Eric M. Garcetti, president of the Los Angeles city council, and Jane C. Leu, founder and executive director of Upwardly Global, were each recognized for their contributions to their communities and the country at the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards yesterday.
Garcetti and Leu “represent the best of President Kennedy’s vision of an innovative and idealistic America,” Senator Kennedy said last night, referring to the optimism and hope that he said his brother’s presidency brought to the nation.
The New Frontier Award, which takes its name from an acceptance speech by John F. Kennedy at the 1960 Democratic National Convention, recognizes Americans under 40 years old who embody President Kennedy’s ideals about public service.
The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) co-sponsor the yearly award.
“I think they’re wonderful examples of what President Kennedy was hoping for when he said, ‘Don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,’” IOP Director Jeanne Shaheen said of the recipients after the ceremony.
Garcetti, who represents Los Angeles’ 13th district, consisting of Hollywood and several other communities, was honored with the Dan Fenn Award for his work on environmental issues and affordable housing.
The Dan Fenn Award is given to an elected official while the other New Frontier award is given to someone who exemplifies Kennedy’s ideals in a non-elected position.
Garcetti spearheaded the creation of an affordable housing trust fund of $180 million and directed a campaign to allocate $500 million to repair the city’s storm water system, which had been contaminating city beaches and rivers.
Garcetti praised Kennedy’s ideals. “With his vision of a New Frontier, President Kennedy began to replace America’s fear with hope,” he said. After the speech, Garcetti said “a family that very much believed in the ethic of public service” inspired him to serve the community.
Garcetti and Leu were each presented with a navigational compass in a box inscribed with an excerpt from John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech.
Leu, described as an “inspiring leader” by Caroline Kennedy, was honored for her work in Upwardly Global, the organization that helps college-educated immigrants regain their careers after moving to the United States.
Leu shared anecdotes about her own experiences in helping immigrants from 66 countries overcome the barriers needed to establish professional careers in the United States.
She also stressed the importance of community service.
“People need to realize that your worth is not measured by what is in your bank account,” Leu said, telling students in the audience that “the time to begin your career in public service is now.”
The award, established by John Shattuck, chief executive officer of the JFK Library Foundation, also emphasizes youth involvement in public service.
The awards serve as “a bridge between citizen activism and electoral politics,” he said.
Young people should be taught that a “basic requirement of being an American is giving back to your country,” Garcetti said.