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Lots of Talk About Peace (Prizes) and Presidents

Lots of Talk About Peace (Prizes) and Presidents

Sunday’s New York Times Opinion section is almost nothing but commentary on Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize win. Makes sense, and there’s a lot to chew on (especially Maureen Dowd’s mock conversation between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush), but I was fascinated by John Milton Cooper’s portrait of the last sitting President to win the award: Woodrow Wilson in 1919. Unlike Obama at the time of his win, Wilson was at the end of his Presidency, and also the end of his rope:

Wilson himself felt gratified by the prize, but his frail health did not allow him to use the occasion to advance his ideas. He could not go to Kristiania, as Oslo was then called, to accept the award and give an address. In fact, Wilson could not even write his own acceptance message but had to rely on a draft from the State Department that expressed his “profound gratitude” and his confidence that the world would see progress toward eradication of “the unspeakable scourge of war.” In 1920, the prize carried a cash award of $40,000 (equivalent to about one-third of today’s sum of $1.4 million), which brought welcome relief to a man whose term was about to expire in the days before presidential pensions.

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