President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.
In announcing their decision, the committee cited Mr. Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world and attempts to curb nuclear proliferation.
A White House official said the President feels “humbled” by the honor.
“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 committee 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.”
The Nobel committee praised Obama’s creation of “a new climate in international politics” and said he had returned multilateral diplomacy and institutions like the U.N. to the center of the world stage. Some observors say the honor appeared to be a slap at President George W. Bush, whom the committee had harshly criticized for resorting to largely unilateral military action in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The stunning choice made Obama only the third sitting U.S. president to win the Nobel Peace Prize. President Theodore Roosevelt won the award in 1906 and President Woodrow Wilson won in 1919. Jimmy Carter won The Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 — after he left office.
Mister Obama’s name had been mentioned in speculation before the award but many Nobel watchers believed it was too early to award the president.
“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,” Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Committee said. “In the past year Obama has been a key person for important initiatives in the U.N. for nuclear disarmament and to set a completely new agenda for the Muslim world and East-West relations.”
He added that the committee endorsed “Obama’s appeal that ‘Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.’”
The Nobel committee received a record 205 nominations for this year’s prize though it was not immediately apparent who nominated Obama.
Favorites for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize had included Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a Colombian senator and a Chinese dissident, along with an Afghan woman’s rights activist.