Pennsylvania Congressman and Co-Founder of Project HEALTH Honored by Caroline Kennedy as Recipients of 2009 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards

For Immediate Release: November 23, 2009
Further information: Rachel Day (617) 514-1662,
Esten Perez (617) 496-4009,

Boston, MA - Caroline Kennedy today presented the sixth annual John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards to U.S. Representative Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, the first veteran of the Iraq War to serve in Congress, and Rebecca Onie, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Project HEALTH, a national organization that mobilizes college students to provide assistance to low-income patients at urban hospitals and health centers.  The awards were presented during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. 

“Congressman Murphy and Rebecca Onie are remarkable young leaders who share my father’s belief that one person can make a difference,” 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. “After serving in the military for more than a decade, Congressman Murphy has stepped up to become a leading advocate for men and women in the armed forces. Through Project HEALTH, Rebecca Onie is transforming the treatment of health conditions for low-income patients and encouraging young people to confront one of our nation’s biggest challenges. They both serve as a true inspiration to us all.” 

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 or the Institute of Politics’ website at

Patrick J. Murphy
U.S. Representative, 8th District of Pennsylvania
Fenn Award Recipient
Patrick J. Murphy, 36, became the first Iraq war veteran to serve in the U.S. Congress when he was elected to the House of Representatives in 2006. Since his election, Murphy has become a leader in the debate on Iraq and Afghanistan, and on military and veterans policy. In his first month in Congress, he introduced legislation calling for the responsible withdrawal of troops from Iraq in order to refocus on the fight in Afghanistan.

In July 2009, he became the House leader of a legislative effort to repeal the 1993 “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which prohibits gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals from serving openly in the U.S. Armed Forces. He is a forceful advocate in support of U.S. troops and veterans. He serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee for Intelligence.

Before his election to Congress, Murphy was an active duty military officer in the U.S. Army. Among other roles, he served as a prosecutor, and taught Constitutional law at West Point. After September 11, he volunteered to deploy and subsequently served tours of duty in Bosnia and Baghdad. While in Baghdad, he served as a Captain in the Army’s elite 82nd Airborne Division, and was awarded the Bronze Star for Service.

Patrick Murphy grew up in Northeast Philadelphia, the son of a Philadelphia police officer and a legal secretary. He holds a B.A. from Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and a law degree from Widener Law School.

Rebecca Onie
Co-founder and CEO, Project HEALTH
At the age of 19, Rebecca Onie founded Project HEALTH, a non-profit health agency that seeks to break the link between poverty and poor health. As a volunteer in a pediatric clinic at Boston Medical Center, Onie found that many patients returned to the clinic with recurring illnesses stemming from poor living conditions, inadequate diets, and other consequences of poverty. Onie conceived Project HEALTH to mobilize her peers to help break the cycle. Project HEALTH volunteers – college students who are competitively selected and rigorously trained – serve as patient advocates at hospitals and clinics where patients’ health problems are often traced to or exacerbated by inadequate access to food, housing and other basic needs.

Today, a corps of nearly 600 student volunteers helps low-income patients achieve better health outcomes by filling “prescriptions” for housing, food, heating oil, child care, legal advocacy and other social resources. As volunteers help patients overcome systemic barriers to health, Project HEALTH helps volunteers to develop advocacy and leadership skills. Many Project HEALTH volunteers go on to pursue careers in health and social policy.

Founded in 1996 while Onie was an undergraduate at Harvard, Project HEALTH now operates in six cities and serves more than 4,000 families with volunteers from 10 colleges and universities.

Rebecca Onie, 32, was recently named a recipient of a 2009 MacArthur Fellowship. She holds a B.A. from Harvard College and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

At the New Frontier Awards ceremony, Caroline Kennedy presented Murphy and Onie 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 Murphy and Onie 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: 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 2009 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards Committee was chaired by Bill Purcell, Director, Harvard’s Institute of Politics and former Mayor, Nashville, Tennessee. 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 and Institute of Politics Spring 2009 Fellow; 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 for Reconciliation and Human Rights, The Atlantic Philanthropies and recipient, 2005 New Frontier Award; Tom McNaught, Deputy Director, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Rick Musiol, Chief of Staff, Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray; The Honorable Doug Palmer, Mayor, Trenton, NJ (1990-present); Jim Ramstad, former Member, U.S. House of Representatives (R, MN - 03; 1991-2009) and Institute of Politics Spring 2009 Fellow; and Barbara Souliotis, State Director, Office of Senator Paul G. Kirk, Jr., 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.