Mayor of Youngstown, Ohio and Founder of Women for Women International Honored by Caroline Kennedy as Recipients of 2007 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award

For Immediate Release: November 7, 2007 
Further information: Brent R. Carney (617) 514-1662, 
Esten Perez (617) 496-4009,

Boston, MA – Caroline Kennedy today presented the annual John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards to Jay Williams, the youngest and the first African-American Mayor of Youngstown, Ohio and to Zainab Salbi, an Iraqi native and American citizen who founded Women for Women International, a non-profit organization that mobilizes women worldwide to reach out and help women survivors of war.

Williams and Salbi were honored at a luncheon ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

The John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards were created by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Harvard’s Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government 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, and non-elective community service or advocacy demonstrate the impact and the value of public service in the spirit of John F. Kennedy.

“It has never been more important for young Americans to become involved in public service than it is today,” 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. “Jay Williams and Zainab Salbi are remarkable young leaders who share my father’s belief that one person can make a difference, and everyone should try. Today we honor these two outstanding individuals for all they have given back to our country and for the extraordinary examples they set.”

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.

Jay Williams
Mayor, Youngstown, Ohio

Fenn Award Recipient

Jay Williams, 36, made history in November, 2005 when he became the youngest and the first African-American Mayor of Youngstown, Ohio. A former banker who left the corporate world to serve as director of the city’s community development agency, Williams staked his mayoral candidacy on an unusual and politically bold plan to revitalize the city. Once home to 180,000 residents, the population of Youngstown is now half that number, with abandoned homes, storefronts and factories that have stood empty since the once-thriving city lost most of its manufacturing and steel jobs in the 1970’s. Williams won a six-way race with more than 50% of the vote, on a platform that called for the city to acknowledge its diminishing population and poor economic health, and to improve its circumstances not by growing, but by shrinking.

Prior to his election, Williams was a leader in developing and promoting the “Youngstown 2010” citywide planning initiative, which called for restricted development, refurbishment of dilapidated buildings, and demolition of certain neighborhoods to allow for green space. As mayor, Williams has continued to promote this unusual approach to development, which has led local and national observers to call him a visionary leader with an eye to the future. One of Williams’ first official acts as mayor was to funnel surplus funds toward demolition in the city. He has also increased city investment in economic development programs, and has worked to reduce crime by adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward offenders, developing close ties with law enforcement and community and religious leaders to increase education among Youngstown’s poor youth.

Williams was born and raised in Youngstown. He graduated from Youngstown State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.

Zainab Salbi
Founder and CEO

Women for Women International

Zainab Salbi, 38, founded Women for Women International in 1993 to help women in war-torn regions restart their lives in ways that are independent, productive, and secure. The organization connects American women with women in war torn regions through a tiered sponsorship program that begins with direct financial and emotional support, and leads to greater awareness and understanding of women’s rights. Women for Women International also offers vocational and business skills training to women in war-torn and post-conflict societies, and provides access to income-generation support and affordable microcredit loans. To date, the organization has delivered $39 million in aid and microcredit loans to 120,000 women.

A native of Iraq who came to the United States at the age of 19, Salbi’s experience with the Iran-Iraq war sensitized her to the plight of women in wars around the world. She has written and spoken extensively on the use of rape and other forms of violence against women during war.

“Women who survive war are strong, resilient and courageous – they just need some support dealing with the aftermath of conflict,” she has said. “So, we give them the tools they need to help themselves and their families, while providing them with the education to be leaders and advocates in their communities.”

In 2005, Salbi published her memoir, Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing up in the Shadow of Saddam. In 2006, she published her second book, The Other Side of War: Women’s Stories of Survival and Hope. She earned a Master’s Degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2001, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Women’s Studies from George Mason University in 1996.

Kennedy presented Salbi and Williams 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 Salbi and Williams 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: Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles City Council President; Jane Leu, Founder and Executive Director of Upwardly Global; Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General; Kica Matos, Executive Director of JUNTA; Karen Carter, Louisiana State Representative; and Wendy Kopp, Founder and CEO of Teach for America.

The John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards Committee is co-chaired by John Shattuck, CEO, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, former U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic, and former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; and James A. Leach, Director, Harvard’s Institute of Politics and former U.S. Representative (Iowa). Committee members are: Ranny Cooper, President & COO, Weber Shandwick Public Affairs, 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; Carol Fulp, Vice President of Community Relations, John Hancock Financial Services; Elaine C. Kamarck, Lecturer in Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government; Rachel Kaprielian, Member, House of Representatives, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1999 Recipient of the Fenn Award; Alan Khazei, Founder and former CEO, CityYear; Vivien Li, Executive Director, The Boston Harbor Association; and Barbara Souliotis, 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. A living memorial to President John F. Kennedy, Harvard University’s Institute of Politics was created to compliment the work of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum by helping to inspire students, particularly undergraduates, to enter careers in politics and public service, and to promote greater understanding and cooperation between the academic community and the political world.

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.