Henry Kissinger

Acceptance Speech

As the Laureate was unable to be present on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 1973, the acceptance was read by Thomas R. Byrne, Ambassador of the United States to Norway

The Nobel Peace Prize is as much an award to a purpose as to a person. More than the achievement of peace, it symbolises the quest for peace. Though I deeply cherish this honour in a personal sense, I accept it on behalf of that quest and in the light of that grand purpose.

Our experience has taught us to regard peace as a delicate, ever-fleeting condition, its roots too shallow to bear the strain of social and political discontent. We tend to accept the lessons of that experience and work toward those solutions that at best relieve specific sources of strain, lest our neglect allows war to overtake peace.

To the realist, peace represents a stable arrangement of power; to the idealist, a goal so pre-eminent that it conceals the difficulty of finding the means to its achievement. But in this age of thermonuclear technology, neither view can assure man’s preservation. Instead, peace, the ideal, must be practised. A sense of responsibility and accommodation must guide the behavior of all nations. Some common notion of justice can and must be found, for failure to do so will only bring more “just” wars.

In his Nobel acceptance speech, William Faulkner expressed his hope that “man will not merely endure, he will prevail”.1 We live today in a world so complex that even only to endure, man must prevail – over an accelerating technology that threatens to escape his control and over the habits of conflict that have obscured his peaceful nature.

Certain war has yielded to an uncertain peace in Vietnam. Where there was once only despair and dislocation, today there is hope, however frail. In the Middle East the resumption of full scale war haunts a fragile ceasefire. In Indo-china, the Middle East and elsewhere, lasting peace will not have been won until contending nations realise the futility of replacing political competition with armed conflict.

America’s goal is the building of a structure of peace, a peace in which all nations have a stake and therefore to which all nations have a commitment. We are seeking a stable world, not as an end in itself but as a bridge to the realisation of man’s noble aspirations of tranquility and community.

If peace, the ideal, is to be our common destiny, then peace, the experience, must be our common practice. For this to be so, the leaders of all nations must remember that their political decisions of war or peace are realised in the human suffering or well-being of their people.

As Alfred Nobel recognised, peace cannot be achieved by one man or one nation. It results from the efforts of men of broad vision and goodwill throughout the world. The accomplishments of individuals need not be remembered, for if lasting peace is to come it will be the accomplishment of all mankind.

With these thoughts, I extend to you my most sincere appreciation for this award.

*This message from Henry A. Kissinger to the Norwegian Nobel Committee was read by Thomas R. Byrne, Ambassador of the United States to Norway, who represented him at the award ceremonies.

1. William Faulkner was awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature.

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1971-1980, Editor-in-Charge Tore Frängsmyr, Editor Irwin Abrams, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1997

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1973

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