Danish Minister for Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard said she came home one day last February to find her teenage son painting a giant mural of Barack Obama on his bedroom wall. The painting, she said, should be a symbol for Americans of just how much hope the new president has instilled in the rest of the world.
"How many years is it since you had an American president that a new youth generation, not only in Denmark, not only in Europe, in Asia, in Africa ... who through his presidency has allowed hope in the United States?" said Hedegaard. "It's fantastic that a new generation of youth worldwide sees this new hope in American leadership."
"I know all the troubles back home on your domestic scene," she continued. "But those of us who love the US, it is a fantastic and unique possibility of reinventing the American strong position in the world."
Hedegaard noted this in a meeting with a small group of American reporters here in Copenhagen on Friday, just minutes after word hit the press that Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Denmark, like the rest of the world, is abuzz about the award. Like many Americans, I'm befuddled by the choice. While I hope that he may some day earn such a prize, I'm not sure that he's done anything in his barely nine months in office that would merit this honor.
On climate change in particular, I'm rather surprised by the credit he's getting. The prize committee stated, among other reasons, that, "Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting." Hedegaard, Danish leaders, and the average Danish citizens I've met here also seem to be giving him quite a bit more credit than is deserved on this issue.