U.S. President, now a Nobel Laureate

U.S. President Barack Obama has been in the White House less than nine months — but can now add a Nobel Peace Prize to his achievement in becoming the first African-American leader of the world's superpower.

On Friday, he was announced winner of the 2009 the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo — with a presentation ceremony to follow in December.

Mr. Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to have been awarded the Nobel, which comes as a recognition of his action on nuclear weapons and relations with the Muslim and wider world since his inauguration in January.

Since entering office Mr. Obama has pledged and pushed forward a closure of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, which was seen around the world as an egregious injury to human rights.

In Prague in April, Mr. Obama held up to the world the goal of a nuclear weapon-free planet, and in Cairo reached out to the Muslim world as equals, where many where smarting from the abuses of the Bush era.

Mr. Obama has also despatched to the Middle East Senator George Mitchell, a veteran peacemaker who has become the president's man in the seemingly endless search for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

And in Europe, Mr. Obama has scrapped a controversial missile defence plan proposed by his predecessor, George W. Bush, which in the end was derided as being both confrontational and useless. Tension with the Russians has lifted as a result.

M.r Obama's own rise from obscure state legislator to US presidential candidate was nothing short of meteoric. The images of an African-American family taking up residency in the White House in January sent out a powerful signal to the world that the U.S. had overcome its previous racial divide.

America, and the world, has fallen in love with Mr. Obama not least because of his ability to command a crowd. His eloquence and quiet intellectual poise has caused his arguments to be listened to in quarters where the voice of the U.S. was little heeded.

Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961, the son of an African-American father from Kenya and his Kansas-born white mother who met at the University of Hawaii. He was to say later that they "weren't well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to."

This lineage ensured that Mr. Obama sees the world in both black and white, perspectives that are important in a country where black America and white America are often completely separate spaces.

His parents separated when he was two and were subsequently divorced. His mother remarried and moved to Indonesia, where Mr. Obama spent ages 6 through 10. He returned to Hawaii for high school, then went to Columbia University and Harvard law school, where he made headlines as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review — seen as a stepping stone to any number of career opportunities.

He had earlier worked in Chicago as a community organizer with a church-based group seeking to improve living conditions in poor neighbourhoods. Practicing civil rights law back in Chicago after Harvard, Mr. Obama's advocacy work led him to run for the Illinois State Senate, where he served for eight years.

From these relatively humble origin, Mr. Obama's work is now beginning to rebuild the creaking infrastructure of international diplomacy and world affairs.

In Oslo on Friday, the Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland cited Obama's "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

Previous U.S. presidents who have won the Nobel, but not while in office, were Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, Woodrow Wilson in 1919, and Jimmy Carter in 2002.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 9:03:13 PM |

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