Sitting down with past Nobel Peace Prize laureates

Sitting down with past Nobel Peace Prize laureates

Excerpts from Miller Center oral history interviews with previous winners 

The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on October 7. The Miller Center at the University of Virginia has interviewed six past Nobel laureates as part of our Presidential Oral History Program. Here are excerpts from five (the interview with the sixth, former President Barack Obama, has not yet been released to the public).

Martti Ahtisaari

I have always been pro-NATO, and I have not hidden my view that NATO is the best peacekeeping organization we have. I have benefited. When I was in Namibia, I had a NATO operation. I had a Finnish battalion there as well. I have been very proud of Finnish peacekeepers because they are the best in the world. I don't hide my praise for the Finnish peacekeepers. It has been a pleasure always to associate with them.

Martti Ahtisaari, President of Finland, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2008 because of his work to resolve international conflicts in Namibia, Indonesia, Kosovo, and Iraq


Jimmy Carter

I looked on myself as being quite liberal on civil rights and human rights on a broad basis, on pursuing peace and nuclear arms control, on social programs, jobs, appointments of minorities, and the increased involvement of minorities and women in government. I thought that on environmental quality and those kinds of things that we would retain a basic, Democratic constituency. So I had hopes of building upon the old Democratic coalition and broadening it somewhat. Of course, my hopes weren’t realized.

Jimmy Carter, U.S. President, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002 because of his "decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development"


Kim Dae-jung

[President Bill Clinton and I] shared the same perspective toward work. We have great interest in peace promotion and justice. So from the very beginning we were in the same accord, the same idea, so we respected each other, we cooperated with each other, and that continued from then on.

Kim Dae-jung, President of South Korea, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2000 because of his "sunshine policy" toward North Korea, relying on warmth and friendliness as he worked for a peaceful reunification


John Hume

It’s now taken for granted that the British and Irish governments worked together to solve the Northern Ireland problem, but until then, the British government always refused to talk to the Irish government, saying it’s an integral part of the United Kingdom, [and] therefore, it’s none of your business. Similarly, to get pressure put on the British government to do it, we were looking for foreign assistance, for assistance from the United States. Ted Kennedy and Tip O’Neill and Pat Moynihan and Hugh Carey agreed to support us to get the British and Irish governments to work together. But until then, no president of the United States would make a statement interfering with the internal affairs of Britain.

John Hume, Irish Social Democratic and Labour Party President, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1998 because he served as the principal architect behind the Northern Ireland peace process of the 1990s


Desmond Tutu

[Senator Ted Kennedy and I] talked about Robert Kennedy’s 1966 visit [to South Africa] and the incredible impact that had made. One of the major newspapers—it doesn’t exist any longer, it was killed off by apartheid—the Rand Daily Mail characterized it as a gust of fresh air into a room that is closed and dank. I think I was with the members of the family, Ted’s family, probably Ethel [Skakel Kennedy], and said it would be a good thing for a return visit of the Kennedys to South Africa because it was so crucial to keep the apartheid situation on the agenda of the world, and especially the United States because the [Ronald] Reagan administration had this policy of constructive engagement and they were very firmly set against the sanctions.

Desmond Tutu, Bishop of Johannesburg and former Secretary General of the South African Council of Churches, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1984 because of his opposition to South Africa's brutal apartheid regime