Oct. 10, 2009 -- The already high bar set for President Obama got even higher Friday, when the Nobel Prize Committee shocked the world, and the president himself, by announcing he was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Just nine months into his presidency, Obama has set an ambitious diplomatic agenda, calling for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and a decrease in the world's nuclear weapons, but has yet to achieve any real results.
Already faced with the challenge of working to ensure his actions keep pace with his rhetoric, the president now has an even higher standard by which his accomplishments will be gauged.
As his former opponent, Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., put it: "He now has even more to live up to."
The committee said it awarded the prize to Obama for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," but made the clear the prize was intended to encourage Obama to greatness rather than celebrate any achievement.
"I hope it will help him," Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said of the award. "Obama is the right man at the right time, and that's why we want to enhance his efforts."
The White House, seemingly wary of the burden of another mantel, made a point to express the president's surprise.
Rather than strike the usually celebratory note of a winner, Obama accepted the award humbly.
"To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize," Obama said.
Obama said he would accept the award later this year in Oslo and would donate the $1.4 million prize money to charity, adding that he was a long way from achieving his list of goals.
It remains to be seen what, if any affect, winning the award will have on a wartime president who is commanding American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and is in the midst of deciding whether to send more troops to fight in Afghanistan.
Was the Prize a Rebuke of the Former Administration?
Obama's election was seen by the world as an end of the unilateral actions of the United States under President George W. Bush and the beginning of a more engaged diplomatic partner.
In a speech Friday from the White House Rose Garden, Obama recognized the award was more about the symbolism of his presidency than it was about any achievement.
"Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations," he said.
Obama's win was met with mixed reactions around the world, and galvanized conservative critics who accuse him of being heavy on style and short on substance.
"It is unfortunate that the president's star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights," said Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele.
"[Foreigners] love a weakened, neutered United States. This is their way of promoting the concept and it's a slam dunk," said conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.
But other laureates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Vice Preside Al Gore among them, said Obama deserved the honor.
"Much of what he has accomplished already is going to be far more appreciated in the eyes of history as it has been by the Nobel Committee," said Gore.
Though Obama has more to live up to now and some worry the prize will be a burden, other observers say it can only help the president's standing in the U.S. and around the world.
"There will be people who will say he's been more loved in the Middle East than the Middle West," said ABC News consultant Cokie Roberts. "But I continue to believe that the Nobel Peace Prize is not something that you are sorry to receive."