Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report:
OSLO, NORWAY — At his press conference in Oslo, Norway, with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, President Obama was asked by a local reporter about criticism that his pending Nobel Peace Prize is “premature” and how he can use the prize 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.”
The president said that his “task here is to continue on the path that I believe is not only important for America but important for lasting peace and security for the world.
“That means pursuing a world free of nuclear weapons over time and strengthening our mechanisms to avoid nuclear proliferation,” he said. “That means addressing climate change in an effective way. It means stabilizing counties like Afghanistan and mobilizing an international effort to terrorism that is consistent with our values and ideals. It means addressing issues of development and understanding the connection between economic justice and peace.
“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,” he concluded. “And if I’m not successful then all the praise and the awards in the world won’t disguise that fact.”
Stoltenberg chimed in that President Obama’s Nobel is a “well deserved and important award.”
Earlier, after the president went to the Nobel Institute where he signed legal documents giving the Nobel Committee the right to publish his pending Peace Prize speech, as well as a book with the signatures of previous Peace Prize recipients.
The president signed it first, followed by the First Lady, who said “mine won’t be as long.”
Standing there watching Michelle Obama sign the book, the president said with a bemused look on his face, “She will resist writing something sarcastic, since this will be recorded for the future.”
Those assembled laughed.
Asked what he wrote, the president joked, “I wrote, ‘Thank you.’”
“No, what I did write actually is worth mentioning,” he added. “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 photographs of previous winners on the wall behind him, the president said, “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.”
- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller
*This post has been updated.