Only eight months into Barack Obama’s administration, the President has won the year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
The Nobel committee made the announcement Friday morning from Oslo, Norway. Obama was awarded the prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. He has created a new international climate.”
The President, 48, delivered a speech a few hours later from the White House Rose Garden to address the news.
“This is not how I expected to wake up this morning,” he told the gathered reporters. “I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision made by the Nobel committee. Let me be clear that I don’t 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.
“To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize,” he continued. “But I 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 our founding documents.
“I will accept this award as a call to action.”
Obama began the speech with an anecdote about how his daughters Sasha and Malia acknowledged his win, but also noted that it was their dog Bo’s birthday and that they had a three-day weekend coming up.
“It’s good to have kids to keep things in perspective,” he quipped.
Watch the president’s reaction:
To say the announcement was a surprise is to put it mildly, since Obama wasn’t even known to be a front-runner to win and since he’s still considered to be in the beginning stages of proving himself.
“We are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future but for what he has done in the previous year,” says Nobel committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland. “We would hope this will enhance what he is trying to do.”
The decision, which Jagland said was “unanimous” and came easily, is even more surprising when one takes into account that Obama had to be nominated in September 2008 — two months before he had even been elected president — and that the last votes were cast Feb. 1, only 12 days after he took office.
The Nobel Peace Prize has only recognized three other presidents: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter. The last, however, was named a winner only after he had left office.
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