The following is a growing list of Princeton alumni who have made contributions in the area of government and public affairs.
Please note: As is traditional when referring to Princeton alumni, each name is followed by the individual's graduation year. Those with undergraduate degrees are preceded with an apostrophe (e.g., Wendy Kopp '89), and those with graduate degrees are preceded with an asterisk (e.g., William Crowe Jr. *65). All alumni who graduated prior to 1930 will have their class year spelled out — including undergraduate alumni (e.g., Woodrow Wilson, Class of 1879) and graduate alumni (e.g., Allen Dulles, GS 1916).
R.W. "Johnny" Apple '57 – Famed New York Times correspondent. He led the Times' coverage of the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and the Iranian revolution.
Samuel Alito '72 – Supreme Court justice; his appointment in 2006 changed the balance of the court and has led to 5-4 decisions on key issues such as school desegregation and abortion.
Norman Armour, Class of 1909, GS 1915 – U.S. diplomat, served in France, revolutionary Russia (1916–19), fascist Spain (1924), post-revolutionary Chile (1938) and elsewhere. The New York Times called him the "ideal" diplomat.
Hamilton F. Armstrong, Class of 1916 – Founding editor of Foreign Affairs, an important American journal on international relations.
N. Lloyd Axworthy *72 – Former Canadian foreign minister, he campaigned against the use of child soldiers and the international trade of light weapons. He also brokered the Ottawa Treaty that banned anti-personnel land mines, for which he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
James Baker '52 – Former secretary of state, treasury secretary and White House chief of staff, and chairman of the Iraq Study Group.
Peter Bell *64 – Former President and CEO of CARE, the international antipoverty organization.
Moe Berg, Class of 1923 – Professional baseball player who later served as a spy for the Office of Strategic Services during World War II; his intelligence work led to the bombing of an atomic research facility and to the capture of several German atomic scientists who also were wanted by the Russians.
Frances Preston Blair, Class of 1841 – Politician who opposed the extension of slavery (despite the fact that he was a slave owner) and secession, Blair was active in the Missouri Free-Soil Party; he helped ensure that Missouri did not join the Confederacy. He campaigned for Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 Presidential election, served as a general during the Civil War, and was nominated as the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1868.
William Bradford, Class of 1772 – Friend of James Madison, Class of 1771, and Aaron Burr Jr., Class of 1772, Bradford was a colonel in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. He served as U.S. attorney general from 1774 until his death in 1795.
Bill Bradley '65 – Hall of Fame basketball player, Rhodes Scholar, former U.S. senator from New Jersey and presidential candidate who challenged Vice President Al Gore for the Democratic Party's nomination in the 2000 election.
Aaron Burr Jr., Class of 1772 – Served as vice president of the United States before he mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton in a duel.
Frank Carlucci '52 – Secretary of defense for 14 months under President Reagan after holding positions in the state department, Office of Economic Opportunity (director), Office of Management and Budget (deputy director), Health, Education and Welfare (undersecretary) and the CIA (deputy director).
W. Hodding Carter III '57 – Journalist and civil rights activist. Helped run the Delta-Democrat Times, a Mississippi newspaper owned by his family that was known for its support of racial tolerance. Helped organize a biracial delegation to the 1968 Democratic National Convention to unseat the segregationist Mississippi delegation. Served as assistant secretary of state for public affairs during the Iran hostage crisis.
William Colby '40 – CIA director from 1973 to 1976, after spending years in the field in Sweden, Italy and Vietnam. In Vietnam he headed the U.S./South Vietnamese rural pacification effort, an attempt to quell the Communist insurgency in the South. This initiative included the controversial Phoenix Program, designed to identify and attack Viet Cong infrastructure.
Julius Coles *66 – President of Africare, a nonprofit organization that provides humanitarian aid in Africa. Spent 28 years as senior official with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
William Crowe Jr. *65 – During his 47-year career in the Navy, Crowe served as a commander in several regions and, from 1985 to 1989, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. From 1993 to 1994 he chaired the President's Foreign Intelligence Board.
George Mifflin Dallas, Class of 1810 – U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and the 11th vice president of the U.S. In gratitude for his support for the annexation of Texas, the city of Dallas was named for him in 1846. Ambassador to Great Britain from 1856 to 1860.
John Danforth '58 – U.S. senator from Missouri for 18 years, special counsel to investigate the federal raid at Waco, Texas, and representative to the U.N.; was appointed special envoy to Sudan in 2001 for peace talks there.
Price Day, Class of 1929 – A writer for the Baltimore Sun, Day won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for his coverage of India's first year of independence. He also covered the Potsdam conference and the Nuremberg trials. He later became editor of the Sun, and is credited with the paper's strong stance in support of civil rights and against corruption.
William L. Dayton, Class of 1825 – U.S. senator from New Jersey; minister to France during most of the Civil War; convinced the government of Napoleon III not to recognize the independence of the Confederacy or allow it the use of French ports.
John Doar '44 – Assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice from 1960 to 1967, the critical years of the civil rights movement. Successfully prosecuted several civil rights violations and race-motivated murders, and helped draft the Civil Rights Act of 1965. Also served as special counsel to the House of Representatives for President Nixon's impeachment proceedings.
Allen Dulles, GS 1916 – Director of the CIA from 1953 to 1961. During this period, the CIA overthrew the governments of governments in Iran and Guatemala, and was embarrassed by the downing of a U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union. Dulles was implicated in the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961, and he resigned that autumn.
John Foster Dulles, Class of 1908 – Secretary of state under President Eisenhower and architect of several critical foreign policies during the Cold War period. Helped to prepare the United Nations charter, and played crucial roles in the development of the SEATO and CENTO. Strongly advocated the principle of nuclear deterrence.
Oliver Ellsworth, Class of 1766 – Third chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Member of the Continental Congress and a delegate to the federal Constitutional Convention, where he brokered the Connecticut Compromise that broke the deadlock between the large states (represented by Princetonian James Madison) and the small states (represented by Princetonian William Paterson). As a U.S. senator, drafted the Judiciary Act of 1789, which established the court system that continues to exist today.
James Forrestal, Class of 1915 – Served as secretary of the Navy and, after the National Security Act of 1947 was passed, as the first secretary of defense. As Navy secretary, he directed a naval expansion and procurement program during WWII. As defense secretary, he initiated a reorganization of the U.S. armed services.
William Frist '74 – Physician and former U.S. senator from Tennessee, served as Senate majority leader from 2003 to 2007.
Barton Gellman '82 – Washington Post reporter who shared the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in national reporting for coverage of the war on terrorism. Contributed an important piece about failed efforts to catch Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks, and subsequently broke stories about the intelligence reports that led up to the war in Iraq.
Andrew Goodpaster *50 – NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, commander-in-chief of the United States European Command, and the 51st superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Lisa Halaby '73 – Queen Noor of Jordan. Involved in numerous humanitarian efforts, including United World Colleges, the United Nations University International Leadership Academy, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the World Wildlife Fund International, Refugees International and the International Commission on Missing Persons.
Keith Hansen *87 – Responsible for overseeing the World Bank's AIDS initiatives in Africa.
Richard Holbrooke *70 – Assistant secretary of state; brokered a peace agreement among the warring factions in Bosnia that led to the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995.
William Johnson Jr., Class of 1790 – Associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1804 until his death in 1834. Known as the "first dissenter"; in many cases, he was the only one on the Marshall court. He wrote 34 minority opinions, far more than his contemporaries.
Elena Kagan '81 – Associate justice of the U. S. Supreme Court; first female dean of Harvard Law School; former associate counsel to President Bill Clinton; deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy; deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council.
Nicholas Katzenbach '43 – Attorney general in the Johnson administration. Key staffer behind the Warren Commission, which investigated President Kennedy's assassination. He was active in several Justice Department civil rights initiatives, including the desegregation of the University of Mississippi in 1962, the desegregation of the University of Alabama in 1963 and the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Thomas Kean '57 – New Jersey governor and co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, which ultimately concluded that the September 11, 2001, terror attacks were preventable.
George Kennan, Class of 1925 – U.S. diplomat during the Cold War. Responsible for articulating the containment strategy, helped draft the Marshall Plan to rebuild post-War Europe.
Wendy Kopp '89 – Founder of Teach for America, one of the most popular and influential public-service programs today; author of a book on the state of education.
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski *61 – President of Peru, elected in 2016; had held previous positions in Peru's government and also is an economist.
Henry Labouisse, Class of 1926 – President of UNICEF from 1965 to 1979. During his leadership, the organization was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts in community-based health, nutrition, education, water and sanitation issues.
W. Anthony K. Lake *74 – National security adviser under President Clinton, helped to formulate U.S. policy toward Bosnia, North Korea, Haiti, Iraq, Somalia and China. During the Nixon administration he accompanied Henry Kissinger, then the national security adviser, for the first secret meeting with North Vietnamese negotiators in Paris.
James M. Landis, Class of 1921 – New Deal lawyer who served as adviser to three U.S. presidents and as dean of the Harvard law school. Called the "dean of the regulators" by a biographer.
Edward Livingston, Class of 1781 – Prominent American jurist and statesman, influential in the drafting of the Louisiana Civil Code of 1825. Represented both New York and Louisiana in Congress, served as secretary of state from 1831 to 1833.
H. Brockholst Livingston, Class of 1774 – Jurist on New York and then U.S. Supreme Court. Notable anti-Federalist, helped carry New York for Jefferson. On the New York court, his decisions supported emerging capitalism. On the U.S. Supreme Court, Livingston reverted to Federalism and fell under the sway of Chief Justice John Marshall; his death in 1823 marked the beginning of the breakup of Marshall's influence over the court.
James Madison, Class of 1771 – Called the "Father of the Constitution" for his involvement in drafting the document, Madison later served as secretary of state, and fourth president of the United States.
Harold Medina, Class of 1909 – Federal district court judge in New York, Medina oversaw a 1949 case in which 11 leaders of the U.S. Communist Party were convicted of plotting to overthrow the government.
Judith Miller *71 – Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times, wrote article on weapons of mass destructions in Iraq that was used by administration officials to justify the invasion. Spent time in jail for contempt of court for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame CIA leak.
Ralph Nader '55 – Consumer advocate and three-time presidential candidate (1996, 2000, 2004).
Joseph Nye '58 – Former dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs and as chairman of the National Intelligence Council. With Robert Keohane, developed the influential “neoliberal model” of international relations.
John Oakes '34 – Editor of The New York Times editorial page from 1961 to 1976. Credited with creating the modern op-ed page and inspiring the Times' strong voice. Helped to make environmental issues a prominent topic both on the page and in national debates.
Michelle Obama '85 – Lawyer, writer and advocate for poverty awareness and nutrition; wife of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, and the first African American First Lady of the United States.
Don Oberdorfer '52 – A journalist for 38 years, 25 of which were spent at The Washington Post covering the Nixon White House, northeast Asia and U.S. diplomacy. Author of five books, including an award-winning book about the Tet offensive and Princeton’s official 250th Anniversary book, "Princeton University: The First 250 Years."
Maurice Pate, Class of 1915 – Founded UNICEF in 1947.
William Paterson, Class of 1763 – Signer of the Constitution, best known for helping to shape the legislative branch at the Constitutional Convention. Later, as associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, participated in the landmark Marbury V. Madison case, which established the court's power to declare laws unconstitutional.
Claiborne Pell '40 – U.S. senator from Rhode Island from 1961 to 1997, responsible for the creation of Pell Grants, which provide financial aid to low-income U.S. college students, and the congressional bill that created the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
David Petraeus *85 *87 – General in the United States Army; commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan; director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Mahlon Pitney, Class of 1879 – U.S. congressman from New Jersey, then associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. With another justice, wrote a potentially important in-chambers decision stemming from a dispute over rebellious presidential electors who wanted to cast their Electoral College votes for Theodore Roosevelt instead of William Howard Taft.
Joseph Reed, Class of 1757 – A delegate to the Continental Congress, a signer of the Articles of Confederation, and a governor of Pennsylvania, Reed was the first to detect the treason of Benedict Arnold. He tried Arnold despite strong opposition from other members of Congress.
Tapping Reeve, Class of 1763 – Founded Litchfield Law School, a leading law school in the 19th century that trained Aaron Burr Jr., Class of 1772, John C. Calhoun, Horace Mann and Noah Webster.
Syngman Rhee, GS 1910 – Controversial first president of South Korea from 1948 to 1960. Led South Korea through the Cold War, earned American support for his strong stance against Communism.
Anthony Romero '87 – First openly homosexual and first Hispanic person to be executive director of the ACLU. Vocal critic of Bush administration policies after 9/11.
Donald Rumsfeld '54 – U.S. congressman and ambassador to NATO before becoming defense secretary for presidents Ford and George W. Bush.
Paul Sarbanes '54 – U.S. senator from Maryland from 1977 to 2007. Co-authored the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, established accounting reforms and investor protections in the wake of corporate scandals at Enron, Tyco, etc.
George Shultz '42 – Secretary of state known for his opposition to the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages deal, and support for a U.S. invasion of Nicaragua. Also served as secretary of the treasury and secretary of labor.
Anne-Marie Slaughter '80 – Former dean of Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School; influential writer on global governance, international criminal law and American foreign policy.
Sonia Sotomayor '76 – Associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; first Hispanic and third female member of the court.
Eliot Spitzer '81 – Governor of New York, resigned in scandal. Won national recognition during his eight years as New York state attorney general for landmark cases protecting investors, consumers, the environment and low-wage workers.
Adlai Stevenson, Class of 1922 – Illinois governor and two-time Democratic presidential nominee, Stevenson is remembered also for his role as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during the Cuban missile crisis, when he famously challenged his Soviet counterpart in the Security Council.
Richard Stockton, Class of 1748 – Lawyer, jurist, legislator and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Norman Thomas, Class of 1905 – Ordained minister and six-time presidential candidate on the Socialist ticket. Opposed entry of the U.S. into World War I, was associate editor of The Nation, founded the precursor of the ACLU and pioneered on behalf of minorities, such as interned Japanese-Americans and Jews fleeing Europe during World War II.
Smith Thompson, Class of 1788 – Secretary of the Navy in 1818 and a U.S. Supreme Court associate justice, one of the first to suggest and work for a Naval Academy. Major role on the Court was interpreting the commerce clause; he believed that states could regulate commerce unless such acts directly conflicted with congressional laws. He dissented in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831), writing what some called his finest opinion. The dissent set forth the concept that Indian tribes are separate sovereigns despite their conquered position.
Abel Upshur, Class of 1807 – U.S. Secretary of the navy and state. Probably the most notable of those expelled from Princeton following the Riot of 1807. (Ironically, he died aboard the USS Princeton when one of its guns accidentally exploded during its inaugural cruise.)
Katrina vanden Heuvel '81 – Editor and publisher of The Nation, an influential voice on the left of the political spectrum. Edited several books, guest commentator in national print and television media outlets.
Paul Volcker '49 – Chairman of Federal Reserve Board from 1979 to 1987; ended the stagflation crisis of the 1970s by focusing on tightening the growth of the money supply rather than targeting interest rates. Later, Volcker investigated corruption in the Iraqi Oil for Food Program at the request of the U.N.
James M. Wayne, Class of 1808 – Associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1835 to 1867. He concurred in the court's Dred Scott decision, supporting slavery. At the same time, he was committed to the preservation of the Union and remained on the bench through the Civil War, which earned him the contempt of his fellow Georgians.
Murray Weidenbaum *54 *58 – President Reagan's first chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in 1981-2, helping to formulate supply-side "Reaganomics."
George F. Will *68 – Syndicated columnist, contributing columnist for Newsweek and The Washington Post, commentator/analyst for ABC. Won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1977, writing about politics, law and social character. Former Washington editor of The National Review.
Woodrow Wilson, Class of 1879 – President of Princeton University, governor of New Jersey, and 28th president of the U.S. during World War I. Proposed the League of Nations and the Fourteen Points.
John G. Winant, Class of 1913 – First head of the Social Security board, head of the International Labor Office in Geneva, U.S. ambassador to Great Britain from 1941 to 1946. Advocate of progressive reforms, especially for women and children, including a minimum wage. As ambassador to Britain, became an important adviser to President Roosevelt during World War II.