The Nobel Committee announced early this morning that President Barack Obama has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Obama has “created a new climate in international politics,” the committee said in its announcement, referencing Obama’s agenda to reduce the world’s nuclear stockpiles through international institutions, restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, and build greater alliances with the Muslim world. The announcement was “a stunning surprise,” given that much of the agenda remains a work in progress. “Obama took office less than two weeks before the Feb. 1 nomination deadline,” and he was chosen over 204 other finalists. Thorbjorn Jagland, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said the committee wanted to “enhance Obama’s diplomatic efforts so far rather than reward him for events in the future.” Obama is the third sitting U.S. President to win the award. “Woodrow Wilson was awarded the prize in 1919, after helping to found the League of Nations and shaping the Treatise of Versailles; and Theodore Roosevelt was the recipient in 1906 for his work to negotiate an end to the Russo-Japanese war.” (Jimmy Carter won the award after leaving the presidency, and former Vice President Al Gore won in 2007 for his work on climate change.)
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called Obama just before 6 am to alert him of the Nobel Committee’s decision. Obama is “humbled” by the honor, the White House said in a brief statement.
,Two key White House aides were both convinced they “were being punked” when they heard the news, reported ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “It’s not April 1, is it?” one said.