In Nobel Peace Prize Speech, Obama Addresses Criticism on Afghanistan Strategy

Does President Obama Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?

Earlier today, at a joint press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Obama said that he is pursuing policy goals regardless of whether they will garner him an award, among them, nuclear no-proliferation, climate change, stabilizing Afghanistan and mobilizing an international effort to combat terrorism consistent with U.S. values and ideals.

"So on a whole host of initiatives that I've put forward this year, some of which are beginning to bear fruit, the goal is not to win a popularity contest or to get an award -- even one as esteemed as the Nobel Peace Prize -- the goal is to advance American interests, make ourselves a continuing force for good in the world. Something that we have been for decades now," he said.

"And if I'm successful in those tasks then hopefully some of the criticism will subside, but that's not really my concern," the president concluded. "And if I'm not successful then all the praise and the awards in the world won't disguise that fact."

Obama was asked about the criticism that his Nobel Peace prize is "premature" and how he can use it to "make some of your good intentions materialize."

"Upon receiving news of the prize it was a great surprise to me," the president said. "I have no doubt that there are others who may be more deserving."

How much the president deserves this award is an open question, according to U.S. polls and Norwegians.

"I think he may show later that he may deserve it, but not at present," said one Norwegian man. "So he hasn't shown enough to deserve it today."

Others agree, saying it's too soon and that others are more deserving.

"We need action, not just hope," said one Norwegian woman.

The president addressed such critics in his speech, saying, "The absence of hope can rot a society from within."

This morning, the president signed some legal documents giving the Nobel Institute the right to publish his acceptance speech, and Obama and the first lady signed a book containing the signatures of previous Nobel Peace Prize winners, notable names such as King, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela.

Asked what he wrote, the president said: "In addition to being honored to receive it, I think it's important to congratulate the Nobel Committee for the work that it's done over the course of history to highlight the cause of peace but also to give voice to the voiceless and the oppressed around the world."

Referring to the photos of previous Nobel Peace Prize recipients on the wall behind him, the president continued, "When you look at the wall -- Michelle and I were commenting on the fact that when Dr. King won his price it had a galvanizing effect around the world, but also lifted his stature in the United States in a way that allowed him to be more effective. And that's a legacy of the Nobel Committee that we're very grateful for."

Obama has promised to give the money that comes with the prize to a charity. The White House says it is still working on deciding the charity, but there is speculation that it could go toward an organization that provides microfinancing, a grass-roots method popular in many developing countries to provide loans to the poor and a subject that the president's mother wrote about extensively.

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