The President of the United States, Barack Obama, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
President Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Friday for his work to improve international diplomacy and rid the world of nuclear weapons — a stunning decision to celebrate a figure virtually unknown in the world before he launched his campaign for the White House nearly three years ago.
In honoring Obama, 48, the Norwegian Nobel Committee echoed a global embrace of the U.S. president that has seen his popularity overseas often exceed his support at home. Though Obama’s name surfaced early among contenders, the announcement astonished observers — drawing gasps from the audience in Oslo — in part because Obama assumed office less than two weeks before the Feb. 1 deadline for nominations.
The committee praised Obama for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” during his nine months in office and singled out for special recognition Obama’s call for a world free of nuclear weapons, the subject of major speech April 5 in Prague.
Heralding Obama as a transformative figure in U.S. and international diplomacy, the committee said: “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. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.”
Obama is the third sitting U.S. president — and the first in 90 years — to win the coveted peace prize.