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 501 - 525 of 755
Date of Apology Title Summary Source
29 July 2008 U.S. House for Slavery

The U.S. House of Representatives passes H. Res. 194 to apologize for slavery and the racial segregation of African Americans per Jim Crow laws.

“Congress Apologizes for Slavery, Jim Crow.” NPR. July 30, 2008.
3 August 2008 Canada- 1914 Komagata Maru incident

In British Columbia, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologizes for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which several hundred South Asian immigrants were turned away from Vancouver.  Members of the local Sikh community complained that the apology should have been offered on the floor of the House of Commons.

“Harper apologizes in B.C. for 1914 Komagata Maru incident.” www.cbc.ca. August 3, 2008.
30 August 2008 Italy apologizes to Libya for damages during the colonial era

 In Benghazi, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi apologizes to Libya for damages during the colonial era and provides $5 billion in investment as a form of compensation.

Lamloum, Imed. “Italy apologizes to Libya for colonial past.” Montreal Gazette. August 31, 2008.
17 September 2008 Church of England apologizes to Charles Darwin /theory of natural selection.

On the 200th anniversary of his birth, the Church of England apologizes to Charles Darwin for having criticized his theory of natural selection.

Waters, David. “Sorry, Charlie.” Washington Post. September 17, 2008.
18 September 2008 USA civilian deaths in Afghanistan

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates expresses “sincere condolences” for civilian deaths in Afghanistan.

Shanker, Thom. “Gates Tries to Ease Tension in Afghan Civilian Deaths.” New York Times. September 17, 2008.
1 October 2008 Russia- rehabilitating the country’s czarist past,

 Russia’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of politically rehabilitating the country’s czarist past, officially recognizing the Romanovs as victims of “unfounded repression” 90 years after they were executed.

“Court puts Czar back in good books.” Montreal Gazette. pA14.
24 November 2008 Vatican John Lennon for boast in 1966 popular than Jesus

The official Vatican newspaper forgives John Lennon for boasting in 1966 that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.

“Church Forgives John Lennon ‘Boast.’” New York Times. November 24, 2008.
10 December 2008 Neatherlands Indonesia - 1947 massacre of 431 villagers in Rawagede by Dutch soldiers

The Dutch Ambassador to Indonesia expresses regret for the 1947 massacre of 431 villagers in Rawagede by Dutch soldiers

“Netherlands regret Rawagede tragedy.” Jakarta Post. December 10, 2008.
18 December 2008 Turkey apology for the Armenian genocide.

 Turkish intellectuals write a public letter apologizing for the Armenian genocide.  

January 2009 Far right of the Catholic Church-Vatican excommunication of four schismatic bishops

 In an effort to reconcile with the far right of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI revokes the excommunication of four schismatic bishops who had rejected the liberalization of the Second Vatican Council.

Donadio, Rachel. “Pope Reinstates Four Excommunicated Bishops.” New York Times. January 24, 2009; Donadio, Rachel. “Vatican Says Bishop’s Holocaust Apology Fell Short.” New York Times. February 28, 2009.
27 February 2009 Bishop Richard Williamson- Catholic church -The Holocaust

 The Vatican says deems insufficient the apology of Bishop Richard Williamson, who (shortly after the Pope had revoked his excommunication) denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust.

Donadio, Rachel. “Vatican Says Bishop’s Holocaust Apology Fell Short.” New York Times. February 28, 2009.
1 April 2009 Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav (aka Dutch) apologizes

At trial, former Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav (aka Dutch) apologizes for the atrocities he committed in the 1970s.

Mydans, Seth. “Apology Offered at Khmer Rouge Trial.” New York Times. April 1, 2009.
26 April 2009 Catholic Church suffering of thousands of aboriginal Canadians

Pope Benedict expresses sorrow for the suffering of thousands of aboriginal Canadians in residential schools operated by the Roman Catholic Church.

O’Neil, Peter. “Pope offers sympathy for residential school victims.” Montreal Gazette. April 29, 2009.
14 June 2009 Members of the Hatfield and McCoy families sign a truce

Members of the Hatfield and McCoy families sign a truce to officially end the deadly feud that dated to the 19th century.  (The feud essentially ended in 1891, and the families shook hands in 1976.)

“Official End Of Legendary Feud.” CBC News. February 11, 2009.
18 June 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.
July 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.
7 July 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.
August 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 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 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 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 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 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.
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.
11 December 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.