President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, a stunning decision that comes just eight months into his presidency. According to Norwegian Nobel Committee the Prize honors Obama for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Most people, whether they like Obama or not, were taken by surprise over the decision. Obama wasn’t mentioned as a front-runner for the prize and reporters gasped when his name was read as the winner.
Nominations for the prize had to be postmarked by February 1 — only 12 days after Obama took office. The committee sent out its solicitation for nominations last September — two months before Obama was elected president. The president, who was awakened to be told he had won, said he was humbled to be selected, according to an administration official.
Why do the Norwegians give out a Swedish prize?
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel (1833-1896). According to his will, 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.” Nobel’s will also stated that the prize should be awarded by a committee of five people elected by the Norwegian Parliament. But why Norwegian and not Swedish? Well, at the time of Nobel’s will, Norway and Sweden were still in union, and with Sweden responsible for all foreign policy, Nobel felt that the prize might be less subject to political corruption if awarded by Norway. The Peace Prize is presented annually in Oslo in the presence of the Norwegian King Harald V, on December 10 (the anniversary of Nobel’s death) and it is the only Nobel Prize not presented in Stockholm. Previous Nobel Peace Prize Winners include: Theodore Roosevelt (1906), Hjalmar Branting (1921), Dag Hammarskjöld (1961), Martin Luther King Jr. (1964), Henry Kissinger (1973), Elie Wiesel (1986), Yasser Arafat (1994), Jimmy Carter (2002) and Al Gore (2007).