The Common Good

Obama in Oslo: Nonviolence is the Strongest Weapon

I was saddened by our president's acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize. He missed a chance to witness to courage and leadership. True, Mr. Obama was awarded the prize and did not seek it for himself. However, even the Nobel Committee acknowledged that what they were rewarding was a change in direction, more than any concrete achievements for peace. Sadly, the Committee missed the irony of awarding the prize to a President who is waging two wars.

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It is nice that Mr. Obama invoked the memories of Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. He was right in saying that without their vision and moral clarity, he would never have been standing at the lectern in Oslo. But he neglected to mention that both sacrificed their lives for taking this stand. This is true leadership.

Yes, like our president said, evil does exist in the world. But he was wrong in saying that a nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. It is this thinking that gives nations the right to wage "just wars." Any kind of war is wrong. There is a much better way. This is why our president and all Americans need to understand the power of nonviolence.

History has proven this. Due to the patience and perseverance of Gandhi and his many followers, the mighty British Army was halted in its tracks and had to withdraw from India. This came about at a great personal cost to Gandhi. He was beaten, thrown into jail, and went on many hunger strikes which almost killed him.

By advocating love, forgiveness, and nonviolence, Dr. King also withstood the hatred and viciousness of those who believed in white supremacy. He, too, was beaten and imprisoned. He was even stabbed and did not retaliate. Through this he inspired hope and gave millions of people a vision that transformed our entire society.

As a young man, I had the privilege of marching with Dr. King in Selma, where I experienced firsthand the nonviolent legacy that King gave to our nation. In the end, both he and Gandhi were assassinated for their beliefs. The evening before King was killed, he said: "I have been to the mountaintop; I have seen the glory of the Lord and I am not afraid."

Both Gandhi and King drew their strength from a deep faith in God. Without such a faith, nonviolence will never seem possible. Only with it will we be able to overcome such vicious adversaries as Al-Qaeda and similar group that abide by no law.

Dostoyevsky writes:

Of some thoughts one stands perplexed -- especially at the sight of men's sin-and wonders whether one should use force or humble love. Always decide to use humble love. If you resolve on that once and for all, you may subdue the whole world. Loving humility is marvelously strong, the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.

Nonviolence is the strongest weapon we can wield to overcome evil. May God give our president the strength and wisdom to embrace this truth.

Johann Christoph Arnold is the author of ten books, which are available as free e-books at

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