On December 10, 2009, President Barack Obama received what many call the world’s most prestigious award, the Nobel Peace Prize, in Oslo, Norway. I was invited to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and banquet by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, and I was present to witness this historic and momentous event. It was with a sense of pride that I watched as President Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama, entered the elegant City Hall to the sound of trumpeters, and proceeded to the platform to receive the Nobel Peace Prize medal. Presenting the award was the Nobel Peace Prize Committee chairman, Thorbjorn Jagland, who delivered a stirring speech on why the Nobel Committee selected President Obama to join other Nobel laureates who had become beacons of hope for peace.

Upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize medal, President Obama delivered an eloquent speech that will no doubt rank among his greatest. His remarks were humble yet bold, charitable yet firm, optimistic yet realistic. His speech was consistent with the theme that garnered him the Nobel Peace Prize: the continual pursuit of peace with an outstretched hand and not a clenched fist. Following the ceremony, I attended the Nobel Peace Prize banquet, where I spoke with the president and members of the Nobel Committee, including its chairman, who all found the speech inspiring and consonant with the philosophy of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee and its creator Alfred Nobel.

Earlier this year, I nominated Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith to host the Nobel Peace Prize Concert. I was pleased that the Committee accepted my nomination, and Will and Jada became the first couple ever to host the event. Their participation, along with that of their lovely children Jaden and Willow, made this year’s ceremony particularly remarkable. As is the tradition of the celebrity host, Will and Jada interviewed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama for international television and presentation during the concert. The organizers of the concert and members of the Committee described their performance as magnificent and unsurpassed.

At my request, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee granted an invitation to my colleague and dear friend David L. Evans, Senior Admissions Officer at Harvard College, to attend the Nobel Ceremony.


Dr. S. Allen Counter is Professor of Neurology and Director of the Harvard Foundation at Harvard University.  He is also the Consul General of Sweden in Boston and New England and Adjunct Professor of Neuroscience at the Karolinska Nobel Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.