Tufts alum receives Nobel Peace Prize

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens as Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos addresses reporters after the two leaders - both in town for an anti-corruption summit hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron - held a bilateral meeting on May 11 at the InterContinental London Park Lane Hotel in London, United Kingdom. (State Department)

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded President of Colombia and Former Fletcher Fulbright Scholar Juan Manuel Santos the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 on Oct. 7. Santos was awarded the prize for his efforts to end the country’s civil war.

“The president himself has made it clear that he will continue to work for peace right up until his very last day in office,” the Nobel Prize press release states. “The Committee hopes that the Peace Prize will give him strength to succeed in this demanding task.”

According to James Stavridis, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the school is pleased to know another one of its alums has received such a prestigious award.

“I was thrilled,” Stavridis said. “First for him, secondly for his nation, Colombia and thirdly for Fletcher because we’re very proud that he’s also … a former Fletcher senior fellow, and spent a year here with us at the Fletcher School.”

Stavridis said he met Santos in 2006 when Stavridis was a four-star admiral and commander of the United States’ southern command, a ranking he held for three years. At the time, Santos was Colombia’s defense minister, he said.

“So we worked together frequently over those three years,” he said. “I was in Colombia roughly monthly. He was always my host. I worked with him on our joint-security concerns between the United States and Colombia. He came often to Miami and visited at my home, spoke at conferences that I hosted. I saw him in Bogota. Our wives were friendly, [and] I consider us friends, and so I have known him for about a decade.”

Since meeting President Santos about a decade ago, Stavridis said he has always thought very highly of him because of both his personal attributes and because of his commitment toward achieving peace in his nation.

“He’s extremely intelligent, very thoughtful, very idealistic,” Stavridis said. “He believes in peace for Colombia, but he’s also very pragmatic and knows how to use all the tools of national power to move his nation forward, and I think he’s been an extraordinarily effective president for Colombia.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee noted similar qualities of the president, adding that the president was able to bring the country a step closer toward peace, even if his efforts have not yet come to fruition.

“President Santos initiated the negotiations that culminated in the peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas, and he has consistently sought to move the peace process forward,” the Nobel Prize press release states. “Well knowing that the accord was controversial, he was instrumental in ensuring that Colombian voters were able to voice their opinion concerning the peace accord in a referendum.”

Stavridis also noted that Santos’ commitment to international citizenship demonstrates the well-roundedness that the Fletcher School tries to instill in its students.

“Well, it is another very distinguished alum that we can point to and help continue to make the case that Fletcher is accomplishing its fundamental mission, which is to educate global leaders and when we have someone of the stature of President Santos, who not only leads an enormous and important country in Latin America, but then wins a Nobel Peace Prize that reflects very well, I think, on the Fletcher School and Tufts University,” Stavridis said.

Stavridis said he hopes that Santos will accept his invitation to visit Tufts and that students can expect to see him on campus soon.

“I invited him and I know he will consider it, and I would guess that over the next year or so, we will have President Santos here, so let’s hope,” Stavridis said. “It would be marvelous to have Tufts students have a chance to meet with him in person. He’s quite inspirational.”