The Gleitsman Foundation, the nonprofit organization that recognizes and encourages social activism, presented its 2006 Citizen Activist Awards this week at a ceremony hosted by David Gergen, public service professor at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) and director of its Center for Public Leadership. The April 3 ceremony was held in the Taubman Building at KSG.
Gergen, who is also editor-at-large for U.S. News & World Report, has served as a White House adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton. The recipients of the 2006 Citizen Activist Awards are Ron Grzywinski and Mary Houghton, co-founders of ShoreBank Corporation of Chicago, and Julie Stewart, founder of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM).
As the first and leading community development and environmental banking corporation in the United States, ShoreBank has been committed to building vibrant communities within the inner city by providing financial services and information to create economic equity and a healthy environment.
FAMM is a national nonprofit organization founded in 1991 to challenge inflexible and excessive penalties required by mandatory sentencing laws. Inspired by her brother, a nonviolent, first-time drug offender who was sentenced to five years in a federal prison for growing marijuana, Stewart rallied for fairer sentencing laws. FAMM has paved the way for legislative sentencing reforms and judicial discretion in federal drug cases for more than 435,000 drug defendants, ensuring that the punishment fits the crime.
Additionally, leading women’s movement activist Gloria Steinem was honored with the Citizen Activist Extraordinaire Award. A founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Women’s Action Alliance, and the Coalition of Labor Union Women, Steinem is the founding editor of Ms. Magazine and is the author of “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions” and “Revolution from Within.” Steinem also serves on the board of judges of the Gleitsman Foundation for the Citizen Activist Award.
The Gleitsman Foundation was established in 1989 by former business executive Alan L. Gleitsman. Its Citizen Activist Award – presented in alternating years with the International Activist Award – is designed to honor those who have challenged social injustice in the United States. Citizen Activist Award honorees share $100,000 and each receives a specially commissioned sculpture designed by Maya Lin, creator of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“This year we have the honor of saluting four activists who have truly made this a better place in which to live,” said Gleitsman. “Ron, Mary, Julie, and Gloria, working in widely divergent fields, are united in their vision of challenging injustice and in their commitment and perseverance in overcoming the obstacles in their path. We salute their achievements in the hope that others will take courage from their success and will be inspired to follow their path.”