/PRNewswire/ -- The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies has announced that it will honor U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-GA) with the 2011 Louis E. Martin Great American Award at its Annual Dinner on May 3 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington.
Congressman Lewis will be recognized for more than 50 years of active service to the cause of human rights, civil liberties and the strengthening of the American community.
The award, named after the legendary journalist, presidential advisor and co-founder of the Joint Center, honors an individual who exemplifies Louis Martin's passion for justice, compassion and the bridging of racial and ethnic divides. Previous award recipients include former Presidents Jimmy Carter and William J. Clinton, Congressmen James E. Clyburn and Charles B. Rangel, Muhammad Ali, lawyer and civil rights leader Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., the late civil rights activist Dr. Dorothy I. Height, and the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
A member of the U.S. Congress for nearly a quarter-century, Congressman Lewis first came to national attention as one of the top figures in the civil rights movement, as well as an architect of and keynote speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington. He has served in the House leadership as Senior Chief Deputy Whip for the Democratic Party since 1991 and has been a leading voice on a wide range of domestic and international issues. He has been referred to as "the conscience of the U.S. Congress" and "a genuine American hero and moral leader."
In announcing the selection, Joint Center President and CEO Ralph B. Everett cited Congressman Lewis' legendary courage and leadership in the struggle for full voting rights. "His refusal to flinch in the face of extreme adversity left an indelible mark on our history, and sent an unforgettable message to the world on the intrinsic value of the right to vote and the scope of sacrifice that is often necessary to secure it," he said.
"Today, Congressman Lewis continues to lead by example, working for racial harmony and to inspire all Americans to make the most of their right to engage in the nation's political and civic affairs," he added.
"Congressman Lewis fits well into the pantheon of leaders whom the Joint Center has recognized over the years with this high honor," said Roderick D. Gillum, Chair of the Joint Center's Board of Governors. "Few people in history have contributed more to helping America live up to its cherished ideals, and the difference he has made throughout his career is something that all of us can see and feel in our everyday lives."
Hosted by the Joint Center each year for more than a quarter century and with this year's theme of Forward Together – Engaging Our Future, the Annual Dinner is the organization's major fundraising event of the year and provides an opportunity for a broad range of elected officials, business, civic and community leaders from across the country to celebrate the success of the Joint Center and its impact on the lives of all Americans.
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