The path not travelled by Barack Hussein Obama

The story of Barack Hussein Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize is well known.
He got the prize without having accomplished much before winning it.

Few days ago I faced a similar (but in much smaller scale) situation.
I sometimes volunteer to help in area A.  There is a nonprofit B, whose mission is to support volunteers in area A.

Among other things, each year, nonprofit B selects few finalists and the Volunteer of the Year and gives them prizes.  Members of the nonprofit may nominate anyone they believe to deserve the Volunteer of the Year prize.

What happened was that to my surprise, I found myself among those who were nominated for the Volunteer of Year 2010 prize.  I did volunteer to some tasks, requiring only few hours each.  However I felt very uncomfortable being in a situation in which I could get this year’s prize or being one of the finalists.

On the other hand, my getting the prize would have signalled empowerment of people with disabilities.

After some thought, I withdrew my candidacy for the 2010 prize.  When questioned by a member of the committee in charge of selecting the winners, I explained that I did very little to deserve the prize.  On the other hand, I recently started a bigger project, and if it gets accomplished, I’ll feel comfortable getting the 2011 prize.

I am not particularly modest, neither am I in desperate search for honors or recognition.  Why, then, did I avoid this year’s prize?

The reason was that if I were in position to get the prize this year, it would have chaepened the prize in my eyes, and possibly also in others’ eyes.  Next year, if I accomplish that project, my getting the prize would honor both me and the prize.

On the other hand, one could argue that the Nobel Peace Prize was already irreversibly cheapened by having it granted to Yasser Arafat, who proved to be utterly incapable to steer his people toward peacefully building their territory and getting persperous, and away from terror against civilians.  So it didn’t matter anymore that Obama got it for essentially nothing

Author: Omer Zak

I am deaf since birth. I played with big computers which eat punched cards and spew out printouts since age 12. Ever since they became available, I work and play with desktop size computers which eat keyboard keypresses and spew out display pixels. Among other things, I developed software which helped the deaf in Israel use the telephone network, by means of home computers equipped with modems. Several years later, I developed Hebrew localizations for some cellular phones, which helped the deaf in Israel utilize the cellular phone networks. I am interested in entrepreneurship, Science Fiction and making the world more accessible to people with disabilities.

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