Fair or not, four other U.S. presidents have won the coveted award from the judges at the Norwegian Nobel Institute since the prize’s founding in 1901. And the winners are:
President Roosevelt may have espoused the gospel of “speak softly and carry a big stick,” but that didn’t stop the Nobel committee from awarding him the peace prize in 1906 for “having negotiated peace in the Russo-Japanese war.” He was the first head of state to win the prize, and the move was controversial, since Roosevelt had also fought for control of the Philippines. According to the Institute, Swedish newspapers said Alfred Nobel was “turning in his grave.”
Between 1914 and 1918, i.e. World War I, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded only once, to the International Red Cross. Then in 1919, President Wilson won for being the “leading architect of the League of Nations.” A precursor to the United Nations, the League of Nations was supposed to prevent a world war from happening ever again. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans blocked the United States from joining, and the League ultimately failed.
Jimmy Carter (post-presidency)
Former president Carter won the peace prize in 2002 for “his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts,” but the committee said he had probably deserved it while he was still in office. In 1978, he mediated a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel known as the Camp David Accords. As an ex-president, Carter also worked for peace in Northern Ireland, North Korea and Uganda, to name a few. He called for an end to the “war on drugs” in the United States, arguing that policies that punish instead of treat drug users are inhumane. And at 95, the longest-living former president in U.S. history is still building homes for the poor with Habitat for Humanity.
As the Nobel committee noted, there was a long list of reasons Carter was Nobel-worthy. The same could not really be said for President Obama in 2009, who won the prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” nine months after taking office. In fact, the nomination window closed 11 days after his inauguration.
The award drew criticism from the right and left, and not just because of his brief time on the international stage. As commander in chief, he was also presiding over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan even as he traveled to Oslo to accept the honor.
Hours after the news broke, Obama said, “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.”
Trump noted this, too, 10 years later, saying: “They gave one to Obama immediately after his ascent to the presidency, and he had no idea why he got it. You know what, that was the only thing I agreed with him on.”
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