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In a unanimous -- and surprising -- decision, the Nobel Committee has voted to award President Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize.
The citation read in Oslo on Friday morning said that the committee chose Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." It went on to say, "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future."
Obama seemed humbled by the award as he responded to the news in the White House Rose Garden this morning. "To be honest, I do not feel I deserve to be in the company of the figures who have been honored by this prize," he said. "I do not view this 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."
He continued, saying that the Nobel Prize has often been awarded to give momentum to particular issues and causes. "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," he said.
CNN reports that Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the committee, dismissed the notion that Obama had been recognized too soon for his efforts. Jagland said the award was given to promote the president in the same way it that recognized Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 for his efforts to open up the Soviet Union. Nominations for the prize closed in early February, just two weeks after President Obama took office.In an interview with NBC News on Friday morning, senior White House adviser David Axelrod said, "It's an honor. It's nothing anyone expected. It's nothing the president sought. He is less interested in individual honors -- and this certainly is one -- than pursing the causes cited by the Nobel Committee. I think it's an affirmation that the things he's been working on for nine months and before are important."
American media responded with some confusion early Friday morning, noting that Obama has not completed the first year in office and had not been considered a front-runner for the award. Speaking on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," NBC White House Correspondent Chuck Todd said, "My response is, for what?"
CNN quoted former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, last year's Peace Prize laureate, as saying the Nobel voters wanted to encourage Obama on the issues he has brought to the world stage.
|Maybe he will some day, but not yet.||11827 (12.4%)|
|Yes, he has changed the state of diplomacy.||19245 (20.1%)|
|What are they smoking over in Oslo?||33769 (35.4%)|
|What for?||30680 (32.1%)|
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