2006 - Sandra Day O'Connor

Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, has committed her life to principled service to this country and the rule of law. For the 24 years Justice O'Connor served on the Supreme Court, she sought sensible outcomes on a case-by-case basis, becoming the "swing vote" on some of the most notable cases of the last two decades.

A pragmatic woman, devoid of pretense, she was described by Forbes Magazine as the fourth most powerful woman in the United States and the sixth most powerful woman in the world. In 2009 she as awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States by Barack Obama. Justice O'Connor has quietly broken through the barriers of gender, leading the way for generations of women aspiring to leadership in politics, the law, and life.

Justice O'Connor's award was presented by Bill Kurtis.

2008 - Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a man whose compassion and strength of conviction sustained his campaigns for peace and equality in South Africa in the midst of the prolonged brutality that fed apartheid. During this turbulent time, his insistence on peaceful solutions put his leadership to the test. Standing at the front of marches for resistance, his survival was much in question, but his refusal to hate put a recognizable face on the plight of South Africa's Black majority and inspired others to resist revenge.

As Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission where public hearings were dedicated to providing relief to the victims of racial discrimination, Tutu's campaigns for truth, justice and freedom were played out on a world stage. The hearings, which stood in stark contrast to the Nuremberg Trials that followed World War II, were generally judged to be a major factor in averting a devastating downward spiral into violence.

Archbishop Tutu's award was presented by Oprah Winfrey.

2010 - Captain James A. Lovell, Jr.

Among America's heroic astronauts, Lovell is regarded as a leader of near mythic proportion, maintaining calm and discipline aboard Apollo 13 while the mission experienced monumental equipment failures that threatened to leave the crew stranded in outer space. Commander Lovell and his crew successfully modified their lunar module into an effective lifeboat, assuring their survival in space and their safe return to Earth.

Lovell, an experienced navy aviator and test pilot prior to being selected for the Gemini program, also served in various command positions during four space missions including pilot and navigator on Apollo 8's 6-day journey to the Moon, backup commander to Neil Armstrong for Apollo 11, and commander of Apollo 13. In 1994 Lovell and Jeff Kluger wrote Lost Moon, which was re-released as Apollo 13 and filmed in 1995 with Tom Hanks playing the role of Jim Lovell.

Captain Lovell's award was presented by Tom Hanks.

2011 - Tim Russert

Tim Russert is remembered by most of us for his objective brand of journalism exhibited through his work as NBC Washington Bureau Chief and host of Meet the Press. Prior to his time at NBC, Russert served as Chief of Staff to New York U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and later as counsel to New York Governor Mario Cuomo.

Every day, at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, Illinois, Russert lives on for visitors who enter "The Campaign of 1860" exhibit that replicates a contemporary television news control room where they see a 21st-century news broadcast by Tim Russert. Throughout his career, Russert was the recipient of many awards, and in 2008, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He authored two books: a best-selling autobiography titled Big Russ and Me (2004), and Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons (2005).

Tim Russert's award was presented posthumously and accepted by his wife, Maureen Orth and son, Luke.

2012 - Lech Wałęsa

Former Polish President Lech Wałęsa helped lead his country to a new era of freedom and became the first democratically elected leader in Polish postwar history. Working as an electrician in the shipyards in the early 1970s, he witnessed violent government crackdowns ordered by Poland's Communist Party leadership against its own citizens. Wałęsa became a labor leader and activist; and with thousands of workers from across the country forced the Polish government to agree to significant labor reforms. The victory was short-lived as the Communist government quickly reasserted its authority across Poland and Wałęsa was imprisoned for 18 months for his activities.

Over the next seven years, a deteriorating economy and a reduced Soviet military presence forced the Polish Communist government to negotiate with Wałęsa and his Solidarity brethren. In 1990 he became the first democratically elected President of postwar Poland and helped to user the country into the modern era by laying the foundation for Poland's eventual admission into NATO, and, as a free nation, into the United Nations.

2013 - President Bill Clinton

William Jefferson Clinton was the first Democratic president in six decades to be elected twice – first in 1992 and then in 1996. Under his leadership, the country enjoyed the strongest economy in a generation and the longest economic expansion in U.S. history, including the creation of more than 22 million jobs.

After leaving the White House, President Clinton established the William J. Clinton Foundation with the mission to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote healthier childhoods and health and wellness, and protect the environment.

In addition to his Foundation work, President Clinton has served as the top United Nations envoy for the Indian Ocean tsunami recovery effort and as the UN Special Envoy to Haiti. Today, the Clinton Foundation is supporting economic growth, capacity building, and education in Haiti.

President Clinton joined with President George H.W. Bush to raise money for recovery efforts for the tsunami in South Asia (2004), Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Hurricane Ike (2008). He joined with President George W. Bush to establish the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, which supports highly effective organizations on the ground in long-term rebuilding efforts.

President Clinton was born on August 19, 1946, in Hope, Arkansas. He and his wife Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have one daughter, Chelsea, and live in Chappaqua, New York.

2014 - Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg, one of the entertainment industry’s most successful and influential filmmakers, is a principal partner of DreamWorks Studios. Among his myriad of honors, which include the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Memorial and Cecil B. DeMille Awards, Mr. Spielberg is a three-time Academy Award® winner having received Oscars®, for Best Director and Best Picture, for the internationally lauded “Schindler’s List,” which received seven Oscars® and a third Academy Award®, for Best Director, for the World War II drama “Saving Private Ryan,” which earned four additional Oscars®.

In 2012, Spielberg directed Academy Award winner Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln,” based in-part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals,” with a screenplay by Tony Kushner. The film garnered 12 Academy Award nominations winning two Oscars, including Daniel Day-Lewis’ third Oscar for Best Actor playing the iconic 16th President, as well as Best Production Design.

With a history of addressing socially relevant issues, Mr. Spielberg brings films to audiences that reflect on humanity’s moral failings and oftentimes their indifference to issues such as human rights in films like “Lincoln,” “Amistad,” “The Color Purple,” “Schindler’s List,” or war and terrorism in films and TV like “Saving Private Ryan,” “War Horse,” “Munich,” “Band of Brothers,” and “The Pacific.” His films focus on individual courage and celebrate the resiliency of the human spirit.

Mr. Spielberg also devotes his time and resources to many philanthropic causes, having established The Righteous Persons Foundation, as well as the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, now the USC Shoah Foundation. He is also Chairman Emeritus of the Starlight Children’s Foundation.

2015 - The Little Rock Nine

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, declaring unconstitutional any and all laws, which established or maintained segregation in schools. In 1957, in response to the ruling, nine black students, working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), registered to attend Little Rock Central High School. Dubbed The Little Rock Nine, they were denied entry to the school by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus who ordered the Arkansas National Guard deployed to deny the students' access. Ultimately, The Nine were escorted into the school by the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division as ordered by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The students regularly encountered abuse and persecution at the hands of whites, but in the end enforced their civil rights taking a stand for justice and equality. The Little Rock Nine have gone on to live lives dedicated to the proposition that racist ideology will not dictate educational policies and practices now or in the future. The Little Rock Nine are: Dr. Melba Pattillo Beals, Ms. Elizabeth Eckford, Ms. Gloria Ray Karlmark, Mr. Ernest Green, Ms. Carlotta Walls LaNier, Dr. Terrence J. Roberts, Mr. Jefferson Thomas, Ms. Minnijean Brown Trickey and Ms. Thelma Mothershed Wair. Together they promote and support The Little Rock Nine Foundation, which advances the ideals of justice and equal opportunity for all. Their many honors include the NAACP's Spingarn Medal (1957), The Congressional Gold Medal of Honor (1999), a commemorative U.S. postage stamp (2005) and a commemorative 50th anniversary one-dollar coin issued by the U.S. Mint (2007). For a lifetime of service in the Lincoln tradition, the courageous and groundbreaking Little Rock Nine are named the 2015 Lincoln Leadership Prize recipients.

2016 - Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris Kearns Goodwin is a world-renowned presidential historian, public speaker and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. She is the author of six critically acclaimed, The New York Times bestselling books, including her most recent, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism. She received the Lincoln Prize and Inaugural Book Prize for American History for her book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, an epic tome that illuminates Lincoln’s political genius. Ms. Goodwin worked together with filmmaker Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner on the film Lincoln, which was based in part on her book, Team of Rivals.

Ms. Goodwin was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in history for No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II and is the author of the bestsellers Wait Till Next Year, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream and The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys.

Ms. Goodwin is a frequent television guest on shows such as, The Charlie Rose Show, Meet the Press, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show, and The Tonight Show.

Ms. Goodwin graduated magna cum laude from Colby College and earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Her honors include the: National Endowment for the Humanities’ Charles Frankel Prize, Sarah Josepha Hale Medal, New England Book Award, Carl Sandburg Literary Award and Ohioana Book Award. She was named a White House Fellow working with President Lyndon Johnson and a Woodrow Wilson Fellow.

2017 - Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ph.D. is a world-renowned astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History and the first occupant of the Frederick P. Rose Directorship at the Hayden Planetarium. Tyson has served as Executive Science Editor, Host and Narrator for Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey, which won four Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award and two Critics Choice Awards. Tyson also served on two presidential commissions under George W. Bush – one studied the future of the U.S. aerospace industry and the other studied the future of NASA. In 2000, Asteroid 1994 KA was named 13123 Tyson in his honor. The recipient of the prestigious NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal and the National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal, Tyson earned his Ph.D. in astrophysics (1991) from Columbia University, and a bachelor’s degree in physics (1980) from Harvard University. He also is a graduate of the prestigious The Bronx High School of Science. He is the recipient of 19 honorary degrees and author or editor of 13 books, including the New York Times bestseller The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet and most recently, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. In 2000 he was voted “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive” by People Magazine. Dr. Tyson is a frequent television guest on shows such as, Charlie Rose, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Real Time with Bill Maher, and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon among others as he continues to advance Abraham Lincoln’s vision for a scientifically enlightened citizenry.

2018 - Tony Blair

Mr. Blair is widely recognized around the world for his stewardship of the United Kingdom through an especially important period in its history, and has been lauded for his post-governmental philanthropic work enhancing government effectiveness, particularly in Africa, and promoting stability and understanding in the Middle East.

"We are delighted to honor Mr. Blair with the Lincoln Leadership Prize," said Ray McCaskey, Chair of the ALPLF Board of Directors. "He embodies the kind of leadership that President Lincoln would have recognized and appreciated. Through his tenure as Prime Minister and his global good works since then, Mr. Blair embodies the spirit of President Lincoln. President Lincoln and Mr. Blair both led their countries through tumultuous times and understood they would make decisions that might be unpopular with the general public," McCaskey added. "Yet, they remained singularly focused on the policies that would strengthen their countries and improve the lives of their constituents in the long term."

President Lincoln led the United States through the four-year Civil War. It was Lincoln's leadership that preserved the Union, paved the way for the abolition of slavery and strengthened the federal government.

Mr. Blair, who was the longest serving Labour Party Prime Minister (1997 to 2007), guided the Northern Ireland peace process, bringing the country together after decades of conflict. Throughout Mr. Blair's tenure he prioritized legislation that transformed the lives of citizens. Under Mr. Blair's leadership the UK Government introduced the National Minimum Wage and civil partnerships; revitalized public services, particularly health care and education through a program of investment and reform; increased maternity leave and pay; lifted the young and old out of poverty; and passed equality and human rights legislation.

Since leaving office, Mr. Blair has spent most of his time working in the Middle East and Africa, and on the fight against religiously based extremism. The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change is supporting the next generation of leaders to meet some of the most difficult challenges they face today: helping countries alleviate poverty, raise living standards, foster religious and cultural tolerance, and advance peace and reconciliation. The Institute is also driving forward practical policy solutions to meet some of these challenges and re-kindle a vision of optimism for the future.

Mr. Blair will add the Lincoln Leadership Prize to other honors he has received including the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Liberty Medal. He also was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME magazine in 2008. Mr. Blair obtained his B.A. in Jurisprudence from St. John's College, Oxford, and then became a member of The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn and enrolled as a pupil barrister. His political career began in 1983 when he was elected a Member of Parliament for Sedgefield and went on to become the leader of the Labour Party in 1994 and Prime Minister in 1997.

"It is fitting that Mr. Blair be the first British citizen to receive this coveted prize, since President Lincoln had his own English roots. He was a descendant of Samuel Lincoln, an Englishman who migrated from Hingham, Norfolk," said Dr. Carla Knorowski, Chief Executive Officer of ALPLF.

2019 - President George W. Bush

George W. Bush served as 43rd President of the United States of America from 2001-2009. As Commander in Chief, President Bush worked to expand freedom, opportunity, and security at home and abroad. At home, he championed the No Child Left Behind Act to raise standards in schools and cut taxes for every federal income taxpayer, restoring economic growth and launching an unprecedented 52 straight months of job creation. The Bush Administration also negotiated new free trade agreements, worked with Congress to pass landmark healthcare reforms, and instituted robust environmental protections. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, President Bush responded with a comprehensive strategy to protect the American people. Under his leadership, the United States built global coalitions to remove violent regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq that threatened America and provided unprecedented support for young democracies and dissidents around the world. President Bush also launched global HIV/AIDS and malaria initiatives that have saved millions of lives, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to serving as President, he was the 46th Governor of Texas from 1995-2000.

After the Presidency, President Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush founded the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas. The Bush Center is home to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and the George W. Bush Institute, a nonpartisan public policy and leadership development center that engages communities across the United States and around the world by developing leaders, advancing policy, and taking action to solve today’s most pressing challenges.

President Bush is the author of three bestselling books: Decision Points (2010), 41: A Portrait of My Father (2014), and Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors (2017). He and Laura are the parents of twin daughters, Barbara, married to Craig Coyne, and Jenna, married to Henry Hager, and proud grandparents of Margaret Laura “Mila” and Poppy Louise Hager.

2020 - David M. Rubenstein

David M. Rubenstein is a Co-Founder and Co-Executive Chairman of global investment firm The Carlyle Group. As a leader in the area of Patriotic Philanthropy, Rubenstein has made transformative gifts for the restoration or repair of the Washington Monument, Monticello, Montpelier, Mount Vernon, Arlington House, Iwo Jima Memorial, the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the National Zoo, the Library of Congress, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Mr. Rubenstein has also provided to the U.S. government long-term loans of his rare copies of the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th Amendment, the first map of the U.S. (Abel Buell map), and the first book printed in the U.S. (Bay Psalm Book).

Mr. Rubenstein is an original signer of The Giving Pledge, a significant donor to all of the non-profit organizations mentioned below, a recipient of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, and the MoMA’s David Rockefeller Award, among other philanthropic awards. In addition to serving as host of The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations on Bloomberg TV and PBS and author of The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians, Mr. Rubenstein is Chairman of the Boards of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Council on Foreign Relations; a Fellow of the Harvard Corporation; a Trustee of the National Gallery of Art, the University of Chicago, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins Medicine, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Brookings Institution, and the World Economic Forum; a Director of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and President of the Economic Club of Washington. Mr. Rubenstein has also served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Duke University and Co-Chairman of the Board of the Brookings Institution.

Mr. Rubenstein, a native of Baltimore, is a 1970 magna cum laude graduate of Duke University, where he was elected Phi Beta Kappa. Following Duke, Mr. Rubenstein graduated in 1973 from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was an editor of the Law Review. From 1975-1976, he served as Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments. From 1977-1981, during the Carter Administration, Mr. Rubenstein was Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy.

2021 - Gary Sinise

Gary Sinise, Founder, President, Gary Sinise Foundation

Sinise, an Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award-winning actor, and Founder of the Gary Sinise Foundation, has been singularly devoted to veterans and military families and considers it his life’s work. While it may seem his connection to the troops is due to his iconic role as Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump, Sinise’s connection to and appreciation of the military precedes his iconic, Oscar-nominated portrayal. His autobiography, The New York Times Best Seller Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service, chronicles his journey from rebellious teenager to discovering his love of acting and his close to forty years of helping and supporting those who serve.

In 2020, Gary Sinise and his Foundation entered into its 10th year, establishing itself as one of today’s leading nonprofit organizations raising awareness and supporting those who serve. The Foundation’s programs and initiatives tackle a variety of needs, including building mortgage free specially adapted smart homes for severely wounded veterans through its R.I.S.E (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment) program, traveling WWII veterans to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans through Soaring Valor, performing and lifting the spirits of those serving our country through his Lt Dan Band concerts, traveling the kids of our fallen military heroes to Disney World for 5 days of fun, hope, and healing though Snowball Express, and more. When the pandemic hit early in 2020, the Foundation quickly established its Emergency COVID 19 Combat Service initiative, which expanded its outreach to include healthcare workers on the frontline. Also, in 2020, the Foundation launched its Florida chapter – the first of many future satellite locations and began expanding its Mental Health initiative helping those suffering with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and addiction/recovery.

“I am deeply grateful to be honored among the distinguished individuals who have received the Lincoln Leadership Prize,” said Sinise. “I support the important work that the Foundation, Library, and Museum are doing, and am pleased to play a small role in helping to raise awareness of their shared mission.”

“President Lincoln cared deeply about the troops, and there are few people today who care more – and do more – for our men and women in uniform and their families than Gary Sinise,” said Sergio (“Satch”) Pecori, chairman of the ALPLF Board of Directors. “While we, of course, can’t speak for President Lincoln, we believe he would be most supportive of this choice.”

“The lessons and leadership example of President Lincoln have never been more important to our country, and our responsibility is to do all we can to ensure those lessons are understood and shared,” said Erin Carlson Mast, the ALPLF’s new President and CEO. “This year, for the first time, we are holding our signature fundraising event virtually. I hope all who recognize President Lincoln’s and appreciate Mr. Sinise’s contributions to our country will join us.”

Mr. Sinise was recognized for his commitment to helping and supporting veterans, active-duty military, first responders, their families and those in need. The Prize was awarded on April 13, 2021 in a virtual ceremony. The Lincoln Leadership Prize ceremony serves as the primary fundraiser for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.

2022 - Mellody Hobson

Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO and President, Ariel Investments

The Lincoln Presidential Foundation awarded its prestigious Lincoln Leadership Prize to Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO and President of Ariel Investments, for her dedication and leadership in the areas of corporate leadership, financial literacy and diversity.

The Lincoln Leadership Prize, was awarded in a special, in-person dinner on April 28 at the Hilton Chicago.   The annual award recognizes outstanding individuals for a lifetime of service in the spirit of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln- honoring individuals who accept the responsibilities imposed by history and demanded by conscience, who show great strength of character and exhibit unwavering commitment to the defining principles of democracy.

Ms. Hobson is an established leader not only at Ariel Investments, the global value-based asset management firm where she serves as Co-CEO and President, but as the Chair of the Board of Starbucks Corporation, a director of JPMorgan Chase, and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ariel Investment Trust. Previously, Ms. Hobson served as Chairman of the Board of DreamWorks Animation and a board member of the Estée Lauder Companies.

Ms. Hobson’s community and civic involvement is extensive, and includes serving as Chairman of After School Matters, a Chicago non-profit that provides area teens with high-quality after school and summer programs. Additionally, she is the vice chair of World Business Chicago, co-chair of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, and a board member of the George Lucas Education Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies. She also serves on the board of trustees of the Center for Strategic & International Studies, and of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Ms. Hobson is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The Rockefeller Foundation Board of Trustees and serves on the executive committee of the Investment Company Institute.

“President Abraham Lincoln’s legacy continues to shape society today,” said Mellody Hobson. “His commitment to emancipating slaves makes my life possible.  I am honored to receive The Lincoln Leadership Prize and will continue to work in earnest to help our democracy realize all of its potential—for everyone.”

Ms. Hobson earned her Bachelor of Arts (AB) from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of International Relations and Public Policy. In 2019, she was awarded the University’s highest honor, the Woodrow Wilson Award, which is presented annually to a Princeton graduate whose career embodies a commitment to national service. She has also received honorary doctorate degrees from Howard University, Johns Hopkins University, St. Mary’s College, and the University of Southern California. In 2015, Time Magazine named her one of the “100 Most Influential People” in the world. 

“Mellody’s call for more opportunities for all minorities exemplifies the same ideals President Lincoln espoused, breaking down barriers and creating more freedom and opportunity for people,” said ALPLF’s Board Chair Sergio (“Satch”) A. Pecori. “Her strong ideals and track record of outstanding leadership make her a perfect fit to receive this prize.”

Internationally acclaimed musician, composer and bandleader, educator and advocate of American culture Wynton Marsalis  presented the Lincoln Leadership Prize to Ms. Hobson. Marsalis was honored with The National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama in 2015, in recognition of his work in deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities and broadened American citizens’ engagement with history, literature, languages and philosophy. Marsalis presently serves as Managing and Artistic Director for Jazz at Lincoln Center.

The Lincoln Leadership Prize ceremony serves as the primary fundraiser for the Lincoln Presidential Foundation.