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Conversations with History Makers photo

Conversations with History Makers

The museum honors those who have provided visionary leadership for our country.

Smithsonian Great Americans National Museum of American History award emblem

About the Award

The Great Americans award program is supported by David M. Rubenstein, Chair of the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents, and includes a conversation with the recipient and opportunities for the museum to add objects from the awardee to the national collections. The ceremony features the presentation of a specially commissioned museum medal that recognizes lifetime contributions that embody American ideals and ideas. 

“The Great Americans award and conversations with history-makers allow us to inspire the next generation to embrace the fundamental ideals and ideas that have distinguished this nation since its founding,” said Elizabeth MacMillan Director John Gray. “Democracy, freedom, justice, opportunity, and equality are among the enduring American values and ideals embodied by our honorees.”


Cal Ripken Jr. headshot

Cal Ripken Jr.

April 17, 2018

For his commitment to taking America’s most beloved pastime to new heights; for shattering world records throughout his career; for his statesmanship and diplomacy, both on and off the field; and for his example representing the American ideas and ideals of hard work and perseverance. Through these values and achievements, he defines service at the highest level and the true meaning of an American hero.

Thomas J. Brokaw headshot

Thomas J. Brokaw

September 21, 2017

Awarded to Thomas J. Brokaw for his commitment to journalism and steadfast defense of freedom of the press and a life of public service in the furthering of American democracy; for recording the accomplishments of the “Greatest Generation” and for bringing a voice of assurance and trust as the American people faced the impact of September 11, 2001; and for his uncompromising principles based on American ideals and ideas.

General Colin L. Powell, USA (Retired) headshot

General Colin L. Powell, USA (Retired)

December 7, 2016

Awarded to the Honorable Colin L. Powell for his steadfast courage in his convictions; for his commitment to a life of public service and to the furthering of American democracy; for his leadership on the battlefield and statesmanship across the diplomatic front; and for his uncompromising principles based on American ideals and ideas.

Madeleine K. Albright headshot

Madeleine K. Albright

September 7, 2016

Awarded to the Honorable Madeleine K. Albright for her commitment and contributions to American democracy; for her skill and diplomacy in making the world a safer place; and for her ground-breaking leadership and embodiment of fundamental American ideas and ideals.