Mikheil Saakashvili was born in Tbilisi, Georgia on December 21, 1967, the eldest of three brothers. After graduating with honors from the prestigious Kiev University Institute of International Relations, he moved to the U.S. to attend Columbia University in New York City as an Edmund S. Muskie Fellow. He received a Master's degree in law in 1995. From 1995 to 1996 he studied law at the doctoral level at The George Washington University National Center of Law in Washington, D.C.
In 1995 he was admitted to the New York Bar and practiced commercial law for nearly a year at Patterson, Belknap, Webb and Tyler in NYC. In 1995 he became the first former Soviet citizen to obtain a prestigious diploma in Comparative Law of Human Rights from Strasbourg Human Rights International Institute.
As a member of the Human Rights Committee of Georgia he secured prisoner exchange agreements between Georgians and Abkhazs and also between Armenians and Azeris captured in the fighting for Nagorno-Karabakh. In 1992 at the Norwegian Institute of Human Rights, he organized a conference between Georgians and South Ossetians, which led to the first signed ceasefire agreement.
In 1995 Saakashvili was elected to the Georgia Parliament initiating Georgia's first merit-based selection of judges. He also became the First Minister of Justice to address prison reform. On October 12, 2000 he was appointed Minister of Justice of Georgia where he continued to confront and investigate post-Soviet Georgian corruption of at the highest levels. Despite threats of reprisal and personal danger, he relentlessly exposed the wrongdoing and went public with hard evidence of governmental corruption by senior officials. His drastic judicial reforms improved the country's judicial system so effectively that they were noted with praise by the president of the World Bank.
As a result of falsified 2003 Parliamentary election results, Mikheil Saakashvili and the late Member of Parliament Zurab Zhvania united to reject the election results and called on the public to protest, beginning the Rose Revolution. The revolution culminated in Saakashvili peacefully leading a selected group of courageous visionaries through to the doors of the Parliament. Lifting up his hands to show he was unarmed, Saakashvili held up a single red rose.
On November 23, 2003 Eduard Shevardnadze resigned as President of Georgia. And on January 4, 2004 the people of Georgia elected Mikheil Saakashvili as their President with 96 percent of the votes. At 37-years-old, Mikheil Saakashvili became the youngest national president in Europe.
On January 25, 2005, U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and John McCain (R-AZ) nominated Georgian President Saakashvili for the Nobel Peace Prize praising his "extraordinary commitment peace ... to the universal values of democracy, individual liberty, and civil rights". Saying that, "because of [Saakashvili's] efforts, the people of Georgia are now constructing new societies based on the rule of law [and] ... resolving peacefully the complex ethnic and social issues that have in the past threatened to divide their nations."
"Misha," as he is affectionately known, was elected for his second term on January 5 2008 by 53.4 percent. As the president of Georgia, he has fought against corruption in all forms and manifestations without compromise. After the Rose Revolution, Russia, Georgia's primary economic partner, boycotted all Georgian imports. Where some would have accepted economic defeat, President Mikheil Saakashvili reached out to new global markets. At a time when Georgia's economy should have collapsed, President Saakashvili and his administration expanded the Georgian economy into new innovative and international markets, where it had not previously existed.
The outcome has been a rapidly developing, uncorrupt and modernized Georgia, which has become an inspiration for the entire region. Instead of a post-Soviet nation economically propped up by Russia, Georgia is now its own independent economy as well as its own sovereign democracy. Georgia's capital city, Tbilisi, and the port of city Batumi, serve as testaments to the success of the Saakashvili administration's economic strategy. The challenges are still vast, but this tiny country's progress is evidence that it continues to move in the right direction.
As a leader in the entire Caucuses region, Saakashvili committed nearly 1,000 battle ready Georgian soldiers to fight primarily alongside the U.S. Marines in Helmand Province, and he is currently negotiating a new route to supply NATO military forces. On December 19, 2009, he was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying:
The test of the bonds among nations is not what we do when it is easy, but rather what we do when it is hard. Georgia has been grateful for the extent to which the U.S. and Europe have stood alongside us over recent years. Now we are proud to stand-and fight-alongside you.