The Presidential Citizens Medal will be awarded to 13 people for a dozen programs, it was announced by a White House spokesman. The annual award honors Americans who have “performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.” Past recipients have included some of America’s most respected public figures, as well as everyday heroes committed to helping their fellow citizens.
This year, President Barack Obama asked the public to submit nominees, hoping to recognize exemplary citizens and local heroes who have significantly impacted their communities but who might not have garnered national attention. The recipients are:
Steve and Liz Alderman from Armonk, N.Y.: After they lost their son, Peter, in the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001, the couple founded the Peter C. Alderman Foundation. The foundation works to heal the emotional wounds of victims of terrorism and mass violence by establishing clinics in post-conflict countries including Cambodia, Uganda, Rwanda, and Haiti. The Aldermans received the Citizens Medal for aiding the victims of conflict who might otherwise go unaided.
Clarence Lee Alexander, Fort Yukon, Alaska: Sometimes called the “grandfather of tribal government” in Alaska for his long-held role as Chief of Fort Yukon, Clarence Alexander has worked extensively to clean up the Yukon River, resulting in the closure of numerous open-burning dumps and the removal or recycling of millions pounds of waste. Alexander received the Citizens Medal for demonstrating how much good a dedicated leader can accomplish.
Camilla Bloomquist, Penn Yan, N.Y.: For more than 30 years, Milly Bloomquist has created and operated numerous programs to help the poor and underserved in Penn Yan, N.Y. She founded Food for the Needy and Christmas for the Needy, and recently implemented the Weekend Backpack Program in Yates County, which provides children free meals at their schools. Bloomquist received the Citizens Medal for her lifelong commitment to serving those in need.
Judith Broder, Studio City, Calif.: In 2004, Judith Broder created The Soldiers Project, which has worked to meet the mental health needs of service members, their families, and returning veterans. The Soldiers Project seeks to decrease the disruptive effects of repeated deployments, enhance post-deployment transition and re-integration, and mitigate suffering related to PTSD, TBI, substance abuse, domestic violence, and depression. Broder received the Citizens Medal for her dedication to those who serve this country.
Vijaya Emani, Strongsville, Ohio: Vijaya Emani became a role model for victims of domestic abuse because of her strength and determination in overcoming domestic abuse in her own life. She broke a long held taboo in the Indian American community by speaking out publically about the issue. Although she was killed in a tragic vehicle accident, her example and message live on. Emani posthumously received the Citizens Medal for her courage in overcoming and speaking out against abuse.
John Keaveney, Los Angeles, Calif.: In 1992, John Keaveney, a Vietnam combat veteran, founded New Directions, a home for homeless and disabled veterans with addiction and mental health problems. Keaveney overcame personal struggles and turned his life around during the 1980s. He decided that no veteran who asked for help should suffer what he did. When he began his program, he made a promise that no veteran would leave it unless he had a suit, a place to stay, and an income. Keaveney received the Citizens Medal for ensuring that America keeps its promises to veterans.
Roger Kemp, Leawood, Kan.: Roger Kemp faced the ultimate parent’s nightmare when his daughter Ali, 19, was killed by a predator in the summer of 2002. In response, Kemp created The Ali Kemp Defense Education (TAKE) Foundation. Inspired by his belief that his daughter could have survived if she had an edge on her attackers, TAKE has trained more than 46,000 women in self-defense. Kemp received the Citizens Medal for working to empower young women to prevent themselves from becoming victims.
Janice Langbehn, Lacey, Wash.: While on vacation with her family in February 2007, Janice Langbehn’s partner, Lisa Pond, suddenly fell ill and was rushed to the hospital. Langbehn was refused access to her partner, who had experienced a brain aneurysm and later died alone. She filed a federal lawsuit and her story received attention from President Obama, who went on to revise hospital visitation rights for gay and lesbian couples for hospitals receiving federal Medicare or Medicaid funds. Langbehn received the Citizens Medal for her efforts to ensure all Americans are treated equally.
Ida Martin, Bluffton, S.C.: Ida Martin created Bluffton Self Help to assist working families, disabled residents, and senior citizens in the Bluffton, S.C., area when they suffered a financial crisis. In 2010 alone, Bluffton Self Help provided food to 11,600 people and clothing to almost 9,000 people. Additionally, Bluffton Self Help provided families with short-term emergency financial assistance toward housing and utility assistance, medical assistance, or children’s program assistance. Martin received the Citizens Medal for providing relief to many in moments of despair.
Margaret Martin, Los Angeles, Calif.: After observing LA gang members stop at a Hollywood market to listen to a kid playing Brahms on a small violin, she founded the Harmony Project in 2001 to make quality arts education available to those in the most underserved, gang-reduction zones of Los Angeles. The organization has provided instruments and tuition-free music lessons to thousands of children in Los Angeles who would otherwise have no access to classical music. Martin received the Citizens Medal for replacing violence in children’s lives with music.
Michelle McIntyre-Brewer, Jefferson, Md.: Michelle McIntyre-Brewer is a military spouse, mother and founder of Soldier’s List. She founded Soldier’s List in 2003 to support high-risk service members and their families. Soldier’s List has sent tens of thousands of care packages around the world providing critical medical relief. McIntyre-Brewer works diligently with the military community to educate families about their rights and responsibilities within Tricare and other services offered. McIntyre-Brewer received the Citizens Medal for going above and beyond on behalf of our troops and their families.
Roberto Perez, Miami, Fla.: As President of Alfalit, a nonprofit organization combating illiteracy, Roberto Perez has led the charge for fighting illiteracy from Africa to South America. The organization has helped 7 million people learn to read in 22 countries. Perez previously worked as a social worker and as an ordained Methodist Pastor counseling prison inmates and recovering alcoholics. Perez received the Citizens Medal for his passion and work on behalf of the less fortunate around the globe.