New Frontier Awards Celebrate Public Service

November 26, 2013
By Sarah Abrams, HKS Communications

Jack Schlossberg, the grandson of President John F. Kennedy, honored the founder of an online charity providing support to public schools and a combat veteran now serving in Congress at the 2013 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards ceremony Monday evening. A junior at Yale University and a member of the New Frontier Awards Committee, Schlossberg took over as presenter for his mother Caroline Kennedy, who was recently appointed U.S. ambassador to Japan.

Evoking his grandfather’s youthful vitality, Schlossberg noted that the New Frontier Awards reflect one of the most important qualities that his grandfather’s life stood for.

“As the youngest president elected, he embodied the soaring energy of a youthful spirit and that enabled him to meet the challenges of his day with the intense energy that they required," Schlossberg said. "Today we remember that remarkable quality that defines his life, and we celebrate it in the achievements and promise of the two recipients of the New Frontier Awards.”

Charles Best, a former Bronx high school teacher, was recognized for creating in 2000 the website DonorsChoose.org, an online charity that allows donors to provide direct support to public school teachers and students for classroom projects. Today, more than half of all the public schools in the country have posted projects on the site and more than a million donors have given more than $200 million in support.

In accepting the award, Best noted the company is now embarking on an expanded mission — a new frontier — by opening up its data to governments to see where needs exist and to people with ideas for improving education who can reach teachers directly through the site.

“What your award is doing is shining a spotlight, lending legitimacy and authority and significance to this new frontier of impact that we are now exploring,” Best said.

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), a former combat veteran who served two tours in the Middle East, received the Fenn Award, which honors an elected official. The award is named in honor of Dann Fenn, the first director of the Kennedy Presidential Library and a member of President Kennedy's staff, who now teaches at the Kennedy School.

At 21, Gabbard was elected to the Hawaii state legislature and in 2012 she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. As a freshman in Congress, she passed her first piece of legislation with unanimous bipartisan support, the Helping Heroes Fly Act, which streamlines airport security for injured and disabled veterans.

Gabbard, referring to President Kennedy’s call to action, said we serve by stepping outside of the “safe boxes that we have created in our own lives and looking outward.” Looking outside ourselves, she said, “enables us to see past the boundaries that often set limitations in our own lives and creates opportunities to be impactful in ways we could never imagine.”

The New Frontier Awards were created in 2004 by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and the Institute of Politics to honor Americans under the age of 40 who have made special contributions through their public service. Past honorees have included U.S. Senator Cory Booker in 2008 and Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach for America, in 2004.

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Charles Best, Jack Schlossberg, and Tulsi Gabbard

(From L to R) Charles Best, creator of DonorsChoose.org; Jack Schlossberg, grandson of President John F. Kennedy; and Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. Representative (D-HI)

Photo Credit: Jon Chase/Harvard Gazette

"Today we remember that remarkable quality that defines [President Kennedy's] life, and we celebrate it in the achievements and promise of the two recipients of the New Frontier Awards,” said Jack Schlossberg.