Obama's Next "Most Important Speech"

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
President Obama will interrupt his busy schedule governing the free world to make a trip to Oslo, Norway, for a day in December to accept his Nobel Peace Prize.

It presents an opportunity to deliver another "most important speech" of his brief presidency. And, the prestigious award more that makes up for the loss of the Olympic Games in Chicago in terms of political capital if you are keeping score.

While a chorus of politicians and pundits contend that Mr. Obama is undeserving of such a prestigious award and the $1.4 million, he didn't ask for or campaign for this honor, didn't know he was in the running and didn't have a clue that it was coming his way, the White House said.

The five members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee appointed by the Storting (Norwegian parliament) apparently wanted to send a message of hope for world peace in the person of Barack Obama, who become president of the United States 12 days before the Nobel nomination deadline last February.

The Nobel Committee was mesmerized by Mr. Obama's "Yes We Can" campaign promises, historic election, and the changing the tone of international diplomacy from the previous administration, which didn't make a lot of friends in Europe.

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the Nobel Committee said.

Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief Washington correspondent, said that the Nobel Committee's choice for the Peace Prize is based largely on Mr. Obama winning the election. (Watch Schieffer at left.)

"President Bush was very unpopular in Europe and it is almost as if this is more of a comment on the previous administration than it is on the new one," Schieffer said. The partisan divide in Congress will not be bridged by the Nobel honor, which is based on aspirations and not action, he added.

"This is not going to help the president," he said.

Former Polish President Lech Walesa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 after co-founding the trade union Solidarity and led the 1980 strike in the Gdansk shipyards against the Soviet-bloc government, said, "So soon? Too early. He has no contribution so far. He is still at an early stage. He is only beginning to act. This is probably an encouragement for him to act. Let's see if he perseveres. Let's give him time to act."

John Dickerson of Slate and CBS consultant on politics, as well as sometime anchor of Washington Unplugged, has outlined some basic talking points of a rejection of the award by the president:

"One debate will be whether Obama should turn down the prize, as Slate's Mickey Kaus suggests. That would be a slap to the committee, but since awards are being given for atmospherics let's consider the atmospherics of such a move. Obama could easily write the justifying language: He's honored and humbled but he has merely articulated the common aspirations of all mankind. As it is mankind's global challenge, no one man can claim a prize with so much work left to be done. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. (Ben Rhodes and Jon Favreau could certainly find the language).

"In the quarters where his speechmaking and diplomatic flair are praised, such a performance will only enhance his reputation. His critics will be dumbfounded. The arrogance rap will fade. Obama would immediately become the favorite for next year's Nobel Prize for Humility."


In his remarks this morning from the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Obama deflected the prestigious honor from himself, saying that the award goes to the American people.

"I am both surprised and deeply humbled.... I don't view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments but rather an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations," he said.

The president added that he doesn't feel he deserves to be in the company of people honored previously by the Nobel Prize, but the honor gives "momentum to a set of ideas" and a call to action.

"This award must be shared by everyone who strives for justice and dignity," he said.

The next act in his Nobel journey will be to deliver a speech that inspires the world, but those words will travel only so far. For the next act in his presidency, Mr. Obama will have to make good on his multitude of promises -- close Guantanamo Bay, end the Iraq War, defeat al Qaeda, provide universal healthcare, peace in the Middle East and deal with climate change, nuclear proliferation and the economy.

As the former Polish president said, "Let's give him time to act."

One of his first acts will be to determine whether sending up to 40,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan is a path toward peace in the troubled region.

More CBSNews.com Coverage on Obama Winning the Nobel Peace Prize:

Obama: Nobel Prize a "Call To Action"
Analysis: Nobel Peace Prize Doesn't Help Obama
Obama's Nobel Win: A "Mission Accomplished" Moment?
The Audacity of the Nobel Committee
Nobel Peace Prize an Unprecedented Honor for Obama
Placing a Wager on Peace
Nobel Peace Prize Shocks Bloggers: "This is Insane"

Obama's Remarks: Video Text
Politics of Obama's Nobel Win
Washington Unplugged: Nobel Prize "Complicates Things" for Obama
Nobel Peace Prize Photos

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  • Dan Farber On Twitter»

    Dan has more than 20 years of journalism experience. He has served as editor in chief of CBSNews.com, CNET News, ZDNet, PC Week, and MacWeek.

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