Accessibility links

Breaking News

Obama Prepares to Accept Nobel Peace Prize


'...I will accept this award - as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century,' said Mr. Obama

Less than one year after he took office, U.S. President Barack Obama is preparing to go to Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. He says he is humbled by the award and not sure he has done enough to warrant such a high honor.

The announcement by the chairman of the Nobel Committee took the world by surprise.

"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama," announced Thorbjoen Jagland.

Even the president was stunned.

"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 said.

A new public opinion poll shows that Americans overwhelmingly agree.

Peter Brown is head of the Quinnipiac University Poll, which surveyed roughly 2,300 Americans about the award.

"Twenty-six percent of Americans think that he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize - obviously not a very large number," said Brown.

Support was extremely low among Republicans and independent voters. And Brown notes that even among members of the president's own Democratic Party, only 49 percent of voters say the Nobel Committee made the right choice.

"Eight percent of Republicans think he deserves the award. That is a fairly low number," said Peter Brown. "And, interestingly, 19 percent of Independents think he deserves the award. Clearly, Democrats to a much larger degree than anyone else - but still, not even a majority of Democrats - think he deserves the award."

The president has admitted as much, saying that sometimes the Nobel Prize is awarded not to honor a specific achievement, but 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," said Mr. Obama.

The White House says Mr. Obama's Nobel lecture in Oslo will build on those themes. But Spokesman Robert Gibbs says he will also talk about the reality of being a Nobel peace laureate who is leading a nation at war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We'll address directly the notion, I think, that many have wondered [about], which is the juxtaposition of the timing for the Nobel Peace Prize and his commitment to add more troops into Afghanistan," said Gibbs.

The conflicts weigh on President Obama as he prepares to join the ranks of Nobel Peace Prize recipients - men and women like Nelson Mandela; Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Aung San Suu Kyi. He acknowledges his accomplishments pale by comparison, and suggests that his award might be more about hope than accomplishments.