Teddy Roosevelt’s Nobel Peace Prize surprise

Teddy Roosevelt – like President Obama – won an unexpected Nobel Peace Prize during his presidency. His was for his work to end the Russo-Japanese war.

By , Staff writer

Barack Obama isn't the first US president for whom the Nobel Peace Prize was a slightly awkward surprise – the equivalent of opening a gift you think is socks, only to find a gold ingot.

Teddy Roosevelt won the 1906 peace prize for helping broker the end of the Russo-Japanese war a year earlier. T.R.? The Rough Rider? This was not a guy who said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick, while this medal I got in Oslo swings around my neck and gets in the way."

Roosevelt was happy to get the award, but he did not really know how to handle it. In particular, he worried about whether to accept the $40,000 that came with it.

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"I hate to do anything foolish or quixotic, and above all I hate to do anything which means the refusal of money which would ultimately come to you children," he wrote one of his sons.

But in the end he decided that he had to put the money in a charitable trust, because the fact that he was the elected leader of the United States was what gave him the influence to push Russia and Japan toward a treaty.

After the award was announced, Roosevelt groused that many people now expected him to become "Meddlesome Maddie" (his phrase) and interfere for peace and justice everywhere. Also, he said, some people thought he had given up his belief that war was sometimes necessary.

"Don't you be misled by the fact that just at the moment men are speaking well of me," he said in a letter to a friend. "They will speak ill of me soon enough."

T.R. did not get around to actually giving his Nobel Prize speech until 1910, when he was out of office. In it, he endorsed international arbitration and a League of Peace. But he later attacked President Woodrow Wilson's plans for a League of Nations - helping to doom the league to Senate rejection.

Of course, Wilson won the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize - for the League of Nations effort that his fellow peace Nobelist Roosevelt had opposed.

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