Can Obama Deliver on Nobel Peace Prize Goals?

OSLO, Norway -- When President Obama was told he had won the Nobel Peace Prize, he said he was surprised and humbled. Accepting the award this morning in Oslo, it appears that only the surprise may have worn off.

"I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility," he said before quickly addressing the issue on everyone's mind. "And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated… In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who've received this prize -- Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela -- my accomplishments are slight."

The larger of part of the controversy is the fact that Mr. Obama, now a war president having committed to a doubling of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in just his first year in office, sending 30,000 more troops just last week, is now a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

"We are at war, and I'm responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill, and some will be killed," he said.

The president then did what many expected he would do, he talked about how sometimes war is necessary for peace.

"Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms… So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace," he said.

Mr. Obama also mentioned previous award winners and their efforts for peace, specifically quoting the award acceptance speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964: "I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history."

But even with the powerful language upholding the need to uphold human rights and democracy around the world, the day was filled with the controversy.

From the Nobel Prize committee chairman who defended the committee actions to the Prime Minister of Norway, who in an earlier meeting with Mr. Obama said the award was well deserved.

"I cannot think about anybody else who has done more for peace during the last year than Barack Obama," said Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. "The whole new agenda the president has created when it comes to the importance of international cooperation, dialogue, and the importance that we are solving common problems together is a strong and bold initiative which is promoting peace. So it is a well-deserved peace -- peace prize, and hopefully it is really in the best spirit of Alfred Nobel, because it can contribute in itself to strengthening the efforts of the President to work for peace."

(AP Photo/John McConnico)
The next question for Mr. Obama is what to do with the prize besides putting on his desk in the Oval Office.

One Norwegian newspaper has a full page photo on its cover with the word "Hapet," meaning "The Hope." Can he turn the prospects of hope that the award means into real accomplishments? Can his efforts at war bring about the lasting peace that he speaks so passionately about? Can his efforts to rid of the war of nuclear weapons and reduce climate harming greenhouse gasses, produce the results he hopes? And can any of these lofty foreign policy goals translate into meaningful successes at home, with his approval rating at 50 percent in the new CBS News/New York Times Poll and unemployment at 10 percent?

In other words, what does coming to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize mean for the American people and Mr. Obama himself, as well as his political goals?

Showing the humility that seemed to be the theme of the day, he came close to answering that question in a press conference earlier today.

"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 has been to advance America's interests, to strengthen our economy at home, and to make ourselves a continuing force for good in the world -- something that we've been for decades now. And if I'm successful in those tasks, then hopefully some of the criticism will subside, but that's not really my concern. And if I'm not successful, then all the praise and the awards in the world won't disguise that fact," said Mr. Obama.

More on Obama's Nobel Prize:

Obama: U.S. Standard Bearer for Peace
Full Text of Obama's Remarks
Video: Obama's Nobel Prize Speech (excerpts)
Who Should Get Obama's Nobel Prize Cash?
Obama Approval Rating Falls to 50 Percent


Robert Hendin is a CBS News White House producer. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.
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    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.

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