The President "has created a new international climate," the committee announces
Credit: Bryce Vickmark/ZUMA

Barack Obama has won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” the annual award’s committee announced Friday morning in Oslo. “He has created a new international climate,” said their statement.

The selection of the President, 48, is considered a stunning surprise, as his name had not been heard in speculation surrounding the choice of this year’s honoree. But, said the committee, “We are awarding Obama for what he has done. Many other people and leaders and nations have to respond in a positive way” to President Obama’s diplomacy.

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In his nearly nine months in office, President Obama has appealed for reductions in nuclear arsenals and is seeking to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. He has also faced challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as from Iran, amid fears Tehran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon.

Thorbjorn Jagland, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and a former prime minister of Norway, told reporters, “We are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future but for what he has done in the previous year. We would hope this will enhance what he is trying to do.”

In the 108-year-history of the awards, the only other sitting U.S. Presidents to win the honor were Theodore Roosevelt (in 1906) and Woodrow Wilson (1919). Jimmy Carter’s came more than 20 years after he left office, in 2002.

Speaking from the White House Rose Garden late Friday morning, President Obama said he was awakened to the news by his daughters, who also pointed out that it is their family dog’s birthday and the start of a three-day weekend (“So it s good to have kids to keep things in perspective,” he said.) He also added he is “both surprised and deeply humbled” by the award, which he views as reflecting the type of world “all Americans want to build.”