George Graham

The Nobel Peace Prize Belongs to Barack’s Mother

The Nobel Peace Prize Belongs to Barack’s Mother

I have no way of knowing, of course, but I like to think Stanley Anne Dunham is looking down and smiling this morning. For, of all the improbable honors bestowed on her son, the Nobel Peace Prize would surely please her the most.

Often, when I hear Barack Obama’s ringing rhetoric, I think of his mother, a young white woman from Kansas, with her half-black baby at a time when marriages such as hers were illegal in many American states. I think of her tutoring him by lamplight before the start of the school day, preparing him for a life of meaning and purpose. And I recall a passage in one of his books where he quotes her response to his complaints. “This is no picnic for me, either, Buster,” he remembers her saying.

dunhamIt certainly was no picnic. This was a woman who had faith in mankind’s better angels, who tried to live according to her convictions despite the overwhelming odds against success. This was a woman who tried to make a difference, and who never gave in to despair. She kept the faith and raised her son to carry the torch of enlightenment in a dark world.

Did she know he would go to Harvard, become an exceptional scholar and a constitutional law professor? Was she preparing him to be a senator? To be America’s first black President? Of course not. She was trying to raise a decent human being – according to her lights.

So, when I listen to the President, and applaud the sentiments that won him the Nobel Peace Prize, I think of Stanley Anne Dunham, her difficult life and untimely death, and I wonder what she might have said if she had lived to see how things turned out.

Sometimes, I wonder whether her son fully understood the words she drilled into him, or whether they’re just words he learned by rote.

Granted, he is operating in a complex and corrupt environment, where hypocrisy and lies are the norm and where evil forces hold enormous power. And granted he must rely on allies who would betray him for a few pieces of silver as quickly as any Judas Iscariot. Yes, I try to understand how hard it must be to do the right thing in such an America – in such a world. But I have yet to be convinced that his actions match his words. Can Barack Obama in good conscience accept the Nobel Peace Prize and send more young Americans to kill and to die in Afghanistan? Will he smile that smile of his and say those words his mother taught him and order more air strikes against villagers across the Pakistani border?

When he listens to the counsels of war and the self-serving lies of the military-industrial power brokers, will he pause for a moment and ask himself what his mother would say?

Tags: Barack Obama;s mother, Nobel Peace Prize, Obama peace prize, Stanley Anne Dunham, U.S. foreign policy, U.S. politics

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for