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The honor and the irony of Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech

President Obama will be in Oslo on Thursday to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, an award of great prestige and renown that also carries some baggage.

Here’s some background:

The honor: Obama receives the award for being the person who has done the most to promote international fraternity and for “the abolition or reduction of standing armies.”

The irony: The ceremony comes just days after Obama announced that he would send 30,000 more troops to fight the war in Afghanistan.

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The challenge for the acceptance speech: Obama’s task is to attempt to reconcile the military buildup with his vision of a world at peace.

The added risk: With the U.S. economy still showing weakness, polls indicate that Americans want their president focused on problems at home.

His forerunners: Only two American commanders in chief have previously won the peace prize -- Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

How he prepared the customary peace “lecture”: Obama read several past speeches by laureates, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Elie Wiesel.

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Who helped: Speechwriters Ben Rhodes and Jon Favreau; a team of White House political advisors.

The political context: Obama is mindful of how his message plays among allies abroad but also how Americans understand the president’s commitment to national security.

The “snub” factor: Most laureates stick around for days of events, including tributes to their work. Some Europeans are put out that Obama will leave Friday for duties in Washington.

The December to-do list at home: Create jobs, pass healthcare bill, renew disarmament deal with Russia, find homes for Guantanamo Bay detainees. Obama will also attend the climate change conference in Copenhagen next week in hopes of achieving a world accord.

What he’ll do with the Nobel Prize award of $1.4 million: Give it to charity. Not known which ones, but he may announce it in his speech.

How to watch: The lecture is part of a Nobel ceremony scheduled for 4 a.m. PST Thursday, to be shown on network TV and streamed live at nobelprize.org.

cparsons@latimes.com


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