The museum honors those who have provided visionary leadership for our country.
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.”
Billie Jean King
September 25, 2018
For shattering gender stereotypes in sports; for her courage in demanding equal pay; for her leadership in the fight for women’s and LGBTQ rights, both on and off the court; for responding to the AIDS crisis with fundraising and personal support; for empowering women; and for her lifetime commitment to these causes and ideals of equality and justice. Through these values and achievements, she defines service at the highest level and the true meaning of a Great American.
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
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)
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
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.