President Obama contemplated skipping his own Peace Prize ceremony
Former Nobel Committee secretary Geir Lundestad reveals new details about the 2009 Obama Peace Prize in his tell-all memoir.
President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 9th, 2009. On that same day, the White House checked if Obama could skip the ceremony where he later recieved the prize.
Details are revealed in a new book by Geir Lundestad, the former director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute.
Lundestad also served as the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee when Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.
Lundestad reveals that the Nobel Committee did not let Obama know in advance that the prize would be awarded to the 44th US President. He writes:
«The committee did not call him in advance. They did not want to wake up the president in the middle of the night, and assumed he still would be able to handle the situation in the best way possible».
The White House wanted to skip Oslo
President Obama said he was «humbled» and «surprised» when he learned that he would be awarded the prize on October 9th 2009:
«I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures that have been honored by this prize», he stated.
Lundestad reveals that on that same morning, the president's staff at the White House checked if past prize winners had gone to Oslo to receive the prize.
It is tradition for the winners to participate in an award ceremony in Oslo. The White House wanted to see if any past prize winners had skipped the ceremony.
The answer was no. Only a few past winners, among them Lech Walesa in 1983 and Aung San Suu Kyi in 1999, failed to attend the ceremony. «The White House then understood that they had to prepare to go to Oslo», Lundestad writes.
Obama was almost convinced
President Obama and his wife Michelle arrived Oslo on December 10th 2009. They attended the ceremony, but skipped the Nobel Peace Prize Concert thefollowing day. Normally the prize winners stay in Oslo for three full days, but president Obama left after only 26 hours.
At the ceremony Obama said he accepted the prize with humility, well aware of the controversy that surrounded the choice of the committee.
«Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize — Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela - my accomplishments are slight», he said.
The president allegedly stated that he was «almost convinced he deserved the prize» after Thorbjørn Jaglands speech at the ceremony. Mr. Jagland was the leader of the Nobel committee at the time.
Lundestad questions the award
Many have stated that Mr. Obama was awarded the prize prematurely, and public opinion polls in the United States indicate that many Americans believe the prize came far too early.
He was awarded less than nine months after stepping into office and received it while the US was waging simultaneous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But former director Lundestad reveals that all the members of the committee agreed president Obama was the right choice.
The committee gave the prize to Obama «for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples». The former director states that he personally was in doubt about giving the prize to the president.
He writes: «It would be difficult, if not impossible, for Obama to live up to the expectations. If he did not succeed, many would ask why the committee was in such a hurry to award him».
Last year it was known that the Obama administration rebuked Norway over the Nobel peace prize in 2009.
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