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  • Corrupt Corporate Executive and white collar criminal Andrew Fastow — a key figure of the Enron scandal who orchestrated the financial shenanigans that hid Enron's financial losses from the public and embezzled more than $30 million from the company in the process—effectively codifies the trope. After seeing the economic devastation the collapse of Enron wrought, which included tens of thousands of ordinary workers losing everything and becoming financially ruined as their life savings and retirement were invested in Enron stock, he had a My God, What Have I Done? moment and has been regretful and remorseful for his role in the scandal ever since. Once the authorities began investigating the fraud, Fastow pled guilty in an agreement where he would give up $30 million in assets and testify against his former coworkers. He told the prosecution everything he knew and they acknowledged that his assistance was invaluable in securing convictions against the other Enron executives on trial, particularly disgraced CEO Jeffrey Skilling, who they nailed with a 23-year prison sentence. Upon his release from prison in 2011, Fastow has become a public speaker who tours the country giving speeches on business ethics. Fastow, who gives the speeches without compensation, stated that his actions have motivated him to do everything he can to expose fraud in American business and to prevent the next generation of business leaders from going down the same corrupt path he did, seeing it as the only way he can begin to make up for his role in the Enron fraud. At each appearance, he readily admits to the audience that he is a crook and a fraudster who is guilty of helping to orchestrate one of the largest scams in American history. Fastow said in 2013: "I wake up every morning, and I take out my prison ID card, which I have with me here today. And it makes certain that I remember all the people. I remember that I harmed so many people in what I did. It encourages me to try to do the little things that I can to make amends for what I did. I can’t repay everyone. I can’t give them jobs. I can’t fix it. But I just have to try bit by bit to do that. Being here is hopefully a little contribution to that.”
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  • Alfred Nobel set up the Nobel Peace Prize because he felt guilty about making a fortune selling weapons and inventing dynamite. It's believed that after his death was falsely reported by a newspaper and he read his own obituary, which referred to him as "the merchant of death" (but in French), he decided to leave a better legacy. Nobel had created dynamite to increase safety for mining and construction purposes. Previously the explosive of choice was nitroglycerine, which was dangerously unstable and tended to spontaneously detonate. Mixing it with clay and adding a fuse made it far safer to work with. Poor Nobel had a major case of My God, What Have I Done? when people began using dynamite as a weapon.
  • Many developers of Nuclear Weapons ended up this way, even writing to President Harry Truman to warn him against using the bomb as early as the year of its invention. As the Cold War progressed, more scientists took a stand against nuclear arms. Two prominent examples being:
    • J. Robert Oppenheimer, who had headed up the Manhattan Project during World War II, devoted his energies as chief scientific adviser to the United States Atomic Energy Commission after the war to advocate against nuclear proliferation.
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    • Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet physicist who designed the two-stage thermonuclear hydrogen bomb independently of Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam (the design is known as the Teller-Ulam design in the West and Sakharov's Third Idea in the old Soviet bloc), and was involved in the "Tsar Bomba" project to design the world's biggest nuke (they succeeded, at 50 megatons note ). Sakharov developed a case of conscience, and became a leading opponent of nuclear proliferation, for which he won the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize. He then moved on to more general human-rights campaigning, calling for freedom and real democracy in the Soviet Union; he died in 1989, having just been elected to the first democratic Soviet legislature since the Red October.
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  • Mike Tyson, who's served his time for rape as well as numerous drug charges and biting Evander Holyfield's ear off... has devoted himself wholly to nonviolence and charitable work, going so far as to become vegan.
  • Theo Haser, a former Nazi who converted to Judaism, and has devoted his life to teaching others about the Holocaust.
  • Kurt Gerstein, an SS officer who was responsible for the development of Zyklon B as a method of "pest control." After witnessing the chemical being put to its true, gruesome use in the extermination camps, Gerstein was horrifed, and began desperately attempting to inform the international community of the massacres. He even risked his life by sabotaging shipments of the gas he had helped to produce. After the war he turned himself in to the Allies and compiled the "Gerstein Report", his eyewitness account of the Holocaust which was used as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials, before committing suicide out of guilt.
  • Karl Plagge, a Wehrmacht officer and former member of the Nazi party who became disenchanted with Nazism (he refused to teach Nazi racial theory and was eventually thrown out of the party). During the war, he was assigned to Vilnius, Lithuania where he commanded a unit which repaired damaged military vehicles. Horrified by the murder of Jews he witnessed, he decided to work against Nazism by getting work certificates for the local Jewish population to work for him, providing them with extra rations (which was highly unusual), and allowed the Jews to barter for further supplies with local gentiles and with his men (which was illegal). When it became clear to him that the Vilnius Ghetto was going to be liquidated, he told the Jews to hide, allowing about 250 of the 1250 he had saved to survive. After the war, his actions were reviewed by a de-Nazification tribunal, who ruled him to be exonerated. At his own request, he refused exoneration and was officially classified a "follower." Despite this, he was one of the few Nazi Party members to be designated "Righteous Amongst Nations" by the State of Israel, thanks to his efforts to save Vilnius Jews.
  • Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense to JFK and LBJ, spent much of his later career admitting The Vietnam War was terribly wrong and trying to explain how he and his fellow politicians could have seen otherwise, like in the Oscar-winning documentary The Fog of War. Despite this, and his anti-nuclear weapon and anti-Iraq activism, his obituaries almost uniformly painted him as a warmonger anyway. Overlaps with Modern Major General (the trope)—he wasn't much of a military man at all (he had served in World War II in the Army Air Forces as a junior officer in the Office of Statistical Control—that is, the logistics guys figuring out the most efficient way for Gen. Curtis LeMay's strategic bombers to pummel the crap out of Japan) but an auto-industry executive whose greatest legacy otherwise would have been the Ford Falcon.
  • Frank Abagnale, the con artist whose life was dramatized in Catch Me If You Can, has created a major anti-fraud company. Among the things he did with his money was to pay back all of the companies he defrauded. In addition, he also has worked for free for the FBI as well as other law enforcement and to this day he has never taken a penny from any law enforcement agency as reimbursement for his time as he considers it a public service to make up for what he did.
  • Cyber-example: Kevin Mitnick. He started out as a notorious cyber-criminal; today he is a successful IT security consultant. Ironically, in July 2009, his websites were defaced by a cyber-criminal.
  • Germany's actions after World War II, such as becoming a close ally of Israel and participating in the European Union, are a deliberate attempt at this. Nonetheless, a certain trope is making sure that they Never Live It Down.
  • The United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) is one of the foremost international development agencies and the UK has one of the world's highest aid budgets, as well as being one of the few countries that gives aid gratis (without tying it to aiding British interests). It has been suggested by some that this is due to Britain's colonial legacy.
  • Akira Kurosawa was of Samurai descent and Seven Samurai was in part an apology to the Japanese common people for the oppressions of his ancestors.
  • Former White Supremacists. One of the links even goes as far as having his tattoos painfully removed.
  • Life After Hate is a whole organization of former members of hate groups trying both to combat racism and help other people leaving hate groups.
  • Now-deceased Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia was very stridently anti-integration and was a high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan, but later in his life, after the sudden death of his grandson, realized that such intolerance was wrong, and came to become highly supportive of civil rights, as well as a high-profile supporter of Barack Obama. He would deeply regret his involvement with the KKK and his vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act for the rest of his life. Similarly, Byrd's longtime GOP rival Strom Thurmond had a similar change of heart in the 1970s, being one of the first Congressmen to openly appoint African-Americans to serve as his chief of staff. Unlike Byrd, however, Thurmond was never allowed to live his past down.
  • Masaji Kitano was the second-in-command of the Imperial Japanese Army's Unit 731, which was infamous for completely amoral human experimentation, most famously its human vivisections without anesthesia, pressure chambers, frostbite experimentation and bombing villages with anthrax. Kitano specialized in frostbite experiments, heading a series of experiments where he had prisoner's limbs frozen and broken off. After he received full pardon among the rest of the Unit's core members from Douglas MacArthur in exchange for all their inhumane 'research' and some legitimately useful data gained, Kitano went on with two Unit members to found what today is one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in Japan, the Green Cross corporation. In a Yomiuri Shimbun interview in the 1970s, during his last years, Kitano said he helped create the company specifically because he wanted to atone for the horrific experiments he and his unit had done, and that saving lives was the only thing he believed could equal taking them. Ironically, Kitano's corporation was later hit by a massive scandal in the 1980s involving contaminated artificial blood products.
    • Similarly, Yoshio Shinozuka was an army medic who had been conscripted into the unit at age 16. He assisted the Unit in conducting sadistic and meaningless experiments on prisoners of all ages, such as their infamous vivisection campaign. After the war, he was captured and imprisoned in China until 1965. In 1997, Shinozuka gave testimony on Unit 731's activities on behalf of 180 Chinese, who were suing the Japanese government for their relatives' horrific deaths at the hands of the Unit, with Shinozuka saying that he had done what no human being should ever do. And in 2002, Shinozuka urged the Japanese government to apologize for the Unit's activities. He has even gone on record stating that he openly considers himself a war criminal, and apologized because he believed it was the way that a man should live. Up until his death in 2014, Shinozuka continued campaigning for justice to be delivered to the relatives of those killed by Unit 731, and an official apology from the Japanese government.
  • Ric O'Barry, former trainer for the dolphins on Flipper, decided to become an activist fighting against dolphin captivity after one of the dolphins from the show died in his arms from what he says was a suicide.
  • Peter Benchley, writer of the book Jaws was based on, devoted the rest of his life to Shark preservation to try to reduce the excessive killing of sharks that the film adaptation caused.
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate general and founder of the Ku Klux Klan, came to regret its founding after they grew into a terrorist organization, and spent the last years of his life advocating for civil rights, and offering protection to African Americans from racist white mobs.
  • George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama who declared "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever", recanted his racism, and in his last term as governor, appointed African Americans to his cabinet.
  • Earl Warren regretted his support of the internment of the Japanese during World War II (when he was first Attorney General of California and then Governor), and his efforts to redeem himself created the most activist Supreme Court in American history.
  • Lee Atwater, a ruthless Republican party strategist, came to regret his actions shortly after his diagnosis with cancer. In his last months alive, he embraced Catholicism and wrote apologies to politicians who he attacked, including Michael Dukakis.
  • Fred Phelps, the founder of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, had a change of heart about his religious beliefs near the end of his life, doing what he could to repair the damage he had done. He was excommunicated from his own church and died approximately six months later.
  • Vaso Čubrilović, who was a member of Young Bosnia (the group responsible for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which triggered World War I), distanced himself from the Pan Slav and later nationalist ideologies of his youth and expressed regret over the assassination in his later years. When discussing it, he said: "We destroyed a beautiful world that was lost forever due to the war that followed."
  • Downplayed with depressed/negative people, as they really feel bad for being annoying towards others with their cynical/negative attitude towards life. By getting therapy and reading self-help books/material, they want to make up for their past actions and become more positive.
  • An example that is Older Than Feudalism was Ashoka, emperor of India (died 232 BC). He came to regret waging destructive wars and set up monuments expressing remorse for his actions, becoming a devoted Buddhist.
  • St. Moses the Black, servant to an Egyptian government official who fired him for theft and suspected murder. He became the leader of a bandit gang - until, pursued by the authorities, he sought sanctuary in a monastery. The devotion of the monks and peace of the monastery so impressed him that he became a monk himself. When a different group of bandits attacked the monastery, he beat them up and dragged them before the other monks for judgment - then convinced them to become monks too. He became a respected and wise spiritual leader, and by his seventies he had embraced pacifism and chose to stay behind and encourage the other monks to flee when the monastery was attacked again by yet another group of bandits, stating that death by violence would be appropriate for him: "All who take the sword will perish by the sword."
  • John Lennon, in his youth, was, by his own admission, a violent, abusive asshole, particularly toward his first wife. The reason for his later fixation on peace and love was to make up for his past sins.
  • Similarly, Steven Tyler has become known as one of the nicest, most easy-going guys in rock. If you saw him in the '70s...
  • Liberian military commander General Butt Naked was a brutal war criminal who used Child Soldiers and committed Human Sacrifice. Then in 1996, he converted to Christianity, renounced violence, and became a preacher. Now he dedicates his life to helping the less fortunate.

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