gallery American Nobel Peace Prize Winners
With his win, Obama follows in the footsteps of Elie Wiesel, Kissinger, Martin Luther King, Carter—and Woodrow Wilson after WWI. View our gallery of other Americans who've won. View our gallery of Americans who've won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Barack Obama – 2009
Only the third sitting American president to win the Nobel Peace Prize (after Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt), Obama acknowledged, “I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments but as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.” Obama was selected, the committee said, for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”—despite the fact that his term began only two short weeks before the nomination deadline.
Daniel Sannum Lauten, AFP / Getty Images Al Gore – 2007
After his defeat in the 2000 presidential election, Gore rededicated his energy toward raising awareness about man-made climate change. He was rewarded for his efforts with a peace prize, which he split with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Jimmy Carter – 2002
Carter, whose post-presidential life has been dedicated to diplomatic missions and Habitat for Humanity, was given the Nobel for “decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts.” Gunnar Berg, the Nobel committee chairman, described the award as a “kick in the leg” for the hawkish Bush administration.
Jody Williams – 1997
Williams shared the Nobel—for “work for the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines” —with the organization she worked for as spokeswoman, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Williams, a Vermont native, later joined five other female Nobel Laureates to form the Nobel Women’s Initiative, a global women’s rights organization.
Elie Wiesel – 1986
Author, professor, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel received his Nobel for his work speaking out against violence and bigotry. Wiesel, a Romania native, moved to New York in 1955; he was first encouraged to write by another Nobel laureate, François Mauriac, who received the 1952 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Henry Kissinger – 1973
Kissinger’s Nobel, intended to be split with North North Vietnamese diplomat and politician Lê Duc Thọ, is among the most controversial in the award’s history. Kissinger, then the secretary of State, accepted the award, based on his work on the 1973 Paris agreement that ended the Vietnam War; his counterpart Lê refused, saying his country had no peace.
Norman Borlaug – 1970
Bourlag, who died in September at age 95, was the father of “the green revolution”—the post-WWII expansion of agricultural techniques that turned Mexico from an importer to an exporter of wheat. The impact of Bourlag’s scientific discoveries—said to have saved more than a million people from starvation—was the reason given for his Nobel honor.
Linus Carl Pauling – 1962
Pauling’s peace prize was actually his second Nobel: The scientist won for Chemistry eight years earlier. Pauling, who had worked on projects with military applications and was invited by Robert Oppenheimer to join the Manhattan Project, won for his passionate campaigns against nuclear-weapons testing. A headline in Life magazine described his award as “A Weird Insult from Norway.”
Popperfoto / Getty Images George Catlett Marshall – 1953
Marshall, whose extensive array of titles includes chief of staff of the Army, secretary of State, secretary of Defense, and president of the Red Cross, was given the 1953 Peace Prize largely on the strength of the postwar recovery program that bore his name: the Marshall Plan.
Ralph Bunche – 1950
Bunche, a diplomat instrumental in the creation of the United Nations, was the principal secretary of the U.N. Palestine Commission; when the mission’s chief mediator was assassinated, Bunche took over negotiations and was able to broker the 1949 Armistice Agreements. Bunche, an African American, was the first person of color to win a Nobel Prize.
Emily Greene Balch – 1946
Balch was once terminated from her teaching position at Wellesley College for her peace activism. She was a founder of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. The Boston native shared the prize with John Raleigh Mott in 1946.
Nat Farbman, Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images John Raleigh Mott – 1946
The leader of the YMCA and founder of the World Student Christian Organization shared his award with Emily Greene Balch. The groups he founded and led were said to be important bodies for the promotion of peace in the U.S. and worldwide.
William J. Smith / AP Photo Cordell Hull – 1945
F.D.R. called Hull, who served as secretary of State under him for 11 years, “the father of the United Nations” for his efforts in creating the international body. The Nobel committee rewarded Hull for his hard work in 1945, citing the politician and diplomat for being a “prominent participant in the originating of the United Nations.”
Jane Adams – 1931
Jane Adams was recognized for her work founding the U.S. Settlement House movement, which aimed to bridge gaps between the nation’s wealthiest and poorest citizens. One of the first women to be awarded a Nobel, Adams came from a political background—her father, John H. Adams, was one of the founders of the Republican Party.
Mansell, Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images Nicholas Murray Butler – 1931
Butler served, among other things, as the president of Columbia University, and was widely known and respected for his work in education. He was also known for his controversial political views, and was an admirer of Mussolini.
Central Press / Getty Images Frank Billings Kellogg – 1929
Kellogg received the Nobel for orchestrating the anti-war treaty called the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Kellogg was active in politics throughout his life, appointed by Theodore Roosevelt to the Justice Department, and later elected as a state senator in Minnesota.
Charles Gates Dawes – 1925
Dawes served as vice president under Calvin Coolidge and was recognized in his own right for constructing the Dawes Plan, which unsuccessfully sought reparations from Germany after World War I.
Woodrow Wilson – 1919
Wilson, a staunch progressive, was awarded the peace prize in his second term as president largely for his work creating the League of Nations and aid with the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I.
Hulton Archive / Getty Images Elihu Root – 1912
Elihu Root was known for his efforts to build up and stabilize the U.S. military, such as the enlargement of West Point. As a senator, he was also a major figure in international politics, personally working on border disputes and maintaining an Open Door Policy with Eastern nations. For his careful arbitration of international politics, Root received the peace prize in 1912.
Theodore Roosevelt - 1906
Roosevelt was the first American president to receive the honor when the Nobel committee cited him for his role in ending the Russo-Japanese War. Roosevelt’s Nobel is probably seen by the current president quite frequently—it’s sitting on the mantelpiece of the White House’s Roosevelt Room.