President Barack Obama said he’s “surprised and deeply humbled” to receive the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize and will travel to Norway in December to accept the honor.
But Obama’s trademark grin was nowhere to be seen as he spoke of winning the prize in a six-minute address in the Rose Garden. His face seemed cloudy on a sunny fall day. “Let me be clear,” he said. “I do not 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 … This award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity.”
Obama added that he hoped the “momentum” the prize generates would help him deal with a host of the world’s most pressing problems, ranging from climate change to nuclear weapons.
The White House was plainly stunned by the sudden honor thrust upon a recently minted President with scant results to show for his rhetoric. Its chief occupant attempted to leaven the occasion by detailing his daughters’ reaction.
“After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, ‘Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo’s birthday,’ ” referring to the First Mutt. “And then Sasha added, ‘Plus we have a three-day weekend coming up,’ ” in reference to Columbus Day. “So it’s good to have kids to keep things in perspective.”
Obama said he doesn’t “feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize” but that he would travel to Oslo in December to accept it as “a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.” He then rattled off a laundry list of problems. Beyond nuclear weapons and climate change, he said he hoped the prize would serve as a catalyst to grapple with the Middle East, violence, poverty, disease and racism. “Some of the work confronting us will not be completed during my presidency,” he said. “Some, like the elimination of nuclear weapons, may not be completed in my lifetime.”
The day originally set to be focused on an intense, closed-door meeting on the Afghan war in the basement Situation Room Friday afternoon, OCt. 9 was hijacked by the 5:03 a.m. news bulletin from Oslo. The award capped off a week that found that the U.S. is now the world’s most admired nation, up from seventh place last year, charting the highest jump among the 50 countries measured.
White House staff regularly get “item of interest” e-mails from the Situation Room staff. So that is how most staffers were notified this morning if they were awake. Shortly after 5 a.m., the Situation Room sent out an internal e-mail with the subject line: “Item of Interest: President Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize.” Phones quickly started ringing after that, including a call from Gibbs to wake up Obama just before 6 a.m. Five hours later, the President strode into the Rose Garden as the globe’s newest Nobel laureate.
With reporting by Michael Scherer / Washington
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