Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The New Frontier Award

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the Institute for Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, I received the New Frontier Award, presented by the Institute along with the Kennedy Library Foundation. The award is given to Americans under the age of 40 for demonstrating leadership in their communities.

I was honored along with Jane Leu, the founder and executive director of Upwardly Global, which helps refugees and immigrants from developing countries find employment in the United States.

Caroline Kennedy and Senator Teddy Kennedy presented the awards in a ceremony at the Kennedy School. It was a tremendous honor, and I am most grateful to the community that I serve and the staff that helps me serve you. All of the work that was recognized in this award was work that we did together.

After the jump, an excerpt from the remarks I gave in accepting the award. My full remarks are online in the "Speeches" section of this website and at the Kennedy Library's site as well.


In 1960, standing in the Los Angeles memorial coliseum, John F. Kennedy accepted his party’s nomination for President of the United States.

In that moment in history, facing west to the pacific, he called upon a nation to join him in his vision for a new American frontier.

But John F. Kennedy also spoke that evening about where he was, a place, in his words, that "was once the last frontier" of this nation.

Today, that last frontier—Los Angeles—is an American gateway, a place where more than 140 languages are spoken, where 20 nations find their largest population outside their countries of origin, and where 43 percent of all the nation’s goods come into the country through our ports.

In L.A., I live in the neighborhood of Echo Park, a beautiful corner of America, close to downtown Los Angeles. Spanish, mandarin, tagalog, and khmer all mix with english on our streets. My neighbors face the same challenges felt by too many Americans these days—can they find an affordable and safe place to live, can their children receive a good public education, and can they find a job that rewards their hard work with decent pay, health care and time off with their families.

But Echo Park and in turn, Los Angeles, is a place of immense promise and hope, a place where the ideals embedded in this award today are played out every day by everyday people.

So today, I come to you from that place John Kennedy described as America’s last frontier, inspired by the call to action, given by a young candidate to a hopeful nation forty-six years ago.

Read the whole thing.