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The Nobel Peace Prize 1919
Woodrow Wilson

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Acceptance Speech

Acceptance by Albert G. Schmedeman, American Minister.

The Peace Prize for 1919, reserved in that year, was awarded in 1920 to Woodrow Wilson in recognition of his Fourteen Points peace program and his work in achieving inclusion of the Covenant of the League of Nations in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. Since President Wilson was not present at the award ceremony on December 10, 1920, Albert G. Schmedeman, United States minister in Oslo, accepted the prize in his behalf. Mr. Schmedeman's speech1, which included the reading of a message from President Wilson, follows:

Mr. President, I have the honor to inform you that I am the bearer of a telegram from Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, in which he requests me to express his thanks and appreciation for the honor which has been conferred upon him by the Nobel Peace Committee of the Storting in awarding him the prize for the year 1919. Therefore, I have the honor, Mr. President, to request that permission will be granted me to read the message and make a few remarks to the honorable body.

I have been instructed by President Wilson to convey the following message2 of appreciation to President [Chairman] Løvland and the members of the Nobel Peace Committee of the Storting:

"In accepting the honor of your award I am moved not only by a profound gratitude for the recognition of my [sincere and] earnest efforts in the cause of peace, but also by a very poignant humility before the vastness of the work still called for by this cause.

May I not take this occasion to express my respect for the far-sighted wisdom of the founder in arranging for a continuing system of awards? If there were but one such prize, or if this were to be the last, I could not of course accept it. For mankind has not yet been rid of the unspeakable horror of war. I am convinced that our generation has, despite its wounds, made notable progress. But it is the better part of wisdom to consider our work as one1 begun. It will be a continuing labor. In the indefinite course of [the] years before us there will be abundant opportunity for others to distinguish themselves in the crusade against hate and fear and war.

There is indeed a peculiar fitness in the grouping of these Nobel rewards. The cause of peace and the cause of truth are of one family. Even as those who love science and devote their lives to physics or chemistry, even as those who would create new and higher ideals for mankind in literature, even so with those who love peace, there is no limit set. Whatever has been accomplished in the past is petty compared to the glory and promise of the future.

Woodrow Wilson"

 

I regret that I am unable to address this honorable body in the Norwegian language; even if I were, there are no words which can fully express my appreciation for the high honor conferred upon my country by the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for the year 1919 by the Nobel Committee of the Storting to one of America's greatest statesmen, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America. This honor which has been bestowed on President Wilson is one of significance and of utmost satisfaction to me - an occasion which will always remain in my memory. To have the privilege of accepting, on behalf of the President of the United States, this evidence of appreciation of his efforts to replace discord with harmony by appealing to the highest moral forces of each nation, is an event to be cherished.

It is unnecessary for me to dwell upon any of those achievements of President Wilson which justify the bestowal of this honor upon him; his comprehensive understanding of international affairs and his discerning and convincing methods of procedure in matters affecting the welfare and success of entire peoples, which, due to his earnest and forceful endeavors, resulted in the formation of the League of Nations, are well known to us all. He, perhaps as much as any public man, is conscious of the fact that the time is past when each nation can live only unto itself, and his labors have been inspired with the idea and hope of making peace universal a living reality. It is impossible to make a proper estimate of Woodrow Wilson and his great work for international peace until time has revealed much that must, for the present, be a sealed book.

Let me assure you, members of the Norwegian Storting, that words fail to convey the deep emotion which stirs within me at this time, when it falls within my province to receive this testimonial on behalf of the President of the United States of America. No more fitting word of appreciation could be voiced than that contained in the President's message, in which he acknowledges the great honor that has been conferred upon him by the Nobel Peace Committee of the Storting.

 

President Wilson, who notified the Nobel Committee that ill health prevented his visiting Oslo, did not deliver a Nobel lecture.


1. Taken from the text in Les Prix Nobel en 1919-1920, with two minor emendations based on the text in Forhandlinger i Stortinget (nr. 502) for December 10, 1920 [Proceedings of the Norwegian Parliament].

2. The text and punctuation of the telegram are taken from Les Prix Nobel en 1919- 1920 and verified in Forhandlinger i Stortinget (nr. 502) ; the words in brackets are from the New York Times (December 11, 1920) version of the text.

3. Les Prix Nobel and Forhandlinger i Stortinget read "one"; N.Y. Times reads "only"; the context suggests "only" as the proper reading.

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1901-1925, Editor Frederick W. Haberman, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972

 

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