Leaders on Democracy Light Up the Crowd Preaching Love and Honor
National Conference on Citizenship Awards Patriot, Community Changemaker, CIVVY Awards
WASHINGTON, DC (October 30, 2018) — Democracy, among the hottest topics on dais’s and in diners these days, saw some fiery attention recently at the gathering of one of the nation’s leading and few Congressionally-chartered organizations, the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC). While the rhetoric was hot, the through line was that only through love, honor, respect, and moral courage can democracy thrive.
Brenda “Sue” Fulton, in the first class of women admitted to West Point, and an LGBTQ veteran and champion who worked to overturn Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, received NCoC’s HOOAH award. The award recognizes those empowering the next generation of military veterans to serve beyond their time in uniform. The HOOAH Award is so named for the affirmative sound service members call out. Fulton is currently chair and chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, and the state’s first openly gay member of its cabinet.
Her impassioned speech brought the crowded room to its feet when she told the story of introducing five transgender service members to the senior officer in the U.S. Army for a conversation about their truths (Video Available Online – story begins at 9:05). She described the fearless and courageous voices they brought – with so much at risk, and the military chief’s honesty, directness and willingness to listen. Her reflections on leading in a conservative institution by loving and respecting it first, and detailing how she could drive dramatic change because she didn’t “burn the house down” provided a teachable moment set against the backdrop of today’s increasingly divisive environment.
“We were knocked out by Sue Fulton’s honest, impassioned speech about what it took to make real change,” said Sterling Speirn, CEO of NCoC. “She’s had extraordinary accomplishments in and out of the military, and her deep love of country was at once exceptionally respectful of the institution she served and motivating to make change for the betterment of people and our country. She reminded us all of our superpowers: to have a voice and to vote. We’re grateful for her service, and for her example of courage, love, duty, respect and honor in our democracy.”
G.S. “Mack” McCarter III, the coordinator of Community Renewal International in Shreveport, Louisiana, received the Citizen of the Year award, for his successful approach to building relationships in neighborhoods based on caring, hope and love, as a way to fight social ills and improve the world. McCarter’s work has had dramatic outcomes that can be seen in both hard and soft metrics – crime down 52 percent in neighborhoods where Friendship Houses exist. Friendship Houses operate a community center in a home, and provide after-school education programs, character building, service projects, GED courses, tutoring, computer training, art and music lessons, family nights and much more. It is there where relationships are forged and people grow to know one another, contributing to a revitalized, healthy and trusting community.
“Mack is one of the most humble, committed and gentle souls you would want to meet. And his approach and his work have led to phenomenal results,” said Speirn. “His fundamental belief in the “we over the me” should give faith to every single person who is struggling with the current climate and wondering how we find our way back to a place of respect, healing and caring. The impact he has – and the work he does – is an apt lesson in the power of community to thrive when its foundation is built on love and respect. Fundamentally, Mack proves every day how our democracy is so much stronger, and together, we are so much more than we can be separately.”
In addition to the HOOAH and Citizen of the Year awards, NCoC, in collaboration with Big Tent Nation and the Bridge Alliance Education Fund, honored six organizations with the 2018 American Civic Collaboration Awards, which help revitalize the nation by elevating democratic practices and civic engagement:
- National Winner – iCivics
- Local Winners – The El-Hindi Center for Dialogue at Interfaith Works &Colorado State University Center for Public Deliberation
- Youth Winner – First Vote NC
- Political Winner – Maine Ranked Choice Voting Education Effort
- Committee Choice Award –Montevallo Junior City Council
The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening civic life in America. NCoC was chartered by Congress in 1953 to harness the patriotic energy and national civic involvement surrounding World War II. In 2009, Congress named NCoC in the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, expanding their Civic Health Initiative to become the nation’s largest measure of civic engagement. NCoC pursues its mission through a nationwide network of partners involved in a cutting-edge Civic Health Initiative, annual cross-sector conferences, and engagement with a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations interested in utilizing civic engagement principles and practices to enhance their work.
Joanne Krell (269.753.9392)