WASHINGTON (March 2, 2011)— President Barack Obama today presented the 2010 National Humanities Medals to ten individuals honored for their outstanding achievements in history, literature, education, and cultural policy. The medalists are: authors Wendell E. Berry, Joyce Carol Oates, and Philip Roth; historians Bernard Bailyn and Gordon S. Wood; literary scholars Daniel Aaron, Roberto González Echevarría, and Arnold Rampersad; cultural historian Jacques Barzun; and legal historian and higher education policy expert Stanley Nider Katz.
The medals were presented at a White House ceremony. Earlier in the day, several of the medalists participated in a roundtable discussion, held at NEH headquarters, on the role of the humanities in contemporary culture.
The National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.
[Watch the White House video of the 2010 National Humanities Medals event on March 2.]
The official citations honoring the medalists are:
Daniel Aaron for his contributions to American literature and culture. As the founding president of the Library of America, he helped preserve our nation’s heritage by publishing America’s most significant writing in authoritative editions. (Read profile.)
Bernard Bailyn for illuminating the nation’s early history and pioneering the field of Atlantic history. Bailyn, who spent his career at Harvard, has won two Pulitzer Prizes, the first for The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, and the second for Voyagers to the West. (Read profile.)
Jacques Barzun for his distinguished career as a scholar, educator, and public intellectual. One of the founders of the field of cultural history, Barzun taught at Columbia University for five decades and has written and edited more than thirty books. (Read profile.)
Wendell E. Berry for his achievements as a poet, novelist, farmer, and conservationist. The author of more than forty books, Berry has spent his career exploring our relationship with the land and the community. (Read profile.)
Roberto González Echevarría for his contributions to Spanish and Latin American literary criticism. His path-breaking Myth and Archive: A Theory of Latin American Narrative is the most cited scholarly work in Hispanic literature. González Echevarría teaches at Yale University. (Read profile.)
Stanley Nider Katz for a career devoted to fostering public support for the humanities. As director of the American Council of Learned Societies for more than a decade, he expanded the organization’s programs and helped forge ties between libraries, museums, and foundations. (Read profile.)
Joyce Carol Oates for her contributions to American letters. The author of more than fifty novels, as well as short stories, poetry, and non-fiction, Oates has been honored with the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Short Story. (Read profile.)
Arnold Rampersad for his work as a biographer and literary critic. His award-winning books have profiled W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Jackie Robinson, and Ralph Ellison. He has also edited critical editions of the works of Richard Wright and Langston Hughes. (Read profile.)
Philip Roth for his contributions to American letters. Roth is the author of twenty-four novels, including Portnoy’s Complaint and American Pastoral, which won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize. His criticism has appeared in American Poetry Review and The New York Times Book Review. (Read profile.)
Gordon S. Wood for scholarship that provides insight into the founding of the nation and the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. Wood is author and editor of eighteen books, including The Radicalism of the American Revolution, for which he earned a Pulitzer Prize. (Read profile.)
The medals, first awarded as the Charles Frankel Prize in 1989, were presented during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. After the ceremony, the medalists and their families and friends joined the President and First Lady Michelle Obama for a reception in their honor.
Since 1996, when the first National Humanities Medal was given, 125 individuals have been honored, inclusive of this year’s awardees. Nine organizations also received medals. Previous medalists include Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, novelist John Updike, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, sociologist Robert Coles, and filmmaker Steven Spielberg. A complete list of previous honorees is available at: http://www.neh.gov/about/awards/national-humanities-medals