Eddie Would Go."

Was Mr. Aikau perfect? What human being is? Whatever his faults, no one today cares. Instead, he is recalled as a brave man and a lover of the sea. He is honored for what he did that was right, rather than denied that honor because of irrelevant shortcomings. At the same time, he did things worthy of recognition.

Copyright 2009 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Fedora Linux.

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