“It was not how I expected to wake up this morning,” Obama admitted in his acceptance speech. “I am both surprised and deeply humbled… To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize—men and women who’ve inspired me and the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.”
The US President stated that he viewed the prestigious award not as a “recognition of my own accomplishments,” but rather as a show of support for “American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by all nations.”
“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,” Obama proclaimed before a stunned global audience.
Norwegian Nobel Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland highlighted Obama’s efforts to reach out to the Middle East and his promotion of nuclear disarmament as the two key factors that helped this “long-shot” candidate win the 2009 award. “As a president, he has created a new climate internationally,” declared Jagland.
The Nobel Committee’s surprise announcement engendered mixed reactions both in the US and the international community. The fact that Obama was sworn in as President less than nine months ago and has yet to achieve any substantial foreign policy success provoked skeptical reactions from Republican Party representatives, as well as citizens of countries from Northern Europe to the Middle East.
“What has President Obama actually accomplished?" questioned Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee.
“I think it’s a bit early…I hoped he’d received it a little bit later, after he’d achieved the things he’s promising,” a young man in Oslo, Norway told BBC News.
The Middle Eastern media organization Al Jazeera noted that, “Beyond the good intentions, Obama has yet to achieve any breakthrough with Iran over its nuclear weapons program or to convince Israel to stop building settlements.”
Most world leaders, however, offered the US President congratulations and warm praise for his inspiring leadership in promoting international dialogue and cooperation to confront tough issues.
“I am really encouraged by the Nobel Prize commission’s recognition of this most unusual and far-reaching impact of the leadership of the President of the United States,” stated Israeli president Shimon Peres.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon commented that President Obama “embodies the due spirit of dialogue and engagement” during a “new era where the challenges facing humankind demand global common cause and uncommon global efforts.”
The Dalai Lama also lauded Obama’s work “towards a world without nuclear weapons” and his “constructive role in environmental protection” in a letter of congratulations addressed to the US President.
President Obama is the fifth American executive—preceded by Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, and Vice President Al Gore—and the third African American to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Now, Obama has just over three years remaining in his presidency to prove whether the Nobel Committee was “premature” or justified in its decision to include him in the coveted category of Nobel Peace Prize recipients.