New Mexico State Auditor and Executive Director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Honored by Caroline Kennedy as Recipients of 2010 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards
Boston, MA, December 1, 2010 - Caroline Kennedy today will present the seventh annual John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards to Hector Balderas, New Mexico State Auditor, and Lateefah Simon, Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. The awards will be presented this evening during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
“Hector Balderas and Lateefah Simon are remarkable leaders who exemplify my father’s belief that young Americans can make important and lasting contributions to our public life,” said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and a member of the Senior Advisory Committee for Harvard’s Institute of Politics. “Hector Balderas has demonstrated how a politician’s scrupulous commitment to the public interest can make government work for all of us. Lateefah Simon learned firsthand how public service can lift people up from troubled circumstances, and now she is living proof of the power each one of us has to transform the lives of countless others. We honor these two outstanding individuals for all they have given back to our country and for the extraordinary examples they set.”
The John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards were created by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Harvard’s Institute of Politics to honor Americans under the age of 40 who are changing their communities and the country with their commitment to public service. The awards are presented annually to two exceptional individuals whose contributions in elective office, community service, or advocacy demonstrate the impact and the value of public service in the spirit of John F. Kennedy.
One of the New Frontier Awards honors an elected official whose work demonstrates the importance of elective service as a way to address a public challenge or challenges. This award, called the Fenn Award, is presented to a young elected official in honor of Dan Fenn, the Kennedy Library’s first director and a former member of President Kennedy’s staff. The other New Frontier Award honors an individual whose contributions in the realm of community service, advocacy or grassroots activism have had a positive impact on a broad public policy issue or challenge.
For more information visit the Kennedy Presidential Library’s website at www.jfklibrary.org or the Institute of Politics’ website at www.iop.harvard.edu
State Auditor, New Mexico
Fenn Award Recipient
Hector Balderas, 37, was elected State Auditor of New Mexico in 2006, making him the youngest Hispanic statewide elected official in the United States at age 33.
On taking office, Balderas worked to change the longstanding perception among state agencies that their expenditures would go unexamined and that mistakes and misconduct would be allowed to slide. Despite a limited budget, a small staff, and widespread resistance from agencies uncomfortable with having their books scrutinized, Balderas fought to create a culture of accountability in New Mexico.
Soon after being sworn in as State Auditor, Balderas hired, for the first time, investigators dedicated solely to handling complaints of fraud in state and local government. During his time as State Auditor, Balderas has expanded the fraud unit from one employee to eight, and has initiated hundreds of investigations into the potential misuse of taxpayer funds. Balderas also set up a fraud hotline and conducted numerous audits of suspected embezzlement and fraud by state and local employees.
Balderas has taken on the powers-that-be in both parties, which has earned him respect from across the political spectrum. Balderas and his auditors uncovered systemic abuse and mismanagement in New Mexico’s regional housing authorities, prompting a criminal investigation and calls for an overhaul of the entire system. They also revealed severe mismanagement of federal voter education funds by the former Secretary of State, part of a wide-ranging investigation that ultimately resulted in the former Secretary’s indictment in an embezzlement and money-laundering scheme.
Prior to his election as State Auditor, Balderas served in the New Mexico House of Representatives and as a prosecutor in the Albuquerque District Attorney’s office. He holds a J.D. from the University of New Mexico and a B.S. in political science from New Mexico Highlands University. Balderas was re-elected to a second term as State Auditor on November 2, 2010.
Executive Director, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area
Lateefah Simon, 33, has advocated tirelessly on behalf of communities of color, youth and women since her teenage years. At age 15, she joined the Center for Young Women's Development, an outreach organization led by young women to provide peer-to-peer support to at-risk girls and young women in San Francisco. Simon began as a volunteer and eventually became a staff member at the Center, where she worked to help homeless, low-income and incarcerated young women transform and rebuild their lives.
At 19, Simon was appointed Executive Director of the Center. During her 11-year tenure, the Center for Young Women’s Development grew into an organization with a $1.2 million budget serving approximately 3,500 women per year. Under Simon’s leadership, the Center also worked to influence public policy at the state and local levels, and expanded its violence prevention work. At 26, Simon won a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship for her work with the Center.
In 2005, Simon was chosen by San Francisco District Attorney Kamala D. Harris to lead the creation of a citywide public/private partnership aimed at preventing former offenders from returning to lives of crime. From the D.A.’s office, Simon helped launch and oversaw programs such as Back on Track, which combines close supervision for offenders with educational and employment opportunities. Now a national model, Back on Track has reduced the recidivism rate for the population it serves to less than 10 percent.
In 2009, Simon was appointed Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, which advocates for the legal rights of people of color, poor people, immigrants and refugees. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of San Francisco is an affiliate of the national Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a non-partisan organization created in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to engage the private bar in addressing racial discrimination.
At the New Frontier Awards ceremony, Caroline Kennedy will present Balderas and Simon each with a ship’s navigational compass in a wooden box bearing the inscription: “We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier….I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier.” – John F. Kennedy.
The New Frontier Awards are named after President Kennedy's bold challenge to Americans given in his acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention on July 15, 1960:
We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier…a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils -- a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats. The New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises -- it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook -- it holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security…. Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. It would be easier to shrink back from that frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past, to be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric…but I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier.
A distinguished bipartisan committee of political and community leaders selected Balderas and Simon based on their contributions to the public and their embodiment of the forward-looking public idealism to which President Kennedy hoped young Americans would aspire. Past recipients of the New Frontier Awards include: Patrick Murphy, U.S. Representative, 8th District of Pennsylvania; Rebecca Onie, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Health Leads (formerly Project HEALTH); Cory A. Booker, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey; Giovanna Negretti, co-founder and Executive Director of the Boston-based non-profit ¿Oiste?; Jay Williams, Mayor of Youngstown, Ohio; Zainab Salbi, Founder and CEO of Women for Women International; Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles City Council President; Jane Leu, Founder of Upwardly Global; Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General; Kica Matos, Program Executive for Reconciliation and Human Rights, The Atlantic Philanthropies and former Executive Director of JUNTA; Karen Carter, Louisiana State Representative; and Wendy Kopp, Founder and CEO of Teach for America.
The 2010 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards Committee was chaired by David McKean, CEO, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, and former U.S. Senator John C. Culver, interim director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Committee members are: Ranny Cooper, President & COO, Weber Shandwick Public Affairs and former Chief of Staff for Senator Edward M. Kennedy; Dan Fenn, former member of President John F. Kennedy’s staff and former Director of the John F. Kennedy Library; Tina Flournoy, Assistant to the President for Public Policy, American Federation of Teachers; Carol Fulp, Sr. Vice President, Brand Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility, John Hancock Financial Services; Vivien Li, Executive Director, The Boston Harbor Association; Kica Matos, Program Executive and head, U.S. Program, Reconciliation and Human Rights, The Atlantic Philanthropies and recipient, 2005 New Frontier Award; Rick Musiol, Chief of Staff, Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray; The Honorable Doug Palmer, former Mayor, Trenton, NJ (1990-2010); Jim Ramstad, former Member, U.S. House of Representatives (R, MN - 03; 1991-2009); and Barbara Souliotis, former State Director, Office of Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Harvard University’s Institute of Politics both have their origins in the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Inc., a non-profit corporation that was chartered in Massachusetts on December 5, 1963, to construct and equip the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Massachusetts.
The Kennedy Library Corporation raised more than $20 million for both the construction of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and for the creation and endowment of an institute at Harvard for the study of politics and public affairs. More than 30 million people from around the world, including school children, contributed to the fund.
In 1966, the Kennedy Library Corporation presented Harvard University with an endowment for the creation of the Institute of Politics (IOP). Established as a memorial to President Kennedy, the IOP’s mission is to unite and engage students, particularly undergraduates, with academics, politicians, activists, and policymakers on a non-partisan basis and to stimulate and nurture their interest in public service and leadership. Located at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, the Institute strives to promote greater understanding and cooperation between the academic world and the world of politics and public affairs.
The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation provides financial support, staffing, and creative resources for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, a presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service.