Obama’s Nobel deserves a better reception.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
It’s been a time of bad news locally, punctuated by (relatively) good news globally.
The surprise announcement that Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is a welcome reminder of the progress we’ve been making in the world, and the historic difference a change in leadership can make.
Lest we forget, it was a little less than a year ago that Obama was elected, marking a historic first in the racial struggle that has marked our nation since its birth, and a fresh start for our troubled reputation. Despite the blogosphere-fueled derision of his Nobel (it seems to be the trademark of our political culture these days), the announcement marked a welcome relief from the drumbeat of recent worrisome news, from depressing unemployment figures to the troop surge in Afghanistan.
The latest local impacts of the economy have been discouraging.
The (temporary?) shuttering of the Ol’ Factory Café in Sand City was a sad event for locals rallying around the arts and cultural scene. The last few months have also seen the closing of Monterey Live and the Jazz ’n’ Blues club in Carmel, and most recently, Warren Dewey’s stepping down from his longtime role as proprietor of the historic Golden State Theatre, handing over the booking to the Monterey Church. The recent resignation of National Steinbeck Center chief Steve Hoffman amidst concerns about its troubled finances is yet another reminder of the fragility of our cultural institutions.
Other local landmarks have been falling by the wayside, too.
The sale of Stokes Restaurant & Bar marks the end of an era for Monterey’s favorite haunted house. Although the new owners at Coastal Luxury Management, of Pebble Beach Food & Wine and Harvest Farm-to-Table fame, are more than reputable, it’s impossible not to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the warm welcome and cozy surroundings nurtured by longtime co-owner and general manager Kirk Probasco. The announcement that Quail Lodge plans to close the hotel part of its operations Nov. 16 is another rude reminder that nothing lasts forever, and that the recession hits high and low-end venues alike.
Is there an end in sight?
At minimum, it’s encouraging news that health care reform, however imperfect, is inching forward. After the sound and fury at town hall debates died down, the realization seems have finally sunk in that the current health care system is broken – and that maintaining the status quo is even more costly than the attempts, however tentative, to reform it.
So is charting a new course on the world stage.
“Some people say – and I understand it – ‘Isn’t it premature? Too early?’ Well, I’d say then that it could be too late to respond three years from now,” Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said, after the surprise announcement that the Peace Prize was being awarded to Obama.
“He has created a new international climate,” the Nobel committee noted, in a nod to the changes that have been created by the new administration, including reaching out to Muslim nations, taking a stronger role on climate change and reducing nuclear arms proliferation.
What’s been accomplished so far isn’t good enough – not by a long shot. But it’s folly to join the chorus of critics, from the right and left alike, that Obama hasn’t been able to fix in less than a year all the messes the Bush administration createdin the last eight.
Closer to home, it’s been a good week for a couple of local institutions.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s celebration of its 25th anniversary on Oct. 20 marks a well-deserved success that has been serving the community, and the world at large, with distinction and dedication.
The Weekly was proud to play a small role in honoring those contributions with our cover story last week. We and our advertisers were proud to help donate nearly $5,500 in tribute ads from the anniversary feature to the Children’s Education Fund, to support continued free visits for schoolchildren.
It was also announced last week that the Aquarium will receive $1.4 million in grants from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration to educate the public on the ways in which climate change affects the oceans – much of it to support a series of advocacy programs connected with a special exhibit, Hot Pink Flamingos: Stories of Hope in a Changing Sea, scheduled to open next March (see the web story at montereycountyweekly.com). And the Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula is celebrating its 75th anniversary on Sunday, with a variety of events (see story, p. 6, and www.chomp.org/news/75th-anniversary.aspx).
The disconnect continues. The Dow is rising. Jobless figures remain bleak. But if we get through this week’s storm, maybe we can get through the rest of it.