Jefferson Awards – History

History of the Awards

In 1972, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Senator Robert Taft, Jr. and Sam Beard founded the American Institute for Public Service, a 501c3 public foundation, to establish a Nobel Prize for public and community service – The Jefferson Awards.

The Jefferson Awards are presented on two levels: national and local. National award recipients represent a “Who’s Who” of outstanding Americans. The national awards are given in five categories:

  • Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official
  • Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen
  • Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged
  • Greatest Public Service by an Individual 35 Years or Younger
  • Outstanding Public Service Benefiting the Local Community

Past winners of the national award include Cesar Chavez, Jimmy Carter, Walter Cronkite, General Colin Powell, Arthur Ashe, Paul Newman, Lance Armstrong, Peyton Manning, among many others.

On the local level, Jefferson Awards recipients are ordinary people who do extraordinary things without expectation of recognition or reward. By honoring the recipients, it is the goal of the Jefferson Awards to inspire others to become involved in community and public service.

The Jefferson Awards is the nation’s largest media partnership highlighting service to America.

More About the Jefferson Awards:

Read a timeline featuring key events from the history of the Jefferson Awards.

Jefferson Awards FAQs
Find out answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Jefferson Awards.

Board of Selectors
The Jefferson Awards for Public Service Board of Governors, which is selected annually by the Board of Selectors. Members of the Board of Selectors are leaders in every field of endeavor: government, the arts, education, entertainment, sports and business.


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