Obama accepts 'call to action'

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US President Barack Obama said he will accept the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 as “a call to action,” noting that he was “both surprised and deeply humbled” to receive what many regard as the most prestigious award in the world.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee stunned almost everybody when it made its announcement in Oslo Friday morning. Six hours later, Obama emerged from the White House to say he was surprised himself.

He said his daughters woke him up with the news that “Daddy, you won the Peace Prize,” and that it also was the family dog’s birthday. Obama said it was good to have kids “who can keep things in perspective.”

On a more serious note, he said he views the prize not as a recognition of his accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership.

Obama said that, “to be honest,” he didn’t feel he deserved “to be in the company” of so many earlier esteemed Peace Prize winners. He noted, however, that the prize hasn’t only been used as a means of recognizing accomplishment, but as a means of lending momentum to various causes.

That’s the spirit in which he feels he can accept the prize, as “a call to action” to keep working on his efforts to reduce nuclear weapons, end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, achieve peace in the Middle East and help resolve other conflicts all over the world, through dialogue and diplomacy.

Those are precisely the attributes, dialogue and diplomacy instead of confrontation, that most impressed the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Obama freely admitted he won’t be able to resolve many of the issues he faces during the course of his administration, or even during his lifetime. “The challenges can’t be met by any one leader,” he said.

But he aims to do what he can. While the prize for Obama was criticized by many, from the Taliban to conservatives in the US, it was hailed by a long list of former Nobel Peace Prize winners and heads of state. In Moscow, for example, the reaction was positive and some analysts claimed Obama already has made major progress in improving relations between the US and Russia, not least by his recent decision to scrap a controversial missile defense system. In return, Russia already has signaled it will help put pressure on Iran to reduce its nuclear program.