Incumbent Presidents have quite frequently been recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. US Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were Laureates while in office, as for instance, were Presidents Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR and Kim Dae-jung of South Korea. There have also been current Prime Ministers (Yitzhak Rabin of Israel) and Chancellors (Willy Brandt of the Federal Republic of Germany), but never before has anyone been made a Peace Laureate so early into their term of office. Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a little under 10 months after he took up residence in the White House. Nominations for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize closed just 11 days after he took office.
Barack Obama is the fourth US President to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the last being Jimmy Carter in 2002. In selecting him, the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which consists of five people appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, or Storting, appear to be endorsing Obama’s appeal for greater multilateral cooperation aimed at tackling the thorniest global problems; conflict, nuclear weapons, climate change. They highlight his efforts to strengthen international diplomacy, and the new climate of dialogue and negotiation that Obama is promoting. Emphasis is also placed on renewed US commitment to international organizations, in particular the United Nations.
The section of Alfred Nobel’s will detailing the creation of the Peace Prize states that it 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.” In answer to questions during the announcement press conference about how early in Obama’s Presidency the award was being made, Thorbjørn Jagland replied that the Committee wanted to demonstrate its support for the approaches he is taking towards global problems.