For Immediate Release: November 21, 2011
Rachel Flor, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, (617) 514-1662
Esten Perez, Institute of Politics, (617) 496-4009
Cambridge, MA - Caroline Kennedy today will present the eighth annual John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards to Luke Ravenstahl, Mayor of Pittsburgh, PA and Jennifer Staple-Clark, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Unite for Sight. The awards will be presented at 6:00 p.m. this evening during a ceremony at the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government [watch live webcast].
“In a time of great economic challenge, Luke Ravenstahl is helping to lead the transformation of Pittsburgh’s economy to create a sustainable future for all its citizens. Jennifer Staple-Clark is mobilizing thousands of ordinary people all over the world to conquer the problem of unnecessary blindness. They both are inspiring public servants who exemplify my father’s belief that every person can make a difference,” said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Chair of the Senior Advisory Committee for Harvard’s Institute of Politics.
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.
Mayor, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Fenn Award Recipient
In 2003, at the age of 23, Luke Ravenstahl became the youngest person ever elected to the Pittsburgh City Council. In 2005, he became City Council president, and ten months later, after the untimely death of then-mayor Bob O’Connor, Ravenstahl was sworn in as Pittsburgh’s 58th mayor. He was 26 years old, and Pittsburgh was on the brink of bankruptcy.
Now 31, Ravenstahl has worked to shepherd Pittsburgh through a challenging economic climate made worse by a declining population and a shrinking tax base. He has pursued funds for economic development, streamlined city services and made cuts to the city’s work force. Through 2010, Pittsburgh posted a year-end surplus in each of the four consecutive years after Ravenstahl took office, and the city has improved its bond rating several times since his election.
Ravenstahl has championed the transformation and modernization of Pittsburgh’s economy from one dominated by the struggling steel industry to one anchored by education, health care, and “green” industries. In 2010, he announced plans to increase the city’s sustainability and encouraged residents to follow “green” practices outlined in a city-provided guidebook.
Ravenstahl has supported key reforms in Pittsburgh’s public schools, including a landmark $40 million grant from the Gates Foundation aimed at maximizing teacher effectiveness. He also co-founded the Pittsburgh Promise, a scholarship fund launched in 2008 and supported by corporate and philanthropic pledges. The fund promises Pittsburgh public school students up to $40,000 to pursue higher education.
Luke Ravenstahl received his B.A. in Business Administration from Washington and Jefferson College in 2002.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Unite for Sight
In 2000, then a 19-year-old sophomore at Yale, Jennifer Staple-Clark took a summer work position as a clinical researcher of glaucoma in the office of her childhood ophthalmologist in New Haven, Connecticut. She was shocked by what she saw there: scores of low-income and homeless patients whose glaucoma had needlessly progressed into blindness. Over and over, she would hear the regret of patients who wished they had visited an eye doctor sooner. She felt compelled to do something.
Staple-Clark formulated two main objectives: educating people about eye disease, and assisting the less-fortunate in obtaining affordable or free eye care. She started Unite for Sight, and began sending college volunteers into the New Haven community to educate people about the importance of regular eye exams and the availability of free screening programs. Within a couple of years, Staple-Clark expanded the model to other universities across the country. Unite for Sight now supports over 1,000 volunteers in more than 50 university chapters throughout North America, each of whom serves as a community advocate for underserved patients.
Staple-Clark then envisioned and brought to fruition partnerships with local ophthalmologists in Africa, Asia and Latin America to coordinate outreach to rural communities for patients unable to find or afford eye care. Unite for Sight now provides vehicles to transport patients, offers grants to hire additional nurses, and pays the clinic bills for those who can't. It also trains volunteers to assist international medical professionals by administering eye tests and distributing medications.
In addition to its direct work in communities around the world, Unite for Sight has become a leading voice in the field of global health. It convenes an annual conference of more than 2,200 thought leaders, change-makers and practitioners from across the spectrum of international development, public health and social entrepreneurship. Participants come from all 50 states and more than 55 countries to share ideas and best practices.
To date, Unite for Sight has provided eye care for more than 1.2 million people, including nearly 50,000 sight-restoring surgeries. Jennifer Staple-Clark holds a B.A. from Yale University.
At the New Frontier Awards ceremony, Caroline Kennedy will present Ravenstahl and Staple-Clark 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 Ravenstahl and Staple-Clark 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: Hector Balderas, New Mexico Auditor; Lateefah Simon, Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of San Francisco; Patrick Murphy, former U.S. Representative, 8th District of Pennsylvania; Rebecca Onie, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Health Leads; Cory A. Booker, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey; Giovanna Negretti, co-founder and Executive Director of the Boston-based non-profit ¿Oiste?; Jay Williams, Director of Office of Recovery for Autoworkers and Communities; 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 and Head of U.S.. Program, Reconciliation and Human Rights, The Atlantic Philanthropies; Karen Carter, Louisiana State Senator; and Wendy Kopp, Founder and CEO of Teach for America.
The 2011 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards Committee was chaired by Tom McNaught, Executive Director, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, and Trey Grayson, Director, 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; Kristin McSwain, Chief of Program Operations, Corporation for National and Community Service; Rick Musiol, Senior Vice President and Director of Public Affairs, Citizens Bank of Massachusetts; The Honorable Doug Palmer, former Mayor, Trenton, NJ (1990-2010); 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 to inspire them to consider careers in politics and public service. 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.