President George W. Bush awarded the 2004 National Humanities Medal today to seven distinguished Americans and one historical society for their contributions to the humanities. At a White House ceremony, the President presented National Humanities Medals to Marva Collins, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Hilton Kramer, Madeleine L'Engle, Harvey Mansfield, John Searle, Shelby Steele, and the United States Capitol Historical Society.
The National Humanities Medal, first awarded in 1989 as the Charles Frankel Prize, honors individuals and organizations whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens' engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand America's access to important humanities resources.
The following individuals received the National Humanities Medal for 2004:
Marva Collins (Hilton Head Island, S.C.) was cited "for her success in demonstrating the potential of every child to learn. Her work has influenced educators across our country and helped enable more Americans to realize the great promise of our Nation." Collins graduated from Clark College in Atlanta and taught school in Alabama for two years. She moved to Chicago, where she taught in the public school system for fourteen years. In 1975 Mrs. Collins founded Westside Preparatory School in Chicago's Garfield Park neighborhood. Mrs. Collins' success with students labeled by others as "unteachable" led to profiles in Time and Newsweek magazines and television appearances on 60 Minutes and Good Morning America. Her life was the basis for a CBS Special Movie. During his presidential term, Ronald Reagan offered her the post of Secretary of Education, but she declined. She has received more than 42 honorary doctoral degrees from universities including Amherst College, Dartmouth, and Notre Dame. She is the recipient of the prestigious Jefferson Award for the Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged. Mrs. Collins received the Lincoln Award of Illinois for service in the state, and she has served on the board of directors of President George H.W. Bush's Points of Light Foundation. She has trained Fortune 500 executives and over 100,000 teachers, principals, and administrators.
Gertrude Himmelfarb (Washington, D.C.) was cited "for her critical analysis of history, which has yielded insights into Victorian England and the foundations of our culture. Her books, essays, and articles demonstrate vision and eloquence." She is professor emeritus of history at the Graduate School of the City University of New York. Until 1988 she was distinguished professor of history and for many years chairman of the doctoral program in history. She received her doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1950, and she also studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary and at Girton College, Cambridge. Her publications include: One Nation, Two Cultures (1999); The New History and the Old (1987); Marriage and Morals Among the Victorians (1986); The Idea of Poverty (l984); On Liberty and Liberalism--The Case of John Stuart Mill (1975); Victorian Mind (l968); Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution (1959); and Lord Acton: A Study in Conscience and Politics (1952). One reviewer described her 1996 work, The Demoralization of Society: From Victorian Virtue to Modern Values, as "an elegant, literate defense of nineteenth-century English mores and morals." Himmelfarb served on the National Council on the Humanities from 1982 to 1988 and in 1991 delivered the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities.
Hilton Kramer (New York, N.Y.) was cited "for his accomplishments as an art critic. Since the 1950s, he has written powerfully on the significance of great art; and as a founder and editor of The New Criterion, he has advanced understanding of our culture and our times." Kramer is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion, a monthly review of the arts and intellectual life, which he founded with Samuel Lipman in 1982. Kramer had previously served for many years as the chief art critic of the New York Times. Since 1987 he has also been the art critic for the New York Observer. For many years, he has written the "Critic's Notebook" column in Art & Antiques magazine. In these forums Kramer has advanced public understanding of modern art. Kramer studied at Syracuse University and in the graduate schools of Columbia, Harvard, and Indiana Universities and the New School for Social Research. He has served on the faculties of Indiana University, Bennington College, the University of Colorado, and Yale University. Kramer is the author of two volumes of criticism--The Age of the Avant-Garde (1973) and The Revenge of the Philistines (1985)--and of critical monographs on the art of Milton Avery, Gaston Lachaise, and Richard Lindner. He is the editor of The New Criterion Reader (1988) and co-editor of Against the Grain: The New Criterion on Art and Intellect at the End of the Twentieth Century (1995). Kramer's most recent book, The Twilight of the Intellectuals: Culture and Politics in the Era of the Cold War, was published in 1999. He is currently at work on Abstract Art: a Cultural History.
Madeleine L'Engle (New York, N.Y.) was cited "for her talent as a writer on spirituality and art and for her wonderful novels for young people. Her works inspire the imagination and reflect the creative spirit of America." L'Engle was born in New York City and attended Smith College. She has written more than 60 books, the most famous of which is A Wrinkle in Time (1962). The novel won the John Newbery Award in 1963, and L'Engle continued the story of the Murry family of A Wrinkle in Time with seven other novels. She also wrote another famous series featuring the Austin family, beginning with the novel Meet the Austins (1960). She has received many honors and awards, including the ALAN Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children's Literature from the National Council for Teachers of English, and the Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Library Association. She is currently a librarian at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Her most recent work is Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life (2001). Granddaughter Charlotte Jones accepted the medal on behalf of L'Engle, who was unable to attend the ceremony.
Harvey Mansfield (Cambridge, Mass.), one of America's leading political scientists, was cited "for a lifetime of scholarship on political theory and contributions to higher education. Throughout his career, he had demonstrated conviction and courage while enriching public discourse." Mansfield is the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Government at Harvard University. Mansfield has taught at Harvard since 1962 and was chairman of the government department from 1973 to 1977. He has held Guggenheim and NEH Fellowships, was a fellow at the National Humanities Center and, from 1991 to 1994, a member of the National Council on the Humanities. Mansfield has written on topics such as the nature of political parties, Machiavelli, liberalism, and the theory of executive power. He has provided new translations of Machiavelli's The Prince (1998) and Tocqueville's Democracy in America (2000). His other writings include Selected Letters of Edmund Burke (1984), America's Constitutional Soul (1991), Machiavelli's New Modes and Orders: A Study of the Discourses on Livy (1996), and Machiavelli's Virtue (1996).
John Searle (Berkeley, Calif.), a leading expert on the philosophy of mind, was cited "for his efforts to deepen understanding of the human mind. His writings have shaped modern thought, defended reason and objectivity, and defined debate about the nature of artificial intelligence." Searle received his Ph.D. in philosophy at Oxford University and is currently the Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language at the University of California at Berkeley. Searle is best known for his critique of computationalism and artificial intelligence, his theory of intentionality, and his work on the problem of consciousness. His recent books include The Mystery of Consciousness (1997), Mind, Language and Society: Philosophy in the Real World (1998), Rationality in Action (2001), Consciousness and Language (2002), and Mind: A Brief Introduction (2004). One reviewer wrote that Searle is one of "only a handful of recent American philosophers [who] are widely read outside university philosophy departments… Not only does his work ascend to the rarified heights of analytic philosophy, but he has carved out a niche for himself as a popular defender of commonsense realism and a gadfly to postmodern philosophy." Searle has won numerous awards, including a distinguished teaching award from the University of California at Berkeley. From 1992 to 1996 he served as a member of the National Council on the Humanities.
Shelby Steele (Palo Alto, Calif.), a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, was cited "for his learned examinations of race relations and cultural issues, which reveal a profound commitment to freedom and belief in the bright future of our Nation." Steele specializes in the study of race relations, multiculturalism, and affirmative action. Steele's most recent book is A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America. In A Dream Deferred, Steele argues that too much of what has been done since the Great Society in the name of black rights has far more to do with the moral redemption or self-satisfaction of white people than with any real improvement in the lives of black Americans. Steele received the National Book Critic's Circle Award in 1990 in the general nonfiction category for his book The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America. He has written widely on race in American society and the consequences of contemporary social programs on race relations. He has written extensively for major publications, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and he is a contributing editor at Harper's magazine. Steele also is a member of the National Association of Scholars, the national board of the American Academy for Liberal Education, and the University Accreditation Association. He holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Utah, an M.A. in sociology from Southern Illinois University, and a B.A. in political science from Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The United States Capitol Historical Society (Washington, D.C.), founded in 1962, was cited "for preserving the rich history and traditions of the United States Capitol, and for honoring the many proud public servants who have given it life." The Society is chartered by Congress as a private, non-profit organization to educate the public on the history and heritage of the U.S. Capitol building, its institutions and the people who have served therein. With the formal approval of Congress, the Society continues exploring and instituting new and creative ways to bring the fascinating story of the Capitol, its institutions, and our national history to people around the world. Society activities include educational tours, scholarly symposia, observances of historic events, enhancement and preservation of the Capitol's collection of art and artifacts, sponsorship of research on the public careers of those who have served in the Capitol, the sale of publications and mementos of historical nature and assistance to Congressional and other Capitol offices. Ronald A. Sarasin, president and chief executive officer, accepted the medal on behalf of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society.
The National Endowment for the Humanities gratefully acknowledges The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities for its support of the 2004 National Humanities Medals.