- The Washington Times - Friday, October 9, 2009

UPDATED:

The Nobel Committee in Oslo stunned the world Friday by awarding President Obama its coveted prize for peace, citing his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

The announcement was unexpected considering Mr. Obama received the award after winning the presidential election just nine months earlier and taking office only weeks before the Feb. 1 nomination deadline.

During the press conference to announce the winner, gasps filled the room when Mr. Obama’s name was announced in Norwegian by Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Committee said. Moments later, the announcement was made again in English.

The five-member Nobel committee said it placed special importance on Mr. Obama’s “vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”

“Obama has, as president, created a new climate in international politics,” the committee said. “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. 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.”

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The president was awakened on Friday morning with the news.

“I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee,” Mr. Obama said at a late-morning, hastily arranged appearance in the White House Rose Garden.

Mr. Obama said he would accept the unexpected honor of the Nobel Prize for Peace, saying the award is “about the courageous efforts of people around the world” and so it must be shared.

“Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments,” he said. “But rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.”

The president continued: “To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize — men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

“But 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. And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action — a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.”

Mr. Obama began his remarks with an attempt to be self-effacing about the honor. He explained he was awaken with news of the honor, and immediately confronted with more immediate family concerns, including word of his dog’s birthday and his daughter’s observation that they were on the cusp of a three-day weekend.

“It’s good to have kids to keep things in perspective,” he said.

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