COLUMBIA — Speaking to the U.N. in September, President Barack Obama joked about his relatively short tenure in the Oval Office.
"I have been in office for just nine months, though some days it seems a lot longer," Obama said.
It's been long enough for the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which announced Friday that Obama is the 2009 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Obama is the fourth U.S. president to receive the award. However, the president said his award was different from that of his predecessors.
"I know that, throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement," Obama said this morning in the White House Rose Garden. "It's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes."
U.S. presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter were each awarded the prize for their work in mediating or helping end conflicts, though Carter won in 2002, well after he left office. Obama is the first of the group to be honored for reasons some analysts have called aspirational.
"Let me be clear: 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.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee was more specific in its reasoning.
"The Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," the committee said in a statement. "The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons."
Former Vice President Al Gore was similarly pointed in his response to the announcement.
"I think it will take some time before people put together all the different moves that linked his speech at the U.N. on the abolishing of nuclear weapons, his shift on the missile defense program in Eastern Europe and the movement of Russia to joining the international consensus that confronted Iran to abide by the nonproliferation treaty," Gore said.
Obama took office 12 days before the committee's nomination deadline in February; he addressed the U.N. on Sept. 23. Gore, together with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his work concerning the environment and climate change.
In his speech to the U.N., Obama spoke of "a comprehensive agenda to seek the goal of a world without nuclear weapons," citing his administration's work with the Russian government, the Conference on Disarmament and the Members Conference of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
As a senator, Obama worked with Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., to write legislation focused on securing weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. The Lugar-Obama bill provided for a new office in the State Department dedicated to the detection and banning of such weapons.
In previous weeks, experts who watch the Nobel Committee were predicting that Hu Jia, an imprisoned Chinese activist, would be this year's peace prize recipient. Hu has campaigned for democracy, environmental reform and the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS.
Many thought the 2008 Beijing Olympics and international concerns over China's human-rights record would move the committee to recognize Hu, who is serving a 3 1/2-year prison sentence for subversion of state power.
Others predicted the prize would go to Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
The Nobel committee does not publish the names of nominees, but nominators are free to disclose their choices. There were a record 205 nominations for this year's prize, according to the BBC.
Roosevelt was awarded the prize in 1906 for his mediation of the Russo-Japanese War, and his help negotiating the Treaty of Portsmouth. Wilson won the prize in 1919 for his Fourteen Point Plan, his vision of the League of Nations and his contributions to the Treaty of Versailles.
Jimmy Carter, the first non sitting U.S. president to receive the prize, was honored in 2002 for his advocacy of human rights, his mediation of the Camp David Accords while in office and his work with the Carter Center, a not-for-profit organization that Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, founded in 1982.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.