October 9th, 2009
09:25 AM ET
5 years ago

Praise and skepticism greet Obama's peace prize

Obama with Israeli President Banjamin Netanyahu, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last month.
Obama with Israeli President Banjamin Netanyahu, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last month.

(CNN) – The surprise decision to award U.S. President Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize elicited swift reaction Friday, with some hailing the choice and others expressing astonishment and skepticism.

Praise came from Afghanistan's president, the Israeli defense minister and even a senior official from Hamas - the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza. Yet an Egyptian human rights activist said he was "shocked" that Obama won. And the Internet hummed with a range of views.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai - whose U.S.-backed government is locked in warfare with Islamic militants - praised the choice.

"We congratulate, wholeheartedly, President Obama on the award of this prestigious award," said Karzai. "We recognize and commend President Obama's vision and leadership with a hope that peace and normalcy will return to Afghanistan and our region."

Yet Hisham Qasim, Egyptian democracy and human rights activist, said he was "shocked" Obama won.

"He has achieved nothing. He's stumbling. He hasn't achieved any of his promises and nothing is working. He promised to close Guantanamo and now that's not going to happen, and the Arab-Israeli conflict looks like it's going to get very nasty."

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it gave the prize to Obama for his "efforts to strengthen international diplomacy," his "vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons" and for inspiring hope and creating "a new climate in international politics."

Many questioned what Obama had accomplished to deserve the award.

Gideon Rachman, a foreign affairs columnist for The Financial Times, wrote an online blog under the headline "What did Obama do to win the Nobel Peace Prize?"

"I am a genuine admirer of Obama. And I am very pleased that George W Bush is no longer president. But I doubt that I am alone in wondering whether this award is slightly premature. It is hard to point to a single place where Obama's efforts have actually brought about peace – Gaza, Iran, Sri Lanka?

"While it is OK to give school children prizes for 'effort' – my kids get them all the time – I think international statesmen should probably be held to a higher standard," he wrote.

Obama has sought to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and officials from the Israeli government and Hamas sent congratulations and hope that the choice will help pave diplomatic ground.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he believes the prize "will strengthen President Barack Obama's capability to contribute to regional peace in the Middle East, and to an agreement between us and the Palestinians that will bring security, growth and prosperity to all the nations in the region."

Hamas official Ahmed Yousef also congratulated Obama, "though it is early for him to be awarded this prize."

"He reached out to the Muslim world in his Cairo speech and said many of the right things" and said "this is a man who thinks of achieving world peace"

He said he believes Obama represents a "new era in American politics," but thinks "the president has done nothing to push forward peace between Israeli and Palestinians" even though the "intention is there...it is an uphill battle with the Jewish lobby and Congress."

"We know he is somebody different from past leaders who supported Israel economically and militarily," Yousef said.

The Internet was alive with commentary from journalists, political leaders and ordinary people.

The winner of 1983's Nobel Peace Prize, anti-communist Polish leader Lech Walesa, was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as expressing surprise.

"Who, Obama? So fast? Too fast - he hasn't had the time to do anything yet," the paper's Web site quoted Walesa as saying.

One person expressed "sheer disbelief" that Obama had won, in a Twitter posting, saying the prize should have gone to a person such as Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai because "he stood up to a murderous dictator." Another person said she "seriously cannot believe they gave Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. Ridiculous."

Others had praise. One person wrote: "My president Just won the Nobel peace prize!!!! Go prez Obama."

Former Nobel peace laureates weighed in.

Kofi Annan, the former U.N. secretary general who won the peace prize in 2001, called the choice "unexpected but inspired."

"In an increasingly challenging and volatile world, President Obama has given a sense of hope and optimism to millions around the world" and "has shown that the only way forward is through genuine cooperation with other nations."

Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, last year's Peace Prize laureate, said it was clear the Nobel committee wanted to encourage Obama on the issues he has been discussing on the world stage.

Wangari Muta Maathai, the Kenyan who won the 2004 Peace Prize, said Obama's win will help Africa move forward.

"I think it is extraordinary," she said. "It will be even greater inspiration for the world. He has shown how we can probably come together, work together in a cooperative way."

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, the 2002 peace prize laureate, called the selection "a bold statement of international support for his vision and commitment to peace and harmony in international relations." He said the move reflects the "hope" the Obama administration represents across the globe.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel jokingly made reference to last week's awarding of Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics - which some viewed as a snub to the United States after Obama went to Copenhagen, Denmark to make a pitch for Chicago.

"It's clear Oslo beats Copenhagen any day of the week," he told CNN


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    You think a Black man being elected President of t he U.S.A. is a small feat? Have you any idea of the hope this man has inspired amongst the youth and the downtrodden, and the disenfranchised? His vision of international relations for the world, his attack of the economic collapse of the world, etc. He is a beacon of what you can become and accomplish against all odds, against domestic terroristic opposition, against hate and prejudice. This man has risen, been elected, and is doing an incredible, indefatigable job with the Presidency of the United States.

    I'm proud that my President, Barack Hussein Obama, was AWARDED the Nobel Peace Prize. He deserves it.

    October 9, 2009 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  2. Kerri Jones

    I absolutely believe President Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. In only nine-months time our President has put forth extensive effort to improve foreign affairs and put an end to nuclear threats while maintaining respect and consideration for Americans. I commend him for his notable efforts and progress in such a short time. He is the change we hoped for. God bless America!

    October 9, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  3. Nana

    The truth is there is not one thing this man can do right. We did not get the Olympics –oooohhh he is a failure - we get the Peace Prize - oohhh what has he done to warrent this award. This Prize people is not about Obama, it is about America. It is about the world recognizing the efforts of America, through its leadership. America, let is start to celebrate our accomplishments. Let us start to support our President. Congrats. America for winning the Peace Prize!

    October 9, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  4. Illinois 2

    Mr. Obama should not be have been considered for this award even though there are some in the U.S. and throughout the world who believe he is larger than life and should be praised as a GOD. He is not anymore than a good speaker that thinks he is the sharpest guy on the block.

    He should not accept this award and it should be given to the people that deserve it....

    October 9, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    The picture for this article speaks volumes. And Republicans have the audacity to criticize him for receiveing this award. Republicans don't believe in peace. Look at the division they are causing in the U.S. right now!

    October 9, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  6. Ishmail M, Derry

    Gotcha! You guys are used to fueling war and drama climate, for good rating on your services.

    I remember hearing then Candidate Barack Obama on the campaign trail now US President repeating over and over saying "Lets go change America then change the world".

    where you sleeping on the job?. Your cowboy attitude is what your used to is war mongering, hate fueling.

    Get used to new era of diplomacy, we in the world are tired of it. We need peace in the world and President Obama is doing just that get use to it.

    We use to see US flag and president images set of fire aroud the protest but not now, Only ring wing American doing that to this president shame on you all haters.

    October 9, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  7. Kelly

    He won because, in the words of the committee that unanimously gave him the award, "His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population," That certainly is better than with an iron fist. And once again, just like in the general election, those who scoff President Obama are a MINORITY. Small minded individuals, make way for the will of the World.

    October 9, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  8. QUEENabsoluteGREATEST17/11/09

    »»Many Many CONGRATULATIONS to President Barack OBAMA!!!= DESERVED,of course!!

    October 9, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  9. D. Tree

    The Nobel Committee made a bold statement today. They showed us that the World is ready to work with the USA on a range of issues. Soon we will start to see a host of other nations emulating kind of behavior. More countries will want to help us achieve our goals. Its a very good thing for America.

    October 9, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  10. AXH

    Bottom line, Obama does not deserve this honor, he has not achieved anything, or has he kept any of his promises.

    This award should be reserved for individuals who have truly achieved great things, actually gotten things done, not just the mere intention is good enough.

    October 9, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  11. Ex-Repug

    What is wrong with a country that debates whether their president deserved this prestigious award. He has changed the tone of this nation and given alot of hope to the world. It's deserving. And yes, part of it is just a thank you to the American people for wising up.

    October 9, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  12. QUEENabsoluteGREATEST17/11/09

    »President Barack Obama is the...MAN! HURRAH! HURRAH!

    October 9, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  13. QUEENabsoluteGREATEST17/11/09

    »HURRAH for President OBAMA! PEACE NOBEL PRIZE WINNER!! HURRAH!!!

    October 9, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  14. Oh yeah, lots of change

    Congratulations. You won. Big deal! You haven't completed any of your lofty goals for change that you've promised. You apparently apologized enough to make the rest of the world think that you can do something. Your actions speak far louder – and I haven't seen anything to write home about.

    October 9, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  15. Bedtime for Obonzo

    They've got to be kidding. He had been in office for 11 days when the nomination period closed. More deserving than a Chinese dissident who'd been in the clink for ten years? This is more asine than the award to Al Gore in 2007.

    October 9, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  16. dk

    No American should be disrespectful to our president for his receipt of this international honor. Partisan politics is poisoning all attempts to do well.

    October 9, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  17. Anonymous

    Maybe, in this country, we are so determined to undermine the "other" party that we cannot see what the rest of the world can see.

    October 9, 2009 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  18. manya

    World desires peace, and Obama has put a heartfelt call to all people of world to grow as on people. He means what he says , but those who cause problems also put obstacles in his course.
    We can only be better off if we help Obama fulfill his wishes for a nuclear weapon free , religious differences sans , clean air world.

    It is time to herald a new peaceful world.

    October 9, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  19. Mike O

    The Politically Correct Prize for Non-Accomplishment reaches the zenith of hypocrisy. Will Obama's ego allow him to do the right thing and refuse the prize? Or will he just try to save some face by donating the money to something worthy? Stay... tuned for the next installment of the Theater of the Absurd!

    October 9, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  20. Democrat in MD (CNN please post. Thank you!)

    I personally am VERY proud of our President Obama. So should all Americans be. Disagree politically if you will, but this is an HONOR. (Sounds like a few people in this article are jealous)!
    Please, Mr. President, continue with all the peace-seeking actions that you are taking & all you plan to take.

    October 9, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  21. demmie_in_oh

    ok, it is great that a sitting American president received the award – but, even I have to admit some skepticism. There were potential recipients who are CURRENTLY affecting peace and making strides in far corners of the earth. Obama has a good 'plan' and desire for peace – but hasnt done a darn thing. This further cheapens the Nobel Peace Prize – it began when Yassir Arafat received it

    October 9, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  22. deborah/kansas city

    Come on Republicans, join with our enemies in attacking the American President. You cheer when we loose the olympics, you are trying to prevent Americans from having affordable, reliable health insurance. Now you moan and groan about the American President receiving an esteemed award from international judges. It is very clear that Republicans care only about party and are very anti American. Hey, Michelle Bachman, maybe you should have the congress invesitage all this un American behavior by your own party. Has Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck had an on air melt down yet? I expect to see and hear them all day from the party of delay, deny, lie, cheat, say no to everything, and do nothing for America. Why don't Republicans just admit, that they will not be happy until they have their Oligarchy, controlled by the military?

    October 9, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  23. Preco

    Anything Obama will always bring out debate, passionate discuss

    Expectations from the "Republican" camp, I mean sponsors of the "birthers & deathers", the lunatic fringe, the old republican farts in congress, paid mouth pieces and those loud empty vessels on TV and radio, paid to cry and froth in the mouth.... Will be to say negative things and to diminish any achievements made by this great American

    However, there are reasonable people in the world, watching and praying that a good spokesman for world PEACE, PROSPERITY and IMPROVEMENT to our PLANET be found, They have found the true spokesperson for the oppressed peoples of the world, spokes person for the planet, thanks to the judges, you chose well!!

    October 9, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  24. dan smith

    What exactly has Obummer done to earn the Nobel peace prize? Absolutely nothing that's what. Reagan created real peace when he was in office and he forced Russia to tear down the Berlin Wall but I don't believe he won the Nobel peace prize. Guess aligning yourself with terrorists and dictators as Obummer has is what constitutes peace nowadays.

    October 9, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  25. enough already

    In a stunning development, scientists have proven that words do, in fact, speaker louder than actions.

    October 9, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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