President Obama isn’t here yet, but the city is breathing anticipation–not all of it positive. For 99 Norwegian Crowns one can buy an Obama t-shirt with “Hope” across the bottom, and for 0 Crowns one can enjoy Greenpeace’s characteristically aggressive campaigning for environmental issues.
So in just a few hours the President will board Air Force One and begin his 26 hours in Oslo, to accept a controversial and arguably confusing peace prize, just days after ordering the deployment of 30-thousand more American troops to Afghanistan. This is an uncomfortable time; an insecure time; and this is the time in which we live.
Festive and ready
People often compare new experiences to things familiar. Oslo reminds me of Seattle–not in terms of people, attractions or history. But geographically Oslo has a mesh of trees, harbor and city in a way that connects to Northwesterners. By all accounts this city is safe, though I had to avoid a used syringe on the sidewalk on my way to the grocery store. Every city has its quirks.
The posh Grand Hotel (left) will house President Obama for a few hours during his stay.
Thousands of police and security officials have been mobilized for the President’s visit. Snipers, bomb-sniffing dogs, officers with machine guns, cement barricades around important buildings–it is a bit disconcerting thinking about the millions of dollars spent to preserve peace, at the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize.
But the precautions are well-warranted. Not only is this prize going to a sitting-US president, but Greenpeace has said it would protest outside the Grand Hotel. And that is where I, and the majority of the press corps will be after tomorrow’s mid-day ceremony.
The sign the US President has been/or will be somewhere: welded manhole covers
Tomorrow my colleagues at WDR will ask me about my impressions of this award, and of Mr. Obama’s remarks, and I honestly don’t know what I will say, yet. These are not easy times, and Mr. Obama hasn’t been dealt a solid hand. Economy, health care, war, and a congress in political (and/or mental) stasis.
What I do know, is what I would ask the President, given the chance. I would ask him, as the leader of my country, what he hopes Americans take away from his being granted this peace prize–I would like to hear him give context to the times in which we live. He said at West Point our nation must sacrifice more…but for what, Mr. President? I ask not as a partisan, only as a curious journalist.
There are no easy answers. But there are easy questions. I would like to ask just one tough question, from one American to another. Stay tuned.