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Obama wins Nobel

Ceremony draws Americans to Norway

OSLO, NORWAY — When Patricia Shaw first came to Norway, she was fired up and ready to fight for equality.

Ted Bailey fell in love and never looked back.

Jason Nemor Harden followed one dream and found another. All of them discovered a new life beyond a country they left behind without many regrets.

But in came Barack Obama, changing their views on what it means to be an American abroad.

For African-Americans living, working or simply traveling overseas, yesterday represented a moment in history few wanted to miss — witnessing a president of a shared heritage being honored by the world for his role in helping to re-engage and reset a global agenda for peace.

"I'm just happy he's here," said Shaw, who came to Norway as one of the first African-American Fulbright scholars and holds the King's Medal for her literary translation work. "I was in Uzbekistan recently talking with 10 men, and they asked me where I was from. I told them, 'USA — Obama!' And they all smiled and gave me thumbs up."

As a student at Howard University, Shaw rabble-roused for equality in a segregated Washington, D.C.

When an inaugural American summer-exchange program in Norway had no black applicants, recruiters came to Howard — and Shaw raised her hand.

Soon, she was elected president of the student council for that summer-school class. She returned to Norway after graduating and has been there since 1953 — two children and one marriage later.

Ted Bailey is still working on his marriage, as one of the legion of "love-pats" in Norway — Americans who married Norwegians and followed them home. For him, the love bug struck in 1972, about the same time a work assignment sent him there. Within 10 months he was married, and by 1975, relocated.

Like many in his situation, he retained his U.S. citizenship, voting in every election. Watching Obama assume the presidency brought him to tears, and yesterday's Nobel presentation made the Los Angeles native swell with pride.

"The Nobel committee chairman introduced him [Obama] and said, 'Mr. President, you have the floor for your lecture.' I tell you what, that was one of the best lectures I've ever heard in my life," Bailey said.

"He told people straight, 'Even though I got the prize, I'm still the commander in chief.' And he made it clear that to make peace, it takes time."

The speech also earned raves from the members of Baltimore City Women for Obama who hopped a plane to support the president abroad. Without tickets to the main affair, they caught the event inside the Nobel Peace Center with a cluster of others on a giant-screen television. They reveled in it.

"At first I thought I was going to have a case of sour grapes," said Patricia Davis. "But I was just glad to be here, and it was so much better to witness it here than if I were at home watching it on television."

Jason Harden was just excited to get a close-up look at the man for whom he voted. After a basketball career that sent him globe-trotting from team to team, the Houston native settled in Iceland.

When he closed out his basketball career last year to pursue his childhood passion — the saxophone — gigs still kept him on the road. But unlike when he was on the court, he focused more on American politics in 2008, especially when his mother insisted that this young man on the trail "reminded her of her own son."

"'You even have the same birthday,' she told me," Harden said. "So I definitely had to check him out."

He did, liked what he saw and voted for him. Whether Obama earned the peace prize is irrelevant to him. Harden says that he can see the difference in attitudes toward the United States as he moves around the world.

"Before, people would ask, 'Are you an American? Did you vote for Bush?' As long as you said, 'No,' they might look at you with suspicion, but assume maybe you're OK. Now, with Obama, they just look at you and smile.

"An Iraqi came up to me the other day out of the blue and said, 'Obama. I like that dude.' So there is definitely a change," Harden said. "And it's good."

Despite the sweep of history that the Nobel Prize represents, not every expat is enamored with the idea of Obama as its laureate. Carl Proctor is firm on the view that this was a premature, political move by the Nobel committee.

"It's not about him, or him winning it," said Proctor, a transplanted communications professional from New York. "It was the decision-making process of the panel. The prize will be permanently tarnished. The Nobel committee has been working on that for a while, giving it to Arafat but not Gerry Adams. But this is the last straw."

Terry Carter, an actor and filmmaker, shares some of those concerns about the pace and stance of this wartime president, particularly as they relate to the goals of the Nobel Prize.

But as an 81-year-old black man, he has seen many shifts in attitudes and realities for African-Americans, at home and abroad. None equates to seeing Obama stroll out to "Hail to the Chief."

"He is the president of my country, and I'm proud that he's there," Carter added. *