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When Fareed Zakaria announced he would return his ADL-awarded Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize and the $10,000 honorarium it came with, he was taking a stand against what he saw as an unconscionable conflict. How could he keep an award celebrating "first amendment freedoms" if it came from a group that was impeding religious freedom. It was bold move, but Zakaria is not the first person to turn down a highly coveted honor. This is a look at six people who have received high-profile awards, from Nobel Prizes to Oscars, and said, "No, thanks."
In 1970, George C. Scott refused to accept the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in Patton, an iconic film treatment of World War II General George S. Patton. He had refused nominations in the past because he despised the competitive process that pitted actors against one another, and called the ceremony a "meat market."
Photo (cc) via Flickr user cliff1066
Seeing as his then most recent work, Les Mots (The Words), could be read as a farewell to (if not a renunciation of) literature, it is rather unsurprising that Jean-Paul Sartre rejected the Nobel Prize in 1964. He expressed that he was fearful of being "institutionalised" and that he always refused "official distinctions." True to form, he had declined other literary honors over the years, and he remains the only Nobel Laureate to decline the literature award.
Photo via Wikipedia Commons
William Saroyan, an Armenian-American playwright, rejected a Pulitzer Award in 1939 for his play The Time of Your Life, a drama set in a San Francisco dive bar. Like George C. Scott, he stood in opposition to the idea of artistic competition, and believed that commercial institutions should not judge the arts.
Photo via Wikipedia Commons
Grigori Perelman refused to accept the Fields Medal and Science's Breakthrough of the Year award in 2006, as well as a $1,000,000 Millennium Prize Problem award (in 2010) for solving the Poincare conjecture. Perelman believed his contribution to proving the conjecture failed to add upon American mathematician Richard Hamilton's earlier attempt at a solution.
Marlon Brando refused the Oscar for best performance in The Godfather in 1973. He had Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather represent him at the ceremony. She declined the award for him, citing poor treatment of Native Americans across the film industry. This happened in the wake of the conflict at Wounded Knee, where members of the American Indian Movement occupied the town and faced off against U.S. military and FBI officers.
See a video of Littlefeather rejecting the award here.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
The Vietnamese revolutionary and diplomat Le Duc Tho was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 alongside Henry Kissinger for their roles in ending the Vietnam war; the duo held a series of secret talks from 1970 to 1973 that led to cease-fire agreements at the Paris Peace Accords. Tho declined, as he felt no real peace had been achieved in his homeland. Kissinger, on the other hand, accepted.
Photo via Hon Viet