Less than a 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. A new public opinion poll in the United States shows a solid majority of Americans agree.
"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama," said Thorbjoern Jagland, Chairman of the Nobel Committee.
The choice for the 2009 Peace Prize took the world by surprise. 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've been honored by this prize," said President Obama.
A new poll shows Americans overwhelmingly agree.
"26 percent of Americans think that he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, obviously not a very large number," said Peter Brown.
Peter Brown is director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, which surveyed roughly 2,300 Americans about the Nobel Prize. He says only 49 percent of Democrats, the president's own party, support the prize.
"Eight percent of Republicans think he deserves the award - that's a fairly low number," he said. "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."
Those views are expressed on the streets of America.
In New York...
"I think maybe they should have waited a little bit," said Isaac Bonilla.
"This is a signal to the United States by the rest of the world that we did something very right in the election of Barack," said David Imig.
And in Chicago...
"As much as I like Barack Obama, I just don't know that he has done enough to warrant such an honor," said Ed Staub.
The president has admitted as much. He says sometimes the Nobel Prize is awarded not to honor 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 White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says the president also will talk about the reality of being a Nobel peace laureate who is leading a nation at war.
"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 Robert Gibbs.
The war weighs on President Obama as he joins the distinguished ranks of Nobel Peace Prize recipients - men and women such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Aung San Suu Kyi. He acknowledges his accomplishments pale by comparison, and suggests his award may be more about the notion of hope.