President Barack Obama ’91 is the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Cited for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples,” Obama becomes the third sitting U.S. president to receive the award, along with Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.
“The committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons,” the Nobel Prize Committee notes in the award’s official citation. “Obama has as president created a new climate in international politics. 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.”
International leaders immediately lauded the selection of Obama.
It is an award that speaks to the promise of President Obama’s message of hope,” said Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, a former winner.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the award confirmed “America’s return to the hearts of the people of the world.
At a press conference, Obama said he was humbled by the decision of the committee to award him the prize. “I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments. But rather as an affirmation of American leadership. … I will accept this award as a call to action,” he said.
View Obama’s reaction to receiving the Peace Prize.
Chosen by a five-member committee selected by the Norwegian parliament, the laureate wins a gold medal, a diploma, and 10m Swedish kronor ($1.4m).
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of five prizes bequeathed by the Swedish inventor and industrialist Alfred Nobel. Nobel’s will indicates the Peace Prize should be awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
Obama is the fifth Harvard alumnus to receive the award. Theodore Roosevelt (A.B. 1880) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for successfully ending the Russo-Japanese war and for his interest in arbitration, Ralph Bunche (A.M. ’28, Ph.D. ’34) received the award in 1950 for his role as a diplomat mediating the conflict in Palestine, Henry Kissinger (A.B. ’50, A.M. ’52, Ph.D. ’54) received the Prize in 1973 for his efforts to bring peace in Vietnam, and Al Gore (A.B. ’69) received the Prize in 2007 for his work on climate change.
Other recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize include former President Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, Elie Wiesel, and Mother Teresa.