Former U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford, a longtime advocate for service learning, has received the 2002 John W. Gardner Leadership Award in recognition of that work. Independent Sector, a Washington-based coalition of education, religious, health, and social-welfare organizations bestowed the award late last month.
The award, named after the late U.S. secretary of health, education, and welfare who was the founding chairman of Independent Sector, honors people who are working with the volunteer sector and with organizations that have a national or international impact.
Mr. Wofford, a Democrat, represented Pennsylvania in the Senate from 1991 to 1995 and was actively involved in creating the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Washington- based federal organization that runs the AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America programs.
After leaving the Senate, Mr. Wofford, 76, served as the chief executive of the corporation from 1995 to 2001.
But his record of service dates back much further. Mr. Wofford was a senior advisor to Martin Luther King Jr., helped establish the U.S. Peace Corps, and helped start America’s Promise, an Alexandria, Va.-based organization that promotes character education and community service.
He is currently the chairman of America’s Promise.
Receiving the award was tremendously heartwarming, Mr. Wofford said in an interview last month, because John Gardner was an important role model for him. “To be connected to him is a true honor,” he said.
In accepting the award Oct. 28 at Independent Sector’s annual conference in Cleveland, Mr. Wofford said he called on the conference-goers “to responsively and creatively put their power behind children and youth, and to see young people as leaders and resources and not just problems.”
Despite their opposing party affiliations, Mr. Wofford said that he agrees with President Bush’s push for more people to get involved in volunteer services.
Now, Mr. Wofford said, it is up to schools and nonprofit groups to provide more opportunities for children and young people to take part in community service.
“For democracy to work,” he said, “learning citizenship must be at the core of America’s education.”
—Michelle Galley firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this article appeared in the November 20, 2002 edition of Education Week