Jefferson Awards For Public Service 40th Anniversary Celebration
The greatness of American does not lie merely in its beauty, relative youth, or economic or natural resources. American is not the greatest nation on earth because of politicians – though our flawed system of government is better than any other and we have been blessed with some wonderful public servants over the years. With our national debt of more than a staggering $15 trillion, America will not be able to tax and spend its way to solutions for the challenges confronting our country. But we are Americans and we will meet the challenges that confront us. We will draw upon our most powerful assets – the spirit, generosity, talent, commitment, and engagement of the American people.
There is one organization that, perhaps more than any other, recognizes greatness in American and engages citizens in the great American tradition of service and giving back. The organization is called the Jefferson Awards for Public Service.
The Jefferson Awards celebrated its 40th anniversary this week. It commemorated its anniversary with galas in Washington, DC featuring superstars of service from all walks of life. Other stories focus on highlighting some of the winners. We will highlight the 2012 Jefferson Award winners later, but first we will provide some insight into the magic of the Jefferson Awards.
The Jefferson Awards is the “good news” network, telling the uplifting stories that Americans long for (but rarely see) when they turn on their televisions. The Jefferson Awards tells the great American story – the story of people helping people and making their communities a better place in whatever area of service their talents and passions lie. The Jefferson Awards is a reality show premised on the theme that one person can make a positive difference. The Jefferson Awards stars household names and unsung heroes alike and is a place where dreamers and doers often meet inside the same body.
We look forward to the Jefferson Awards national ceremonies each June. One cannot help but be touched, humbled, inspired, and re-energized by meeting and learning the stories of national and local heroes from across the country.
The story of the Jefferson Awards – named after Thomas Jefferson – in many respects is the story of America. The Jefferson Awards was founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Senator Robert Taft Jr., and Sam Beard to create a “Nobel Prize” for public and community service. It is Sam Beard’s vision and passion that created the Jefferson Awards and keeps its mission moving forward. Sam is about to celebrate his 73rd birthday, but he has the energy and curiosity of a ten-year old. Sam has dedicated his life to public service. His resume includes working with Robert Kennedy to revitalize Bedford-Stuyvesant, founding the National Development Council (he still serves as its chairman), and being instrumental in creating well over a million jobs and a hundred billion dollars in revitalization financing along the way. Sam has created and chaired programs for seven United States Presidents – Presidents Nixon, Carter, Ford, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush.
Sam describes the birth of the Jefferson Awards:
"Because I worked with Bobby Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy Onassis was kind to me. I would see her once or twice a year. At a cocktail party Jackie made a mistake. She told me, ‘Sam, you’re energetic and filled with good ideas. What are you thinking about?’ I told her that I thought there should be a Nobel Prize for public service in America. She enthusiastically talked about how President Kennedy and she tried to get the best people into their administration. They knew the spirit of America was carried out by volunteers in neighborhoods. I called her the next morning, and she agreed to be the founding co-chair. Senator Robert Taft, Jr.'s brother Lloyd was working with me at NDC. Senator Taft became our co-chair, and we formed the Jefferson Awards. . . . We started small. In 1975, an early national ceremony was held in the original Supreme Court under the dome in the U.S. Capitol building, with 60 people attending."
Other award systems have sprung up over the years, but none can match the prestige and history of the Jefferson Awards. More important, none has come close to matching the impact of the Jefferson Awards. The point of the Jefferson Awards is not simply to recognize people for service – although this in itself serves a laudable function. The mission is to encourage, activate, and multiply volunteering and service across the nation.
National Jefferson Award recipients represent a “Who’s Who” of outstanding Americans.
Since 1977, the Jefferson Awards also has been recognizing unsung community heroes – ordinary people doing extraordinary things without the expectation of recognition. The Jefferson Awards media partners (newspapers, journals, radio stations, and television stations) select local winners and send out calls for action to activate volunteering, reaching over 100 million
American in more than 60 communities. The Jefferson Awards Champions program recognizes and encourages outstanding employee volunteering.
The Jefferson Awards Students In Action program trains high school students in leadership and passes the tradition of volunteering on to the next generation. It not only trains our nation’s future leaders, it transforms them into leaders of today through a program that involves classroom leadership training and learning by doing. In 2011-2012, students in more than 350 participating high schools in 13 communities were responsible for 1.5 million volunteer hours (federally rated at over $32 million).
The Jefferson Awards also recognizes professional athletes. The Jefferson Awards Youth Service Challenge engages students from elementary school through college in student-led service projects. In its first year, 750,000 students in more than 40 cities participated in over 4,700 projects. Its newest program, Global Changers, identifies and trains high school and college students to be national and global leaders. Among Sam’s sage advice to young leaders “think big” and “get started” and among the tools he created is the “Project Rocket” – a simple and effective “business model” for public and community service projects.
The Jefferson Awards also reports annually to the White House and United States Senate on the state of volunteering in America.
Chicago figures prominently in the Jefferson Awards. Past National winners from Chicago include Mayor Daley, Oprah Winfrey, and last year Jerry Reinsdorf was recognized with a Jefferson Award at the 39th Annual National Ceremonies for the efforts of CharitaBulls and White Sox Charities.
Adlai E. Stevenson High School of Lincolnshire, Ill. won the 2011 Jefferson Award for Outstanding Service by a High School. Stevenson competed with over 350 schools across the country as part of the Jefferson Awards high school leadership and philanthropy program. Stevenson students raised over $250,000 for charity and logged over 55,000 hours of service.
The Jefferson Awards 40th Anniversary Celebration kicked off with a welcome dinner where approximately 50 “grass roots” heroes from across the country told their compelling stories and were recognized along with more than 20 workplace champions.
National recipients of 2012 Jefferson Awards accepted their honors Tuesday during a luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Hotel emceed by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and at an evening celebration at Constitution Hall emceed by Leslie Stahl of CBS news and 60 Minutes. This year’s class of winners was extraordinary as always.
Headlining the sports stars receiving Jefferson Awards for outstanding service by a professional athlete was Hall of Fame Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, who with his wife, Jill, created a foundation in honor of his son Hunter. Hunter was diagnosed with Krabbe disease, a rare genetic disorder that affects the central nervous system, and died in 2005 at age 8. Today, with early detection screening, children born with the disease have a chance to defeat it. Hall of Fame hockey player Pat LaFontaine, who created a group that pays for game rooms for kids in hospitals around the country and race car driver Charlie Kimball, a diabetic who has become a spokesman for the issue also received awards.
Army general-turned-CIA director David Petraeus, who led U.S.. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and became head of the CIA in 2011, received the award for greatest public service by an elected or appointed official.
Jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis and singer-actor Harry Connick Jr. received the award for greatest public service by a private citizen for their efforts to rebuild New Orleans following 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. The New Orleans natives worked with Habitat for Humanity to build 72 homes for the city’s displaced musicians and 10 duplexes for seniors. They also established a music center.
Richard Proudfit, founder of Kids against Hunger, received the award for greatest public service benefiting the disadvantaged. Amber Lynn Coffman, founder of Happy Helpers for the Homeless, received the award for greatest public service by an individual 35 or under.
Student leaders at Benedictine Academy High School in New Jersey were awarded the Jefferson Gold Medal for the Greatest Public Service by a High School. Once again a Chicago area school distinguished itself – as Thornton Township School District 205 in South Holland finished second among 350 school nationwide to score the Silver medal.
Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis delighted the audience by performing a song. Jason Graae, Tony Award Winning Faith Prince, and the Alexandria Harmonizers provided entertainment in a show produced by Rupert Hitzig.
The celebration of service concluded with all of the 2012 National Jefferson Award Winners and members of the Jefferson Awards Board of Selectors in attendance taking the stage, holding hands, and singing “God Bless American.”
National Board of Directors and National JA Winners On Stage Singing "God Bless America"
Singer-Actor Harry Connick, Jr.
Jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis
General & CIA Director David Petraeus
Mistress of Ceremonies Leslie Stahl of CBS News & 60 Minutes
Tony Award Winning Faith Prince
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
Buffalo Bills Hall of Famer Quarterback Jim Kelly
Champion Award Winner
NHL Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine
Producer Rubert Hitzig
Sam Beard, Mary King, and Peter Bourne
Elizabeth, Nancy Leonard, Faith Prince, Jason Graae, and Amanda
Congratulation to the Student Leaders At Dist. 205 in South Holland
JA Winner Sasha Edwards From Charleston, IL
Presenting Report to Senator Durbin
Dist. 205 Student Leaders
C&S committed to helping cure cancer & promoting community service.....
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