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Oslo attendees reflect after President's Speech
Ira Helfand, MD
December 10, 2009
At tonight's Nobel Dinner the vice chair of the Nobel Committee delivered a great speech in which she stressed the theme of this year's Nobel Prize as a "Call to Action". She cited a passage in Obama's first book where he describes a bus ride during an early community organizing effort and the ongoing impact it had sustaining his commitment to the work he was doing in Chicago. She expressed the wish that the ride to Oslo would have the same effect on him now, and spoke plainly of the enormous hopes the world invests in him and of the "audacity" of the Nobel Committee in challenging him further to meet those hopes.
In private conversations, a lot of people expressed reserved approval of his speech. That he was speaking largely to the US audience was commented on by several people, but with understanding that that is the audience he needs to inspire if he is going to achieve a real transformation of US nuclear policy.
People also seemed very understanding of his shortened schedule here, and of the incredible security precautions. When I was approaching the hotel for tonight's dinner, every official looking person I spoke to for directions turned out to be US security personnel. This in a country where the royal family routinely rides the tram cars unescorted.