WASHINGTON (CN) – President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize Friday “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced. The decision came as a surprise to many, as Obama had been president for less than two weeks when nominations were submitted. “Well, this is not how I expected to wake up this morning,” Obama said in remarks from the Rose Garden.
“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,” he said.
But the committee seemed to disagree. “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,” the Nobel committee wrote in its announcement.
The committee’s Feb. 1 nomination deadline did not stop Obama from being nominated and ultimately awarded the annual prize. The White House said Obama plans to donate the approximately $1.4 million that comes with the award to charity, but didn’t specify which one.
The award specifically mentioned the president’s moves to reduce nuclear weapons.
Obama has called for the world to ultimately renounce nuclear weapons and has agreed with Russia to significantly reduce the arsenals of the two nations.
He has also drawn North Korea and Iran toward the diplomacy table. Iran recently agreed to restart nuclear talks.
Obama is the third U.S. President to win the prize while still in office. The others were Woodrow Wilson for establishing the League of Nations and Theodore Roosevelt for successfully mediating an end to the Russo-Japanese War.
Obama told of how his kids reacted, quoting his daughters: “‘Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo’s birthday!’ And then Sasha added, ‘Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up.’ So it’s good to have kids to keep things in perspective,” he joked. Bo is the First Family’s Portuguese water dog.
But Obama also put the prize into another, less personal, perspective. “I do not view it as recognition of my own accomplishments,” he said, “but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.”
He continued: “I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement. It’s also been used as a means 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.”