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2009-10-09 | Obama “Humbled” by Award of 2009 Nobel Peace Prize

Obama “Humbled” by Award of 2009 Nobel Peace Prize

09 October 2009
President Obama says he accepts the 2009 Nobel Peace prize as a call to action. (Photo: By Merle David Kellerhals Jr. Staff Writer)

President Obama says he accepts the 2009 Nobel Peace prize as a call to action. (Photo: By Merle David Kellerhals Jr. Staff Writer)

Washington — The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

At a White House briefing, Obama told reporters that “I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel committee. I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.”

Obama, speaking at a small podium on the steps of the White House’s West Wing on October 9, said he did not feel he deserved the peace prize compared with the many transformative figures who have been awarded it. Three previous American presidents have been awarded the peace prize while in office.

“I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women and all Americans want to build, a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents,” he added.

The award was announced by Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjørn Jagland, a former Norwegian prime minister, at a press conference in Oslo October 9. Obama said he will accept the prize at the formal award ceremonies in Oslo in December.

Obama is the fourth American president to be awarded the prize, after Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, Woodrow Wilson in 1919 and Jimmy Carter in 2002. A total of 21 Americans have been awarded the peace prize, either individually or jointly with others.

“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” the award citation said. “His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.”

“For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman.”

The committee cited Obama for his vision and work for a world without nuclear weapons. Obama vowed that the United States will take concrete steps toward a world free of nuclear weapons in an April 5 speech in Hradcanske Square outside the medieval Prague Castle in the Czech Republic. “We will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same,” Obama said.


Obama said he “will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.” He said this award is not about his efforts alone, but also about a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

While acknowledging that some of the work he has begun will take years beyond his presidency to accomplish, he said these challenges can be met.

“This award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity; for the young woman who marches silently in the streets on behalf of her right to be heard, even in the face of beatings and bullets; for the leader imprisoned in her own home because she refuses to abandon her commitment to democracy; for the soldier who sacrificed through tour after tour of duty, on behalf of someone half a world away; and for all those men and women across the world who sacrifice their safety and their freedom, and sometime their lives, for the cause of peace,” Obama said.

The Nobel committee said 205 names were submitted for the peace prize this year, including 33 organizations. The White House was caught completely unaware until the announcement was made in Oslo. Most Americans awakened to the news as they began preparing for the work day.

The Nobel prizes were established in 1895, and the first awards were made six years later in 1901. The prize was established by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, in his 1895 will. The 2009 prize in physics was announced October 5, in chemistry October 7, in literature October 8, and in peace October 9. The prize for economic science will be announced October 12.

The peace prize received the largest share of Nobel’s wealth. As he described in his will, one part was dedicated to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

White House aides said that Obama has decided to give the $1.4 million monetary award that accompanies the peace prize to charity.

What foreign affairs decisions should President Obama consider? Comment on’s blog Obama Today.