Out of 6,000 submissions, 18 Americans Awarded Civilian Honor
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Obama today awarded Harris Wofford, a champion for national service and volunteerism, the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor.
Established in 1969, the Presidential Citizens Medal honors American citizens for performing exemplary deeds of service. After receiving more than 6,000 submissions nominating outstanding Americans from the public, the President selected 18 recipients, including Wofford.
“In this country, we look out for one another. We get each other's backs, especially in times of hardship or challenge. It's part of the reason why applications to AmeriCorps are at an all-time high. That's why volunteering in America is at the highest level it's been in years. And I know that makes Harris proud to hear,” said President Barack Obama. “Harris Wofford has devoted his entire life to creating opportunities for Americans to serve. And the reason it's such a privilege for me to share the stage with him and all the others who are participating here today, is because you've taken commitment to a whole new level. Every day, you're out there righting wrongs.Healing hurts.Changing lives.”
“No other American has done more to advance the cause of citizen service than Harris Wofford,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). “From launching the Peace Corps to crafting legislation that expands national service opportunities through AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, Harris has inspired countless Americans to pursue their own path public service and make a difference in the lives of others. To this day, he continues to bring energy and passion to the cause of national service, and we and the nation are much better off for it.”
Following the White House event, Wofford was honored at a ceremony at CNCS, the federal agency for volunteering and service which he previously led from 1995 to 2001. Family members and former colleagues paid tribute to his dedication and accomplishments in public service and a video tribute was shown.
Wofford, 86, enlisted in the Army Air Corps in World War II. With degrees from the University of Chicago, Howard University, and Yale Law School, he served as counsel on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and as an early supporter of the Civil Rights movement; he became an advisor and friend of Martin Luther King. He played a critical role in the Kennedy Administration, first as Special Assistant to the President for Civil Rights, and then in working with Sargent Shriver to launch the Peace Corps.
After the Peace Corps, Wofford served as president the State University of New York at Old Westbury and Bryn Mawr College. He later served as U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania from 1991 to 1994. During his time in the Senate, he played a key role in crafting legislation that created CNCS and designated the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday a national day of service.
President Clinton appointed Wofford to serve as CEO of CNCS, a position he held from 1995 to 2001. During his tenure, Wofford provided strong and visionary leadership to expand opportuniteis to serve, build bipartisan support, forge new partnerships with the nonprofit sector, and strengthen the agency's operations.
“At a time of strong demand and growing momentum for service, I am so pleased that Harris is right at our side, helping strengthen service in America,” said Spencer. “Harris and the other Citizens Medal recipients represent America's great tradition of citizen service, which we are proud to carry forward through our daily work. I encourage all Americans to find their own path of service by visiting Serve.gov to find opportunities to match their interests.”