The year after becoming the 44th President on the United States, Obama received a Nobel Peace Prize, which is part of the five categories of Nobel Prizes available.
Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” according to The Nobel Prize Committee. He was also commended for his vision to “work for a world without nuclear weapons.”
Read on for more in-depth information on his award, including some doubts and controversy over whether he was suited for the win.
An Unexpected Win
On the 10th of December in 2009, Barack accepted the prestigious award with a speech that was 36 minutes long. He had become the fourth American president to receive the award, following Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, Woodrow Wilson in 1919, and Jimmy Carter in 2002.
During his speech, he spoke about the “just war” theory, saying “perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars”
Nominations for the award closed only 11 days since Obama had taken office, and he became the first US president to receive it after being in office for just one year.
Many were shocked and surprised over the award, including Obama himself. He declared that the prize was more of a “call to action”, in reference to the worldwide issues of the 21st century.
“I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments but rather an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.”
The Nobel Committee praised him for his ability to “capture the world’s attention”, thus giving hope to people for a much better future, which is something that they believe had rarely occurred.
Nearing the end of his eight years in office, Obama appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for a skit centering around the idea that he was going to need to look for a new job.
Colbert asked the President if he had any awards or commendations in the 7-minute-long comedy skit. Barack responded, “I have almost 30 honorary degrees, and I did get the Nobel Peace Prize.”
“Oh really? What was that for?” Colbert questioned, alluding to the skepticism over the win.
“To be honest, I still don’t know,” Barack jokingly replied.
Criticism Over The Selection
Following Obama’s win, there was an influx of criticism surrounding the decision.
Mark Halperin, a political commentator who wrote on The Page blog of Time Magazine shared his thoughts:
“Barack Obama’s critics have long accused him of being a man of ‘just words’, rather than concrete actions and accomplishments. The stunning decision to award him the Nobel Peace Prize for, basically, his rhetoric, will almost certainly infuriate his detractors in America more than it will delight his supporters.”
Journalist Nicholas Kristof form The New York Times chimed in with his own doubts about the award in 2009, stating:
“I think he has the right instincts on these issues and expect him to get engaged, but shouldn’t the Nobel Peace Prize have a higher bar than high expectations? Especially when there are so many people who have worked for years and years on the front lines, often in dangerous situations, to make a difference to the most voiceless people of the world?”
In 2015, the ex-secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Geir Lundestad, displayed his regret over the decision. His memoir, Secretary of Peace, expressed, “”No Nobel Peace Prize ever elicited more attention than the 2009 prize to Barack Obama.”
He added, “even many of Obama’s supporters believed that the prize was a mistake. In that sense, the committee didn’t achieve what it had hoped for”.