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April 15, 2011

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Honors Jim Lehrer, Sandra Day O’Connor and Gordon Wood

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation will present the Churchill Bell on Saturday, April 30 to three outstanding American citizens: journalist Jim Lehrer, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and historian Gordon Wood. The award, the Foundation’s highest, is given to those who exemplify what it means to be active and engaged citizens, building upon the principles of liberty, courage, dignity and devotion to the common good preserved and interpreted by Colonial Williamsburg and through the Foundation’s educational initiatives.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation champions the importance of citizenship and participation in democracy. These are the principles that distinguished Williamsburg during the 18th century and continue to be fundamental to sustaining the United States today. It is this commitment to engagement that ties Colonial Williamsburg with these three honorees, each a former trustee of the Foundation.

“These three outstanding citizens — journalist, jurist and historian — are preeminent in their fields, have served Colonial Williamsburg loyally and exceptionally well, and have made special contributions to the nation reflecting their commitment to fundamental American values that were first articulated in this colonial capital,” said Colin Campbell, president of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “Awarding them the Churchill Bell honors them and inspires those who value Colonial Williamsburg’s educational mission.”

The Churchill Bell, in the shape of a town crier’s bell, is specially handcrafted by Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades. Named after the recipient of the first Williamsburg Award in 1955, Sir Winston Churchill, this is the first time three separate individuals have received the award. Following Churchill’s designation for his leadership and commitment to liberty and freedom, the award has been presented seven other times. Other citizens and recipients of the Bell were hailed for preservation of history and original American art, support of education and young people, and service to government and diplomacy.

The mission of the Foundation transcends the borders of the Historic Area and is extended in the life and work of these distinguished individuals. In addition to serving more than two decades on the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice O’Connor is a leader in the national movement to encourage civic engagement in the nation’s schools. Jim Lehrer encourages public discussion of democratic values and leadership through series such as Dialogues in Democracy, while anchoring the objective and insightful journalism of the PBS NewsHour. Pulitzer Prize winning author Gordon Wood educates beyond his classrooms at Brown University by engaging in speaking events and outreach efforts with the Foundation. Through this continued enlightenment, shed by Churchill Bell recipients and the Foundation, citizens can understand and engage in active democratic participation and thereby sustain the American Experiment.

Prior to the award ceremony, on Saturday afternoon the three honorees will participate in a panel entitled, “The Responsibilities of Citizenship.” The event, moderated by NBC Chief Foreign Affairs correspondent and Colonial Williamsburg Trustee Andrea Mitchell, addresses the state of citizen engagement in the country today. Due to limited seating, the panel discussion will be broadcast online and, during the discussion, Mitchell will take questions posted by Colonial Williamsburg followers on Twitter (@colonialwmsburg).

The Churchill Bells will be presented at a private dinner during a program entitled “Citizens Serving the Public Good” on Saturday evening at the Williamsburg Lodge. Each honoree will receive the Bell from Colonial Williamsburg President Colin Campbell and Chairman of the Board Richard Tilghman. Expected speakers during the evening include Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and historians Barbara Oberg and Michael Beschloss.

Additional Background

The prestigious award is inspired by the Williamsburg Award, presented to former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill on Dec. 7, 1955, in London’s historic Drapers’ Hall by then-Colonial Williamsburg Chairman Winthrop Rockefeller, to honor Mr. Churchill’s leadership and commitment in the cause of liberty and freedom. The Colonial Williamsburg Churchill Bell has been presented seven times since then:

  • Abby M. O’Neill and the members of the Rockefeller family, 1992
  • George V. Grune, Chairman and CEO, and the Employees of the Reader’s Digest Association, 1992
  • Ambassador and Mrs. Walter H. Annenberg,1993
  • Joseph and June Hennage, 1994
  • Bill and Gretchen Kimball, 2000
  • Bob and Marion Wilson, 2002
  • Ann Lee Brown and the late Charles L. Brown, 2004

    2011 Churchill Bell Recipients

    Jim Lehrer, nationally respected as an objective and insightful journalist of the highest integrity, is executive editor and anchor of the award-winning PBS NewsHour. Moderator of 11 presidential debates, he has encouraged informed public discussion of democratic values, including venues such as the “Dialogues in Democracy” series and the World Forum on the Future of Democracy convened in Williamsburg. He served on the Colonial Williamsburg Board of Trustees for 13 years and has chaired Colonial Williamsburg’s Raleigh Tavern Society for more than a decade.

    Sandra Day O’Connor served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States for nearly two decades, the first woman to assume that responsibility. She was a trustee of Colonial Williamsburg for 12 years and an influential advocate of the quality of the Williamsburg experience for families of multiple generations. She is currently the Chancellor of the College of William and Mary. She is a leader of the national movement to encourage civic engagement in the nation’s schools.

    Gordon Wood is a distinguished American historian and professor emeritus at Brown University. He has received extraordinary recognition for his work, including the Bancroft Prize for “The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787” and the Pulitzer Prize for “The Radicalism of the American Revolution.” His latest book, “Empire of Liberty,” was a Pulitzer finalist this year and has received universally high praise. A trustee of Colonial Williamsburg for 12 years, he has been particularly supportive of Colonial Williamsburg’s educational outreach activities and has spoken at numerous events at or on behalf of Colonial Williamsburg. In February of this year, he delivered the opening lecture, “The Revolutionary Origins of the Civil War,” at Colonial Williamsburg’s symposium, “Storm on the Horizon: Slavery, Disunion and the Roots of the Civil War.”

    The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is an interactive not-for-profit educational institution and cultural destination dedicated to the preservation, restoration, interpretation, and presentation of 18th-century Williamsburg, Va. The Foundation’s mission “that the future may learn from the past” extends from within the Historic Area to the first-class Colonial Williamsburg Hotels experience to lecture series in and out of Williamsburg. With the award-winning Revolutionary City®, Colonial Williamsburg demonstrates its undertaking to expand its thought-provoking programming as well as its dedication to cultural and historical authenticity. Guests are invited to be part of the story as they enjoy educational and entertaining programming in the Historic Area and at the Colonial Williamsburg Art Museums; the WILLIAMSBURG brand and shopping experience, offering a variety of home products inspired by the destination; The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg; the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club; fine dining; and the Colonial Williamsburg Hotels.

    Media Contact:
    Barbara Brown
    (757) 220-7280

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