When Barack Obama was announced as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, even the fresh-faced president appeared a little shocked. "To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize," Obama said at the time.
Now, a former director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute has acknowledged that, in hindsight, he's not so sure if giving the prize to Obama was a good move either.
In a new memoir titled "Secretary of Peace: 25 years with the Nobel Prize," Geir Lundestad, the non-voting Director of the Nobel Institute until 2014, writes that he has developed doubts about the Norwegian Nobel Committee's decision to grant Obama the Nobel Peace Prize over the past six years. While the prize was designed to encourage the new president, it may have not have worked out as intended.
"In retrospect, we could say that the argument of giving Obama a helping hand was only partially correct," Lundestad writes, according to VG newspaper. Lundestad explains that it became impossible for Obama to live up to the high expectations placed upon him. "Many of Obama's supporters believed it was a mistake," he writes. "As such, it did not achieve what the committee had hoped for."
According to Lundestad's account, the White House even tried to find a way for Obama to avoid the ceremony, though the Nobel Committee warned it that recipients of the prize were only allowed to avoid the ceremony in exceptional circumstances.
Following the media interest in Lundestad's memoir, the Norwegian historian called a press conference on Thursday to deny that he had implied that Obama didn't deserve the prize. "Several of you have written that I believe the prize to Obama a mistake, but then you can not have read the book," Lundestad told the assembled reporters, according to VG. "It says nowhere that it was a mistake to give Obama the Peace Prize."
Lundestad's book also contained a number of other controversial passages, including some criticism of the committee's former chairman Thorbjørn Jagland and revealing that Norway's foreign minister Jonas Gahr Store had tried and failed to prevent the committee awarding the prize to Chinese dissident in 2010.
Obama may be one of the most controversial recent winners of the Nobel peace prize, but he is far from the first. Famously, Indian independence lader Mohandas Gandhi never won the prize despite being nominated multiple times. Lundestad himself later said it was the Nobel's "greatest omission."
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