Political Apologies Archive

AHDA Political Apology

How does the act of apologizing enable societies to come to terms with their past?

Political apologies can be a powerful tool in the re-examination of a nation's history, and the significance this history has on democratic processes. The project includes a working list of political apologies throughout history that political scientist Graham Dodds has researched and compiled.

This is a working list of major political apologies and related events. The selection criteria for compiling the list are somewhat loose, but the intent is to include any and all apologies that involve states, nations, or major political groups and actors, generally for significant public wrongs. Thus, apologies by individual politicians for more narrow matters (e.g., alleged personal or criminal failings) are generally excluded.

Should you wish to add to the list, please e-mail ahda@columbia.edu.

Date of Apology Title Summary Source
18 June 2009 2009: The USA apologizes for slavery

 The U.S. Senate apologizes re. slavery (with a disclaimer about reparations).

Thompson, Krissah. “Senate Unanimously Approves Resolution Apologizing for Slavery.” Washington Post. June 19, 2009.
7 July 2009 2009: Japan regrets that Japan’s relationship with Canada was disrupted by World War II.

 In Ottawa, Emperor Akihito of Japan regrets that Japan’s relationship with Canada was disrupted by World War II.  He also says, “It saddens me that so many people experienced suffering and difficulties during the war.”

Blanchfield, Mike. “Akihito saddened by impact of Second World War.” Montreal Gazette. July 7, 2009.
July 2009 2009: U.S. Episcopal Church/ Queen Elizabeth repudiation of the late-15th century “Doctrine of Discovery”

Leaders of the U.S. Episcopal Church unanimously adopt a resolution calling on Queen Elizabeth (the formal head of the Church of England) to repudiate the late-15th century “Doctrine of Discovery” which led English explorers to seize Indian lands in the New World.

Boswell, Randy. “Church targets colonial arrogance.” Montreal Gazette. August 13, 2009. pA3.
August 2009 2009: Former U.S. Army Lt. William Calley apologizes

  Former U.S. Army Lt. William Calley apologizes for the massacre of hundreds of civilians in My Lai, Vietnam in 1968.

Mackey, Robert. “An Apology for My Lai, Four Decades later.” New York Times. August 24, 2009.
14 September 2009 2009: Britain-posthumous apology to mathematician Alan Turing

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issues a posthumous apology to mathematician Alan Turing, who helped break Nazi codes in World War II but was later convicted of “gross indecency” for a homosexual affair and forced to receive hormone injections.

 

Mackey, Robert. “Posthumous Apology to Gay Code Breaker Who Helped Defeat Nazi Germany.” New York Times. September 14, 2009.
16 October 2009 2009: Australia- “Forgotten Australians” and former child migrants

The Australian parliament apologizes to “Forgotten Australians” and former child migrants.

http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/ref/australia/biogs/FE00081b.htm. I am indebted to Cate O’Neill for this item.
17 November 2009 2009: Goldman Sachs-the financial crisis

Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein apologizes for actions of the firm that helped create the financial crisis, saying “We participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret and we apologize for them.”

Kiviat, Barbara. “Goldman Sachs tries to make amends.” http://www.business.time.com. November 18, 2009.
17 November 2009 2009: Canadian parliament calls for his exoneration of Meti leader Louis Riel

 On the 124th anniversary of the hanging of Meti leader Louis Riel, a member of the Canadian parliament calls for his exoneration.

“MP wants exoneration for Riel.” Montreal Gazette. November 17, 2009.
29 November 2009 2009: Peru apologizes to its citizens of African origin for centuries of “abuse

Peru apologizes to its citizens of African origin for centuries of “abuse, exclusion and discrimination.”

“Peru apologises for abuse of African-origin citizens.” www.bbc.com. November 29, 2009.
11 December 2009 2009: Pope Benedict XVI apologizes for the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests

Pope Benedict XVI apologizes for the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests.

“Pope apologizes again.” Montreal Gazette. December 12, 2009.
4 December 2009 Carter asks Jews for Forgiveness

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter asks the Jewish community for forgiveness after making comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that seemed to stigmatize Israel.

“Carter asks Jewish community for forgiveness.” CNN. December 24, 2009.
15 February 2010 2010: Vatican Victims of child sex abuse by Irish clergy

Vatican officials acknowledge the “enormous injustice and cruelty” inflicted on victims of child sex abuse by Irish clergy.

Pullella, Philip. “Vatican summit to acknowledge child sex abuse by Irish clergy.” Montreal Gazette. February 15, 2010.
19 February 2010 2010: USA South Dakota - proclamation for a Year of Unity, Reconciliation

South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds issues a proclamation for a Year of Unity, commemorating the state’s Year of Reconciliation in 1990.

Severin, Jackelyn. “Year of Unity.” South Dakota Public Broadcasting. February 19, 2010.
24 February 2010 2010: British-“home children”

British Prime Minister Gordon Browne apologizes to “home children” for a government program that sent poor children from London abroad to labor in British colonies.

“British PM apologizes to ‘home children.’” www.cbc.ca. February 24, 2010.
20 March 2010 2010: Catholic Church victims of church sex abuse, expressing “shame and remorse

 Pope Benedict XVI apologizes to victims of church sex abuse, expressing “shame and remorse.”

Donadio, Rachel. “Pope Offers Apology, but No Punishment, for Clergy’s Abuse in Ireland.” New York Times. March 21, 2010.
30 March 2010 2010: Serbia state’s failure to prevent the massacre of some 7,000 Bosnian Muslims

The Serbian parliament passes a resolution apologizing for the state’s failure to prevent the massacre of some 7,000 Bosnian Muslims by the Bosnian Serb Army at Srebrenicia in 1995.  The measure offers condolences to the families of the victims

Mackey, Robert. “Two Apologies, No Trial Over Srebrenicia.” New York Times. March 31, 2010.
14 March 2010 2010: Israel apologizes for new housing in contested East Jerusalem

 Under pressure from the U.S., Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologizes for the timing of an announcement – but not the policy – of new housing in contested East Jerusalem.

Kershner, Isabel. “Netanyahu Offers Apology, but No Shift in Policy.” New York Times. March 14, 2010.
9 April 2010 2010: Canada New Brunswick lawsuit against the Canadian federal government

A coalition of three native groups in New Brunswick initiates a $13 billion lawsuit against the Canadian federal government for four centuries of alleged wrongs.

“Natives launch lawsuit.” Montreal Gazette. April 10, 2010.
12 June 2010 2010: Catholic Church forgiveness for pedophile priest

At a mass, Pope Benedict XVI begs forgiveness for pedophile priest scandals in the Roman Catholic Church.

Doggett, Gina. “Pope begs forgiveness for ‘abuse of little ones.’” Montreal Gazette. June 12, 2010.
14 June 2010 2010: Britain- killing of 14 unarmed demonstrators in Northern Ireland on “Bloody Sunday” in 1972.

 British Prime Minister David Cameron says “I am deeply sorry” for the killing of 14 unarmed demonstrators in Northern Ireland on “Bloody Sunday” in 1972.

Burns, John F. “Cameron Says 1972 N. Ireland Killings Were ‘Unjustified.’” New York Times. June 15, 2010.