Washington, D.C. (August 4, 2010) – President Obama on Wednesday welcomed to the White House the 13 winners of the 2010 Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor. The White House Office of the Press Secretary said the President honors the recipients from across the country – that included Betty Kwan Chinn of Eureka, California, and one Minnesotan, Geo. J. Weiss, Jr.
“What unites these citizens – what makes them special – is the determination they share to find a wrong and right it; to see a need and meet it; to recognize when others are suffering and take it upon themselves to make a difference,” said President Obama. “These honorees’ lives stand as shining examples of what it means to be an American. And today, we have an opportunity to tell their stories; to say thank you; and to offer them a small token of our appreciation.”
The Citizens Medal was established in 1969 to recognize American citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens. The recipients are described as individuals who have a demonstrated commitment to service in their own community, have helped their country or their fellow citizens through one or more extraordinary acts, have provided service relating to a long-term or persistent problem, or service that has had a sustained impact on others’ lives and provided inspiration for others to serve.
This year, President Obama chose to use the 2010 Citizens Medal to recognize Americans whose work has had a significant impact on their communities but may not have garnered national attention. In a video message in January, the President called on members of the public to nominate people in their lives who have performed exemplary deeds of service.
In the Wednesday ceremony at the White House, the President said that the recipients remind us that people have a purpose on this Earth that goes beyond our their own lives and individual needs. He said they teach by example that no matter life’s challenges, we each have the power to make the world a better place.
“We are better as a country as a consequence of your ordinary – extraordinary service. And you exemplify what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America,” said Obama in the Wednesday ceremony. “We’re grateful.”
The recipients of the 2010 Citizens Medal are:
• Roberta Diaz Brinton, Los Angeles – for encouraging America’s next generations to reach for the stars.
Diaz Brinton has devoted her time and talents to improving science and technology education for Los Angeles students. As Director of the University of Southern California’s Science, Technology and Research (STAR) Program, Brinton has opened the doors of opportunity for thousands of disadvantaged and minority inner-city youth.
• Daisy M. Brooks, Chicago – for offering guidance and support to young women.
When a pregnant teenager with no place to stay arrived at her door, Brooks welcomed the young woman in, and what followed was a lifelong commitment to helping many of North Chicago’s young mothers and their infants. She opened Daisy’s Resource and Developmental Center to serve as a dormitory, school, and catalyst for young women to improve their lives.
• Betty Kwan Chinn, Eureka, Calif. – for renewing America’s promise by serving those in need.
Touched by childhood tragedy, Kwan Chinn brings hope to those who have fallen on hard times. As a child growing up in China, Betty Kwan Chinn’s family was the victim of persecution, and she was separated from her parents and forced to live on the streets she became mute as a result of the trauma.
After coming to America, she found both her voice and her mission: aiding those without shelter on our own shores. Every day, starting before dawn, she loads up a truck and provides two meals to the homeless as an expression of gratitude to the nation that welcomed her.
• Cynthia M. Church, Wilmington, DE – for confronting the scourge of this terrible disease and working to halt its spread.
Cynthia Church turned a personal battle with cancer into a force for progress and change. Dismayed by the lack of resources for women of color with breast cancer, Church founded Sisters on a Mission, Inc, an African-American breast cancer support network in Delaware.
• Susan Retik Ger, Needham, Mass. – for advancing women’s rights and demonstrating the power of America’s ideals.
Retik Ger understands the importance of empowering women touched by personal tragedy. After losing her husband on September 11, 2001, she found cause in educating and training Afghan widows and their children. Her strength of spirit has healed hearts, fostering mutual understanding and brightening our common future.
• Mary K. Hoodhood, Grand Rapids, Mich. – for her remarkable efforts to nourish our nation’s children.
Physical limitations have not hindered Hoodhood’s determination to strengthen her community. Though a car accident left her paralyzed, she began volunteering to feed the hungry through her local Meals on Wheels program. In 2001, she founded Kids’ Food Basket which provides meals to thousands of children in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.
• Kimberly McGuiness, Cave Spring, GA – for demonstrating the results one citizen can achieve for an entire community.
Parent and advocate, McGuiness has been a true champion for deaf students. Her persistent letters, phone calls, and visits to state legislators helped spur the passage of Georgia’s Deaf Child’s Bill of Rights. She has led workshops, counseled parents, and changed lives, raising awareness and support for deaf education.
• Jorge Muñoz, New York City – for service and dedication to creating a more hopeful tomorrow for the less fortunate.
Muñoz recognizes that we all have a stake in one another. By giving his time, energy, and resources to feeding the hungry, he has demonstrated the enduring American values of sacrifice and kindness.
• Lisa Nigro, Chicago – for her tireless service to her fellow citizens.
Beginning with a wagon full of coffee and sandwiches, Nigro’s mission to aid those living on the streets of Chicago has inspired many. Her wagon gave way to a restaurant for homeless men and women, expanding with partner organizations to provide housing, job training, and vital support to Chicagoans affected by poverty.
• MaryAnn Phillips, Star Valley Ranch, WY – for putting patriotism into action on behalf of troops and a nation.
Caring for America’s injured service members, Phillips embodies strength and grace. An American citizen living in Germany, she volunteers with Soldiers Angels at Landstuhl Air Force Base. She spends countless hours at the bedsides of our wounded warriors and their families, caring for them, encouraging them, and grieving with them.
• Elizabeth Cushman Titus Putnam, Shaftsbury, VT – for helping ensure this nation’s treasured public lands are enjoyed by future generations.
Devoted to preserving our nation’s public lands, Putnam has inspired thousands of America’s youth to protect our natural bounty. Her vision to offer land restoration and maintenance service opportunities became a reality with the birth of the Student Conservation Association.
• Myrtle Faye Rumph, Inglewood, CA – for replacing violence and despair with a beacon of hope and humanity.
For decades, Rumph has lent her talent and compassion to impacting the lives of at-risk youth. Her commitment to reducing gun and gang violence in her community has steered countless young people away from dangerous habits, and altered the course of their futures.
• Geo. J. Weiss, Jr., Marine, Minn. – for extraordinary service to our nation’s veterans and their families.
Weiss is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of World War II, and reflects the nation’s generous and selfless heart. In 1979, he founded the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad, which today consists of more than 125 volunteers who have performed final military honors for more than 55,000 deceased veterans.