President Barack Obama, Nobel Laureate

The announcement that President Barack Obama, after just nine months in the Oval Office, had won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize stunned the world — including the humbled recipient.

“I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures that have been honored by this prize,” Obama said in remarks to the press in the White House Rose Garden.  “I will accept the award as a call to action, a call to all nations to confront the challenges of the 21st century.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said they chose to award Obama the prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”  Thorbjoern Jagland, the Nobel committee chairman, said “only rarely has a person such as Obama captured the world’s attention and given his people hope for a better future.  His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitude that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.”

Obama becomes only the third sitting American president to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  He joins Teddy Roosevelt, who won the 1906 award for his efforts in ending the Russo-Japanese War.  The other is Woodrow Wilson, who won the 1919 prize  for negotiating the Treaty of Versailles to end World War I and his efforts in creating the League of Nations.

Obama intends to donate the $1.4 million cash prize to charity.

In congratulating him, we should also remember the extraordinary heroes who were nominated this year, including Morgan Tsvangirai – the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe – and Denis Mukwege – a gynecologist who specializes in the treatment of women who have been gang raped by Congolese militia.