WASHINGTON - When Arizona State University declined to give President Barack Obama an honorary degree, saying it was too early in his presidency, Obama essentially agreed.
""I come to embrace the notion that I haven't done enough in my life,' Obama told the class of 2009 in May.
On Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee begged to differ.
It stunned the world by awarding Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, citing global optimism fostered by calls for peace and cooperation by a president in office less than nine months. The committee also praised Obama's pledges to reduce the world's cache of nuclear arms, ease American conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthen the U.S. role in combating climate change.
Obama's reaction was about the same as it was in Arizona.
""I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations,' Obama said, casting the prestigious honor in terms grander than himself when he appeared in the Rose Garden several hours after the Nobel committee's announcement.
""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 - men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace,' Obama said.
The president said he was accepting the award as a ""call to action - a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century,' including nuclear weapons, climate change and conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
Obama, 48, is the third U.S. president to win the prize while in office, after Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Former President Jimmy Carter won the prize in 2002, more than two decades after he left office.
Obama will travel to Oslo, Norway, in December to accept the award. It comes with a $1.4 million cash prize that White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama will donate to charity. Several charities, yet to be named, are likely to benefit from the windfall, Gibbs said.
In 2007 and 2008, Obama and his wife, Michelle, made sizable contributions to the United Negro College Fund, which received a total of $75,000, and the international relief agency CARE, which collected $60,000.
The award surprised Obama and his staff on what already was a busy Friday.
Washington was still asleep under dark and starry skies when reporters informed Gibbs that Obama had won the 2009 prize. Gibbs then telephoned his boss with the news, and Obama's appearance in the Rose Garden was quickly arranged.