Nobel Peach Prize winner Barack Obama today admitted others may be more deserving of the honour.
He addressed criticism that it was premature when receiving the award in Norway.
The president said he wants to continue working on issues that are important for the US and for building lasting peace and security in the world, such as halting the spread of nuclear weapons, addressing climate change and stabilising Afghanistan.
Mr Obama said his goal was not to win a popularity contest or get an award, even one as esteemed as the Nobel Peace Prize.
The president said his job was to advance US interests. If he is successful, he added, then some of the criticism may subside.
Mr Obama said criticism of his Nobel prize as premature might recede if he advances goals such as a nuclear-free world and tackling climate change.
But, he added, proving doubters wrong is “not really my concern.”
“If I’m not successful, then all the praise in the world won’t disguise that fact,” he said.
The Nobel committee announced Mr Obama had won the peace prize in October less than nine months into the job, recognising his aspirations to reshape the way the US deals with the world much more than his actual achievements. “It was a great surprise to me,” Mr Obama said after meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. “I have no doubt that there are others who may be more deserving.”
Mr Obama announced this week that he is ordering 30,000 more US troops into war in Afghanistan leading peace activists to stage a protest to coincide with the Nobel ceremonies.
The president’s motorcade arrived at Oslo’s high-rise government complex to a few dozen anti-war protesters gathered behind wire fences nearby. Dressed in black hoods and waving banners, the demonstrators banged drums and chanted anti-war slogans. “The Afghan people are paying the price,” some shouted.
Protesters have plastered posters around the city, featuring an Obama campaign poster altered with scepticism to say, “Change?”
Mr Stoltenberg defended Mr Obama as a Nobel laureate.
“I cannot think about anyone else who has done more for peace during the last year than Mr Barack Obama,” he said at Mr Obama’s side. “I think it’s a very bold and important decision.”
In awarding the prize to Mr Obama, the Nobel panel cited his call for a world free of nuclear weapons, for a more engaged US role in combating global warming, for his support of the United Nations and multilateral diplomacy and for broadly capturing the attention of the world and giving its people "hope".
But the list of Nobel peace laureates over the last 100 years includes transformative figures and giants on the world stage. They include heroes of the president, such as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and others he has long admired, like George Marshall, who launched a post-war recovery plan for Europe.
So the choice of Mr Obama was such a surprise, and derided so loudly by some critics as premature, that the Nobel committee took the unusual step of defending itself. Mr Obama seemed today to try to distance himself from that debate.
“On a whole host of initiatives that I’ve put forward this year, some of which are beginning to bear fruit, the goal is not to win a popularity contest or to win an award – even one as esteemed as the Nobel Peace Prize,” he said. “The goal is to advance American interests.”