The U.S. Institute of Peace is proud to sponsor a Special Prize at the national level as part of National History Day (NHD)

The Global Peace Prize is awarded annually to the top middle and high school entries that demonstrate America’s commitment to peace, including the role that individuals, organizations and/or the U.S. government have played in advancing the cause of global peace. Students can present their research in many different ways – through essays, exhibits, documentaries, performances, and websites. 

NHD participants visit the U.S. Institute of Peace during award week in June, 2016.
NHD participants visit the U.S. Institute of Peace during award week in June, 2016.

USIP sponsors the prize to encourage students to think about the connections between today’s violent conflicts and historical events and forces, as well as to encourage research into peacebuilders and peace movements of the past that are often less prominent in history books. 

Get more information on past Global Peace Prize winners here


2018 Theme: Conflict & Compromise in History

When you hear the word “conflict,” what immediately comes to mind?

This is how USIP’s public education team began their article, Rethinking Conflict, in the 2018 National History theme book. The USIP article asks students and teachers to rethink how they study historical examples of conflict. It challenges them to selects examples of movements and people throughout history who have embrace nonviolent, positive conflict to effect change in their communities and around the world.

Check out the 2018 NHD Theme Book and don't forget to explore USIP's article. 

2017 Theme: Taking a Stand in History

For 2017, the National History Day contest is centered on the theme “Taking a Stand in History”: The past is full of examples of people who were recognized as great leaders for what they did to defend their beliefs, inspire others, and ultimately change history. This theme asks students to dig deeper and to examine what motivated these figures, and what were the related challenges and complexities.

The NHD theme book has many great sample topics that highlight the fact that taking a stand can involve a range of methods and issues—from the activities of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, to the establishment of international war crimes tribunals, to initiatives promoting women’s employment in Afghanistan. USIP encourages students to add a peacebuilding lens to their projects by focusing on individuals or organizations who asserted or defended their beliefs through nonviolent action.

Consider Spark Matsunaga: While many Americans may be remembered and honored for their valor in combat, fewer are remembered for what they have done for peace, and Spark M. Matsunaga (1916–90) is actually remembered for both. A decorated combat veteran of the U.S. Army's all-Nisei 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II, Matsunaga was a lifelong peacemaker as well as a soldier. Matsunaga served the people of Hawaii as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1963 to 1977 and as a U.S. senator from 1977 until his death in 1990. Believing from his youth that peacemaking is as much an art as making war, and that it can be learned, he introduced legislation calling for the establishment of a "national academy of peace." In 1979, Matsunaga was named chair of the Commission on Proposals for the National Academy of Peace and Conflict Resolution. The U.S. Institute Peace Act of 1984 was based upon the commission's findings and recommendations.

Consider Jeannette Rankin: Best known for being the first woman elected to Congress, Jeannette Rankin was involved in teaching and social work before becoming active in the women's suffrage movement. In 1916, she was elected to the House of Representatives from Montana and thus became the first woman in Congress--four years before the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution extended voting rights to all women. A lifelong pacifist, Rankin joined fifty-five other members of the House in voting against the declaration of war in 1917, saying, "I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war." As a member of Congress, Rankin worked for social, labor, and public health reform and supported women's rights. She continued to support those issues during the interwar period and also was active in anti-war organizations, including the Women's Peace Union and the National Council for the Prevention of War. True to her pacifist beliefs, she was the only member of Congress to vote against the declaration of war against Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, later writing that when she cast the vote, she was fulfilling "the pledges I had made to the mothers and fathers of Montana" during her 1940 re-election campaign. She did not run again for re-election.
Find other examples through research on the USIP website and other sources!

2016 Theme: Exploration, Encounter, Exchange

USIP awarded the inaugural Global Peace Prizes in June 2016 at the National History Day final competition in College Park. MD. In the senior division, the prize was won by students from Virginia for a group theatrical performance on Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The junior division winner was a student from Hawaii who created a documentary on the space race. Read more about USIP’s involvement throughout the entire National History Day awards week in 2016.