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Obama Surprised At Winning Nobel Peace Prize

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

First, to NPR's Scott Horsley, who has the day's news from the White House.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Mr. Obama's selection seemed to stun almost everyone, including the president himself. He got the news in a wake up phone call from his press secretary, quickly followed by his two daughters.

BARACK OBAMA: Malia walked in and said, daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize and it is Bo's birthday. And then Sasha added, plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up. So it's good to have kids to keep things in perspective.

HORSLEY: At a hastily arranged Rose Garden event, Mr. Obama said he's deeply humbled by the announcement. The globe trotting president has logged thousands of miles meeting world leaders trying to mend frayed diplomatic ties. But so far his efforts to address global warming, for example, or nuclear proliferation have not produced many concrete results. He said the prize reflects aspirations around the world more than any particular accomplishments of his own.

OBAMA: Throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement, it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.

HORSLEY: Ninety years ago, Woodrow Wilson won the prize for his work on the League of Nations only to see the league voted down by the U.S. Senate. Republican strategist Carl Forti says Mr. Obama may face similar skepticism from his critics here in the U.S.

CARL FORTI: President Obama clearly has issues here at home that are timely important and that we're right in the middle of. And I don't think the people are going to change their opinion on the health care plan because President Obama has now won the Nobel Peace Prize.

HORSLEY: Martin Indyk, who directs foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, says United States' standing in the world has improved dramatically under Mr. Obama. Though, Indyk warns, that only goes so far.

MARTIN INDYK: The real question is whether that goodwill can be converted into some concerted effort to address these big problems.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama himself acknowledged today, the Nobel committee was honoring a vision that won't be realized during his presidency or even during his lifetime.

OBAMA: But I know these challenges can be met, so long as it's recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone. This award is not simply about the efforts of my administration, it's about the courageous efforts of people around the world.

HORSLEY: Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Horsley
Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.