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U.S. President Barack Obama listens to applause before speaking at the Summit on Climate Change at the United Nations headquarters in New York in this September 22, 2009 file photo. Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize on October 9, 2009 for giving the world “hope for a better future” with his work for peace and calls to reduce the global stockpile of nuclear weapons.
OSLO — In a stunning surprise, the Nobel Committee announced Friday that it had awarded its annual peace prize to President Obama “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
“He has created a new international climate,” the committee said in its announcement. President Obama’s name had not figured in speculation about the likely winner until minutes before the prize was announced here.
Likely candidates had been seen here as including human rights activists in China and Afghanistan and political figures in Africa.
The committee said it wanted to enhance Mr. Obama’s diplomatic efforts. “We are awarding Obama for what he has done,” the committee said. “Many other people and leaders and nations have to respond in a positive way” to President Obama’s diplomacy. Read the rest of this entry »
Update | 12:45 a.m.
The Obamas have been zooming through their 10 official balls and are now running more than an hour ahead of schedule.
The whole ball tour was supposed to end at 2:55 a.m., but they’re wrapping it up before 12:45. And who can blame them? By the fifth and sixth of these things, the first couple were clearly operating on fumes.
All night they’ve been leaning back and forth in lieu of dancing, and stepping on Mrs. Obama’s dress; he’s been saying he wants to dance with “the one that brung me,” and he tells the crowds that his wife is doing everything he does except backwards and in heels. The difference is that for the last few balls, they have actually looked exhausted.
Still, the point of going to all these balls is to thank the campaign workers and donors — and keep them energized for future fights.
By now, Mr. Obama has boiled down his thank-you speech to less than a minute. At their last ball, for Eastern states, held at Union Station, he lapsed into a bit of campaign-speak.
“Today was your day,” he said. “Today was a day that represented all your efforts, all your faith, all your confidence in what’s possible in America. They said it couldn’t be done. And you did it.”
He called on his supporters to apply the same energy to governing and to rebuilding communities that they did to the campaign. “Yes we can,” the crowd cheered.
He also ended with some indirect criticism of the Bush era. “There is something in the spirit of the American people that insists on recreating this country when we get a little bit off course,” he said. “That’s what powered this election, it’s what’s given our team the kind of energy that has allowed us to overcome extraordinary obstacles and given me so much confidence that our better days are ahead.”
His final reminder was this: to understand “that this is not the end, this is the beginning.”
He then asked his wife for “one last dance” and cued the band — for the same song, “At Last,” that they’ve been dancing to all night.
So that’s a wrap. And they headed home. At last.
At the Youth Ball | 10:47 p.m. Eastern Mr. and Mrs. Obama took the stage at the Youth Ball at the Washington Hilton around 10:35 p.m., where Mr. Obama gave extra hosannas to those who helped get win election.
“When you look at the history of this campaign, what started out as an improbable journey, where nobody gave us a chance, was carried forward by, was inspired by, was driven by, was energized by young people all across America,” Mr. Obama said.
The audience gave him huge applause and started chanting, “Yes we can!”
He went on to give them a campaign-style pep talk, which we’ve transcribed for you below. But he also commented on his dance moves, which have been creating some buzz all night, mostly because watching him dance was a surprise. Rather like seeing him bowl last year during the Pennsylvania primary, you expected it to be a little more polished, a little smoother.
Mr. Obama, it turns out, specializes in the slow sway of guys who aren’t super-comfortable on the dance floor. And he will occasionally throw in a twirl.
But what his style may have lacked in panache, it certainly made up in passion. He and his wife cuddle and coo and smooch and are very comfortable — they even look happy — in each other’s arms.
So all of this chatter about dancing prompted him to say after a turn on the floor at the Youth Ball, “That’s what’s called ‘Old School.’ ” Everyone laughed.
Anyway, back to his speech to the young folks.
Mr. Obama told them: “I can’t tell you how many people have come up to Michelle and myself and said, ‘You know, I was kind of skeptical, but then my daughter, she wouldn’t budge, she just told me I needed to vote for Obama.’ Or, ‘Suddenly I saw my son, he was out volunteering and knocking on doors and traveling and getting involved like never before.’ And so new generations inspired previous generations, and that’s how change happens in America.”
He said this applied not just to campaigns but to service, like teaching or joining the Peace Corps.
“And as this is broadcast all around the world,” he added, “we know that young people everywhere are in the process of imagining something different than what has come before. Where there is war, they imagine peace. Where there is hunger, they imagine people being able to feed themselves. Where there is disease, they imagine a public health system that works for everybody. Where there is bigotry, they imagine togetherness. The future will be in your hands if you are able to sustain the kind of energy and focus that you showed on this campaign. I promise you that America will get stronger and more united, more prosperous, more secure — you are going to make it happen, and Michelle and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
And then this: “Hit it, band.”
Then it was on to Joe Biden’s “Home States” ball, for Pennsylvania and Delaware. And he was only halfway through his night of dancing.
Speaking to the Troops | 9:55 p.m. Mr. Obama speaks solemnly to service members at the Commander-in-Chief ball. “Every day that I’m in the White House, I’ll try to serve you as well as you serve America,” he says. And he promises that, together with the troops, “we will write the next great chapter in America’s story.” Then he talks by satellite video link with some soldiers from Illinois who are serving in Afghanistan.
There’s some friendly banter with the soldiers about their baseball preferences. Only one of the five tells the White-Sox-fan-in-chief that she is a Sox fan, too; the rest say they root for the Cubs.
More on the Ball Gown | 9:22 p.m. A few more details about the gown are filtering in. It’s made of ivory silk chiffon, embellished with organza and Swarovski crystal rhinestones and silver thread embroidery. It was custom designed and made exclusively for Mrs. Obama, said Gina Pepe, Mr. Wu’s spokeswoman.
Home States | 9:11 p.m. The First Couple’s next ball — the Home States ball (Hawaii and Illinois) — is just down the hallway from the Neighborhood ball at the Washington Convention Center. “Aloha,” Mr. Obama says to the crowd. “You’re not new friends, you’re old friends, and for that we’re grateful to you,” he says. His presidency is not just about him making the country better, he says, but “about all of you.” He asks the crowd to remember his motto, “Yes, we can.” They’re having a bit of trouble dancing because they keep stepping on her dress. But that doesn’t stop the president from giving his wife a twirl. Now the two have wrapped their arms around each other and are sloooow dancing. And after about two minutes, they’re off to the next event — the Commander in Chief ball at the National Building Museum.
Now Where’d They Go? | 9:01 p.m. Well, this set-up with exclusive deals for certain TV networks to broadcast means this is not the most accessible inauguration ever, as the inaugural planners keep saying. It’s frustrating for anyone who wants to follow the new president’s path tonight, although those who paid big bucks to attend the balls are probably quite happy.
We’re left to contemplate the mystery of Mrs. Obama’s dress. The designer, Jason Wu, is a young New York designer whom Mrs. Obama has worn before.
He’s 26 and from Taiwan and told The Wall Street Journal recently that he had never imagined that Mrs. Obama might wear one of his designs at the inaugural balls.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered | 8:44 p.m. We didn’t get to see much of the first dance, but we are watching Jamie Foxx tell the crowd at the Neighborhood ball: “You can tell that was a black president by the way he was moving.”
Mr. and Mrs. Obama are now group dancing to Stevie Wonder singing, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” (And lots of other are joining them.)
At Last … | 8:37 p.m. It’s the first dance. And thwack! CNN cuts away as Beyonce is singing “At Last.”
The Dress | 8:37 p.m. Here it is! The dress is white, with one large sash over her right shoulder. Jason Wu is the designer. “How good lookin’ is my wife?” the new president asks the crowd at the Neighborhood ball, their first of the evening.
Party Time | 8:19 p.m. One of the biggest secrets of Inauguration Day is about to be revealed. Barack and Michelle Obama are on their way to their first ball, and the world will finally see what Mrs. Obama has chosen to wear. She apparently had a few options because she didn’t make up her mind until the final hours.
The new First Couple has left the White House, so the unveiling of the dress is just moments away!
Barack Obama’s motorcade had an unexpected occurrence while ferrying the president-elect to a security briefing at Chicago FBI headquarters Thursday morning.
As the motorcade pulled onto Van Buren, towards the Loop, a couple in a tan sedan tried to drive around the heavily-armed line of vehicles, wrote pool reporter P.J. Hufstutter of the Los Angeles Times:
The SUV cut the car off immediately, and the security team aimed their weapons at the car. The driver and passenger in the sedan stopped, and looked stunned — until the male driver appeared to understand what was happening (your pool reporter could see him mouth “Obama”). The motorcade continued on. The sedan remained stopped, near the side of the road. […] Some of the drivers here in Chicago do not seem to understand that a) the Chicago police car at the end of the president-elect’s motorcade is serious about having traffic pull over when the officers flash their lights and hit their sirens, and b) it’s not a great idea to jump ahead of traffic by trying to cut around the black SUV filled with five heavily-armed secret service CAT members.
Everyone knows that Obama would be dealt a stiff hand ~ if he were to become President.
Obama tells people what he thinks and in the direction he thinks we should go in. Look at the convention – when Obama accepted his party’s nomination – I think what many of detractors saw were the Greek columns – I barely noticed – because it was what he said that was important – he said it was not over – the Republican attack machine is going to come after him to try to win this election. Which is one of the reasons I built this blog, that and the appearance of Sarah Palin – who has either reached or is safely on her way back to Alaska:-}. When Obama became President-elect he said that there is a lot of work to do and it is going to take time. Obama’s a guy with some good ideas – and not only America but much of the world is with him – and once he becomes President – it would be difficult to understand why he wouldn’t work to get these things done. If you scroll down and listen to the speech that Obama made when he announced his candidacy for President – it sounds very similar to the speeches he used to end his campaign with — but more in his very first speech – he tells you what he is going to do once he is elected – after telling you the route by which he was going to get elected – and he got elected. The inaugurated is in January – and I am sure – a good day that will be. Most of all we trust him.
President-elect Barack Obama has begun an effort to tamp down what his aides fear are unusually high expectations among his supporters, and will remind Americans regularly throughout the transition that the nation’s challenges are substantial and will take time to address.
Visitors offered wishes to Barack Obama at a wall built Wednesday near the Lincoln Memorial.
Mr. Obama’s advisers said they were startled, if gratified, by the jubilation that greeted the news of Mr. Obama’s victory in much of the United States and abroad. But while the energy of his supporters could be a tremendous political asset as Mr. Obama works to enact his agenda after taking office in January, his aides said they were looking to temper hopes that he would be able to solve the nation’s problems or fully reverse Bush administration policies quickly and easily, especially given the prospect of a deep and long-lasting recession.
“We have talked about this,” said Robert Gibbs, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama. “It’s important that everybody understands that this is not going to happen overnight. There has to be a realistic expectation of what can happen and how quickly.”
Joel Benenson, Mr. Obama’s campaign pollster, said he thought that the public appreciated the problems that the president-elect was facing and would judge him against that backdrop.
“I don’t think they view him as a miracle worker who in two months is going to solve an economic crisis,” Mr. Benenson said. “It is a matter of being straightforward with people about what we are going to achieve and how fast it’s going to take.”
Mr. Obama will hit that theme at a news conference he is expected to hold over the coming days, and in most of his public appearances from here on out, aides said. They said they would discourage the traditional yardstick for measuring the accomplishments of a new president — the first 100 days. Mr. Obama told an interviewer toward the end of his campaign that it was more appropriate to talk about the first 1,000 days.
Mr. Obama’s advisers said that the tone of his victory speech on Tuesday night — sober and devoid of the arm-pumping that would typically be in an address of that sort — reflected his awareness of these circumstances. Mr. Obama warned that the promises that led Americans to embrace his candidacy — be they as specific as expanding health care or as broad as changing the tone of Washington — might take as long a term to carry out.
The caution reflected the inevitable perils of taking control of the White House at such a difficult time, particularly after a campaign that stirred so much hope among voters. The economic crisis will certainly complicate Mr. Obama’s more ambitious domestic efforts like broadening health care coverage and cutting taxes for most Americans. His call for a change in the tone in Washington would require a sharp shift in history. Even with substantial Democratic majorities in the Senate and the House, passing major legislation could still be time-consuming for Mr. Obama and require compromises.
Mr. Gibbs said one of the main challenges for Mr. Obama was tamping down expectations a bit without making anyone think he was moving away from the promises of his campaign.
“The flip side of this — and I want to make sure this is also clear — we also believe that it is paramount to begin doing everything we said we would do in the campaign,” Mr. Gibbs said. “We know expectations are high. But disappointment if we didn’t try to do the things that we said we were going to do would be far, far greater than anything else. People went to the polls and elected Barack Obama because they believed the fact not only that he could do what he said, but that he would try to do what he said.”
The challenge facing Mr. Obama today is similar to one that faced Bill Clinton in 1992, the last time a president arrived in Washington with anything approaching the level of excitement Mr. Obama’s election set off around the country.
As Election Day approached in 1992, it was apparent from the crowds that Mr. Clinton drew, in their size and their faces, that his supporters expected big things after a campaign in which Mr. Clinton had promised a dramatic revamping in health care coverage and programs for the poor. At the time, a senior adviser who was traveling with him, Paul Begala, warned Mr. Clinton to add some caveats to his speeches, to avoid voter letdown should it take time to accomplish things as president.
“I remember talking about this to him in the closing days of the campaign,” Mr. Begala said. “And he started saying, ‘We didn’t get into this overnight and we’re not going to get out of it overnight.’ ”
“So I remember him talking about it and doing it — and it didn’t have any effect on the citizens,” Mr. Begala said. That was one reason, he said, that Democrats lost control of Congress two years later.
A nearly 500-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wednesday was a reminder that Mr. Obama’s election did not bring the financial crisis to a close, and that the economic downturn could limit his ability to pursue his full agenda right off the bat by demanding an immediate focus on trying to pull the nation out of recession. And, even if Americans are ready to bear with Mr. Obama as he pursues policy proposals, they may not as readily accept the sort of compromise that legislative accomplishment often requires.
With the Democrats falling short of a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate on Tuesday, his agenda will probably require some modicum of horse trading for Republican support. Further complicating the picture, Mr. Obama’s winning coalition includes new voters who will be watching him closely but may not have patience for the deliberative give and take that accomplishment in Washington often demands.
“He’s got to lower some expectations, indicate the limits he’s confronting,” said Leon Panetta, a former chief of staff to Mr. Clinton. “He’s got a story to tell about how he’s confronting the worst crisis that any president has faced in modern history, and I think he can make clear that he’s going to try to deal with these problems one at a time.”