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The Nobel Prize and the Improper Use of Grammar

It’s interesting, the Left is actually admitting that the only reason Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize was because he replaced George W Bush — or at least Joan Walsh does.

I am a product of the public school system. My dad was a public school superintendent. I remember school teachers telling us that grammar is important. We must understand words people use — and the way they’re used — in order to understand what someone is saying. And what they’re not saying.

I received/endured the required English grammar training of our public school system. I also took two years of French in high school and one year in college. I was fortunate to have also studied one year of Classical Greek at UNC Chapel Hill (a secular state university). Studying classical Greek prepared me for one year of New Testament Greek. Finally, I took a year of Hebrew. One of the most fascinating classes I took in seminary combined Greek and Hebrew and looked at The New Testament Interpretation of the Old Testament — but that’s a side issue here.

Bottom line: I think I have a pretty good feel for how language works: nominals, verbals, conjunctions, and prepositions are grouped together and change their forms accordingly to express thought.

The process of breaking down a language in order to understand someone’s thoughts is called exegesis. The exegetical process is objective. Anyone with a handle of a language and its vocabulary can do it. Exegesis involves observation. Observation asks the question, “What is being said?” and as such, is objective. Interpretation on the other hand, is a different issue. When one takes the observation and asks, “What does this mean?” one has stepped outside the realm of observation and into interpretation.

One of the challenges of teaching the Bible is waiting to ask, “What does this mean?” until I have understood, “What does this say?” This is one of the reasons we have so many disagreements between denominations, cults, etc. “Everybody has their own interpretation” — but that’s a side issue here.

When Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the Peace Prize in his will, he said that it would be awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.”

Grammar is apolitical. Properly interpreting words and their use is not affected by one’s worldview. Note, I said properly interpreting.

For a moment, let’s take Obama, Bush, political parties, and worldviews out of our minds; admittedly that may be very difficult for many of us. If we set aside our differences and simply look at Nobel’s own words, the Peace Prize was to be awarded to the person who “shall have done …” Grammatically, this is called a future perfect.

The American Heritage Dictionary at dictionary.com defines the future perfect as, “A verb tense that expresses action completed by a specified time in the future and that is formed in English by combining will have or shall have with a past participle.” About.com says about the French future perfect, “The French future perfect is most commonly used like the English future perfect: to describe an action that will have happened or will be finished by a specific point in the future.”

I am not a lawyer. I never studied in a law school. But I know that laws are based on the proper use of grammar. The court system issues verdicts based on words, phrases, etc. That is why our laws are so verbose; lawmakers want to make sure there are no (or few) loopholes in the law.

Again, setting aside worldviews, politics and everything else that makes us different, we must all agree that Nobel’s will has been violated. Nobel did not establish the Peace Prize in his will to be awarded to some who provided a promise (or “hope” — sorry, I couldn’t resist) of future action. It was to be awarded to someone who had completed something in the future.

When Obama’s nomination was submitted, he had been the US President for only twelve days. All of us must agree that in his first twelve days of his presidency, President Obama had not, “done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.”

If Barack Obama is nothing else, he is a smart man. You don’t graduate from Harvard or Yale without a great deal of mental competency. Interesting, George W Bush graduated from Yale¬† — but that is a side issue here.

Grammatically, we must conclude that Barack Hussein Obama should not have been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. He clearly did not deserve it. As a Harvard Law School graduate, Mr. Obama must agree with these conclusions and as such, should have declined the award. That is not to say that he might qualify for it in the future; but that it yet to be seen. If someone were to sue the Nobel Prize Committee for wrongly executing Nobel’s will, they would be successful, according to the clear use of grammar.

Objective conclusion: Barack Obama did not deserve the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

He should give it back.