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Obama: Reach for world 'as it ought to be'

U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama depart the White House en route to Andrews Air Force Base on December 9, 2009 in Washington. The President and First Lady are traveling to Oslo, Norway to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony. UPI/Olivier Douliery/Pool
U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama depart the White House en route to Andrews Air Force Base on December 9, 2009 in Washington. The President and First Lady are traveling to Oslo, Norway to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony. UPI/Olivier Douliery/Pool | License Photo

OSLO, Norway, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama recalled the lives of previous Nobel Peace Prize winners Thursday, urging that the world follow their example of faith in human progress.

"We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice," the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate said during the award ceremony in Oslo, Norway. "We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace."

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Obama began his remarks by recognizing the controversy the prize committee created when it announced he was this year's recipient. He noted he was at the beginning of his "labors on the world stage" and his list of accomplishments compared to previous winners was slight.

"But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the commander in chief of a military, of a nation, in the midst of two wars," Obama said.

"I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war," Obama said. "What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace."

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Part of the challenge of achieving peace is reconciling two "seemingly irreconcilable truths" that war is sometimes necessary and is, at some level, and an expression of human feelings.

Peace, Obama said, isn't just the absence of visible conflict, offering three ways a "just and lasting peace" may be achieved.

First, when dealing with rule- and law-breaking nations, "I believe that we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to change behavior -- for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something," Obama said. "Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable."

Second, peace is not just the absence of visible conflict, he said.

"Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting," he said.

Finally, a just peace must not just encompass civil and political rights, it must include economic security and opportunity, he said. "For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want."

"So let us reach for the world that ought to be -- that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls," Obama said to warm applause.

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The peaceful practices of Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas Gandhi and others tell the story of human progress "that is the hope of all the world," Obama said, "and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth."

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