Political Apologies

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.

Displaying 51 - 75 of 755
Date of Apology Title Summary Source
27 July 1967 U.S. President proclaims a national day of prayer and reconciliation after racial riots

U.S. President Lyndon Johnson proclaims a national day of prayer and reconciliation after racial riots in Detroit kill 40 people, injure 2,000 people, and destroy 5,000 homes.

Taylor, Tim. The Book of Presidents. Arno, 1972. p563.
23 October 1968 Egyptian- Israel Demand for Israel apology over agression

 Egyptian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad demands that Israel apologize to Arab states for its “aggression” in 1967

Middleton, Drew. “Egypt Demands Israeli Apology.” New York Times. October 23, 1968.
21 December 1968 The United States- North Korea U.S. apology over territorial waters

The United States signs an apology prepared by North Korea, admitting that the U.S.S. Pueblo violated North Korean territorial waters.  The admission gains the release of the captured U.S. crew but not the ship.

Tavuchis, Nicholas. Mea Culpa. Stanford, 1991. p104.
14 December 1970 West German Chancellor express guilt for the Holocaust

 At the site of the Warsaw ghetto, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt falls to his knees to express the guilt, sorrow, and responsibility of Germany for the Holocaust.

Schiller, Bill. “World Bids Final Farewell to Conciliator Willy Brandt.” Toronto Star. October 18, 1992.
16 November 1971 Japanese Emperor Hirohito says his personally sorry for certain things in World War II

In his first meeting with foreign journalists, Japanese Emperor Hirohito says about World War II, “Yes, there are certain things which happened for which I feel personally sorry.”

“Japan’s Apologies for World War II.” New York Times. August 14, 2015.
25 September 1972 Japan-China Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka realizes damage to the Chinese people through war

Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka tells visiting Chinese Premier Chou En-lai that “Japan realizes her heavy responsibility in causing enormous damage to the Chinese people in the past through the war.”

hriver, Donald W., Jr. An Ethic for Enemies. Oxford, 1995. p136.
3 October 1975 Japan-USA Emperor Hirohito places a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier ery,

Japanese Emperor Hirohito places a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, one day after visiting the White House and calling World War II “that most unfortunate war which I deeply deplore.”

“Hirohito Honors War Dead.” The Victoria Advocate. October 4, 1975.
19 February 1976 President Ford says the internment of Japanese Americans was “wrong”

 President Ford says the internment of Japanese Americans was “wrong” and officially revokes President Franklin Roosevelt’s exclusion order.

Shriver, Donald W., Jr. An Ethic for Enemies. Oxford, 1995. p165.
25 June 1976 Missouri and the expulsion of Mormons

Missouri Governor Kitt Bond issues an executive order to rescind and express regret for an 1838 order by the Missouri Governor that called for the extermination or expulsion of Mormons.

Lloyd, R. Scott. “Former Missouri governor honored for rescinding Mormon ‘extermination order.’” Deseret News. May 31, 2010.
1977 Spain grants an amnesty to Gen Franco's collaborators

Two years after the death of Gen. Francisco Franco, Spain grants an amnesty to his collaborators in order to help the divided nation heal and to facilitate the transition to democracy.

Sciolino, Elaine and Emma Daly. “Spaniards at Last Confront the Ghost of Franco.” New York Times. November 11, 2002.
10 April 1979 Egypt rejects a demand by Israel to apologize

 Egypt rejects a demand by Israel to apologize for offering to aide Syria.

“Egypt Bars Apology to Israel for Private Speculation on Aiding Syria.” New York Times. April 11, 1979.
September 1980 Iran-USA Iran drops demand that the U.S. apologize

Iran drops its demand that the U.S. apologize for past policies towards Iran, as a precondition for resolving the hostage crisis.

Kaufman, Burton. The Presidency of James Earl Carter. Kansas, 1993. p203.
19 September 1980 USA-Iran USA release of American hostages

 President Carter refuses to apologize to Iran in order to secure the release of American hostages

Gwertzman, Bernard. “President rules out apology to Iranians to free hostages.” New York Times. September 19, 1980.
30 October 1981 Soviet Union-Sweden Soviet Union conveys “unreserved formal regrets”

 The Soviet ambassador to Sweden conveys “unreserved formal regrets” to the Swedish foreign minister over a Soviet submarine that ran aground in Swedish territorial waters

Tavuchis, Nicholas. Mea Culpa. Stanford, 1991. p105.
1 November 1981 Sweden says that the Soviet apology insufficient

Sweden says that the Soviet apology regarding the stranded submarine is insufficient, but the submarine and its crew are released.

“Sweden maintains tough line on sub.” New York Times. November 1, 1981.
June 1983 The USA-Japanese compensation to interned Japanese Americans

The U.S. Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians recommends that Congress pass legislation providing an official apology and compensation to interned Japanese Americans.

Personal Justice Denied. Civil Liberties Public Education Fund, 1996. p456.
25 June 1983 The USA-Marshall Islands sign a compact

The U.S. and the Marshall Islands sign a compact under which the U.S. will establish the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal to grant compensation for injury resulting from nuclear testing in the 1950s.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/peopleevents/pandeAMEX51.html
August 1983 The United- France apology for escape of Nazi war criminal to Bolivia

The United States formally apologizes to France for having helped Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie escape to Bolivia to avoid prosecution after World War II.

Tavuchis, Nicholas. Mea Culpa. Stanford, 1991. p106.
3 September 1983 South Korea- Soviet Union demands Soviet Union apologize for flight 007

South Korea demands that the Soviet Union apologize and provide reparations for shooting down Korean Air Lines flight 007 on September 1, killing all 240 passengers and 29 crew members on board.

Lohr, Steve. “Koreans demand apology and money from Russians.” New York Times. September 3, 1983.
26 October 1983 USA -Britain U.S. invasion of Grenada.

Ronald Reagan apologizes to Margaret Thatcher for not warning her in advance of the U.S. invasion of Grenada.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/nov/10/reagan-apologise-angry-thatcher-grenada-white-house-tapes
17 July 1984 Jesse Jackson asks Jews for forgiveness for insensitive remarks

 At the U.S. Democratic National Convention, Jesse Jackson asks Jews for forgiveness for insensitive remarks.

MacPherson, Myra. “Jackson and Jews: A Healing Step.” Washington Post. July 17, 1984.
7 September 1984 Japan-South Korea World War II

Alluding to World War II, Japanese Emperor Hirohito tells the visiting South Korean President that “it is regrettable that there was an unfortunate period in this century.”

Shriver, Donald W., Jr. An Ethic for Enemies. Oxford, 1995. p135.
8 May 1985 West German President stresses the importance of remembering, guilt

In a speech to Parliament, West German President Richard von Weizsacker stresses the importance of remembering, guilt, and reconciliation.

Krondorfer, Bjorn. Remembrance and Reconciliation. Yale, 1995.
August 1985 U.S., Rev. Jerry Falwell apologizes to Desmond Tutu

 In the U.S., the Rev. Jerry Falwell apologizes for having called Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa a “phony.”

“Falwell Offers Tutu Qualified Apology.” Los Angeles Times. August 24, 1985.
23 October 1985 Japan-United Nations Apology for world War II

In an address to the United Nations, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone apologizes for Japan’s role in World War II.

Tavuchis, Nicholas. Mea Culpa. Stanford, 1991. p106.