WASHINGTON -- Several hours after learning he had been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, President Barack Obama sought to deflect some of the attention away from himself to those who he said are more deserving.
"I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments," Obama told reporters in the White House Rose Garden Friday. "But rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.
"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 -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace," he added.
The president described the award as a "call to action" for the nation's around the globe to confront the challenges of the 21st century.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee made the announcement early Friday morning, drawing praise from some -- and skepticism from others.
Many Nobel watchers believed it was too early, with some former recipients saying that the president's resume is too thin for the honor and that he's done too little to advance the peace process in the Middle East.
However, the committee said Obama, as U.S. president, has created a new climate in international politics.
"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 awarded to president Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people," Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland announced Friday morning.
"The committee has attached special importance to Obama's work for a world without nuclear weapons," Jagland said.
The president said he was "surprised and deeply humbled" by the award.
The committee's decision has also shocked Nobel observers because Obama took office less than two weeks before the February 1 nomination deadline
Obama is the fourth U.S. president to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
U.S. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter are past Nobel Peace Prize recipients.