U.S. President Barack Obama has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
The reporters gathered in Oslo hung on every word as Thorbjorn Jagland, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, uttered the name of this year's winner.
While much admired around the world, the announcement still came as a surprise as some Nobel observers believe it is too early in his presidency for Barack Obama to receive the award. Jagland firmly disagrees.
"If you look at the history of the Nobel Peace Prize, we have on many occasions tried to enhance what many personalities is [are] trying to do," Jagland noted. "For instance, when Willy Brandt got the prize back in the 1970s, he launched Ostpolitik in Europe which was so important in what happened many years later. For instance giving the prize to Mikhail Gorbachev for changing the world completely and now to President Obama who is contributing to improve the international climate, to strengthen the international bodies such as the U.N. for instance and that is very, very much needed. And the committee wants to not only endorse, but contribute to enhancing that kind of international policy and the attitudes which he stands for."
More than 200 individuals and organizations were nominated this year, but as Jagland explains, Barack Obama won for giving the world hope for a better future and for striving for a nuclear-free world.
"We are awarding President Obama for his extraordinary efforts in order to strengthen dialogue in the world, to resolve conflicts by negotiations and through the international bodies that we have for that purpose," he said.
Mr. Obama, the first African-American to hold the top job in the U.S. has strongly called for disarmament and he has worked to restart the stalled Middle East peace process since taking office nearly 10 months ago.
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore won in 2007 along with the U.N. climate panel and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was awarded the prize in 2002.