Henry Kissinger

The secretary of state from 1973 to 1977 and one of the most controversial political figures in recent history, Kissinger is now a high-priced consultant and public speaker.

German born Kissinger spent his formative years in Washington Heights and attended the City College of New York before being drafted in the army. When he returned combat, he transferred to Harvard, where he eventually became a faculty member in their Department of Government and at the Center for International Affairs. Eager to make a difference in US foreign policy beyond academia, Kissinger became an advisor to Nelson Rockefeller during his bids for the Republican Presidential nomination. But after Richard Nixon became President in 1968, Kissinger became his National Security Advisor and Secretary of State (a role he maintained for Nixon's successor, Gerald Ford). A firm supporter of the détente policy, Kissinger encouraged tensions to relax between the United States and the Soviet Union and orchestrated the opening of relations with the People's Republic of China. In 1973 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the ceasefire within the Paris Peace Accord, which in essence ended American involvement in the Vietnam War. Some critics felt the award the Nobel Peace Prize lost all meaning after he won, not just because peace was not restored to South Vietnam, but Kissinger continued to make controversial decisions, particularly the military coup as a result of Salvador Allende's election in Chile in 1970, a secret bombing campaign in Cambodia, and alleged involvement with Operation Condor in South America. Kissinger left office after Jimmy Carter was elected President but is still active in foreign policy circles, serving as a consultant. He even gave George W. Bush and Dick Cheney advice about the war in Iraq: "Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy." [Image via Getty]