The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to U.S. President Barack Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." The award was announced on October 9, 2009. As specific examples of the work that led to the award, the Committee highlighted efforts to promote nuclear nonproliferation, and a "new climate" in international relations fostered by Obama, especially in reaching out to the Muslim world. Obama is third sitting U.S. President to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the third African American. He received the prize eight and a half months after his inauguration.
The White House announced Obama would travel to Oslo in December to accept the prize. Obama plans to donate the full 10 million Swedish kronor (US$1.4 million) monetary award to charity.
Initial reaction to the award was mixed. Among Nobel laureates, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore called the award "extremely well deserved", whereas former President of Poland Lech Wałęsa, who received the prize in 1983, said: "So soon? This is too soon. He has not yet made a real input."
Jagland, the chairman of the Nobel Committee, said he hoped the award would assist Obama's foreign policy efforts. He added: "We have not given the prize for what may happen in the future. We are awarding Obama for what he has done in the past year. And we are hoping this may contribute a little bit for what he is trying to do." Jagland said the committee was influenced by a speech Obama gave about Islam in Cairo in June 2009, as well as the president's efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation and climate change, as well as Obama's support for using established international bodies such as the United Nations to pursue foreign policy goals.
Obama is the third sitting U.S. President to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the others being: Theodore Roosevelt (1906) and Woodrow Wilson (1919). Former President Jimmy Carter (2002) received the award after leaving office. In addition, the then sitting Vice President Charles Dawes was a co-winner with Austen Chamberlain (1925), and former Vice President Al Gore was a co-winner with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007). Obama is the third African American to win this honor, the others being: Ralph J. Bunche, (1950) and Martin Luther King, Jr., (1964).
Obama said he was "surprised" and "deeply humbled" by the award. He stated that he does not feel he deserved the award,saying that he did not feel worthy of the company the award would place him in. In remarks given at the White House Rose Garden on the day of the announcement, Obama stated, "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 award drew initial criticism that it was undeserved or premature due to a perceived lack of significant accomplishments on Obama's part so far and his role in conflicts abroad. However, opinions were divided.There was widespread criticism of the Nobel Committee's decision from commentators and editorial writers across the political spectrum. Today host Matt Lauer said, “We’re less than a year into the first term of this president and there are no—I'm not trying to be, you know, rude here—no major foreign policy achievements, to date." Peter Beinart of the Daily Beast called the decision a "farce", said, "(Obama)'s done nothing to deserve the prize." Jonah Goldberg of the National Review said, "surely someone in Iran—or maybe the Iranian protestors generally—could have benefitted more from receiving the prize than a president who, so far, has done virtually nothing concrete for world peace."
Welcoming reactions came from Europe. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the award would reinforce Obama's determination to work for justice and peace. He added that the award "finally confirms the return of America in the hearts of all the peoples of the world". Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said the award will encourage warmer U.S.–Russian relations, and he hoped it would "serve as an additional incentive" for both governments to foster a better "climate in world politics". British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent a private message of congratulations to President Obama. Hope that the prize would assist Obama's efforts toward nuclear disarmament was also a part of congratulatory statements from Ireland's Taoiseach Brian Cowen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said the Vatican "appreciated" the nomination.