Keillor to Receive National Humanities Medal

"I am eighty percent certain that this award is a joke and when I show up in my tux to accept it, guys will jump out of the bushes and yell "Snookered!" but that's okay, and if it's for real, even better. How else would I get to meet August Wilson?"

   -Garrison Keillor

WASHINGTON - President William J. Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will award the 1999 National Humanities Medal to eight distinguished Americans at a special ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday, Sept. 29, at 11 a.m. A White House dinner in honor of the recipients will be held that evening.

"The 1999 National Humanities Medalists are distinguished individuals who have set the highest standards for American cultural achievement," said William R. Ferris, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which sponsors the award. "They are gifted people with extraordinary powers of creativity and vision, and their work in preserving, interpreting and expanding the nation's cultural heritage represents an incalculable public service. I am delighted to announce this year's recipients."

The 1999 National Humanities Medal recipients are:

Patricia M. Battin (Washington, D.C.)
librarian who has organized and led a national campaign to save millions of disintegrating books published between 1850 and 1950; galvanized congressional support for a national program to microfilm these brittle books, thereby preserving their content as a significant part of the record of American civilization.

Taylor Branch (Baltimore, Md.)
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and journalist whose books have earned him the reputation as a national authority on Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
One of the nation's preeminent scholars of the New South; founder and director of the Southern Oral History Project at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, which is shaping scholarship, education and public programs about the contemporary South.

Garrison Keillor (St. Paul, Minn)
Creator, writer and host of Minnesota Public Radio's weekly variety program, A Prairie Home Companion; host of The Writer's Almanac, a five-minute radio program about literature broadcast daily on stations throughout the nation; author of several bestselling books.

Jim Lehrer (Washington, D.C.)
Journalist' editor and anchor of The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, public television's awared-winning nightly news program; author of novels, plays and memoirs.

John Rawls (Lexington, Mass.)
One of the 20th century's most influential political philosophers, widely read among political scientists, economists and legal theorists for his views on justice, basic rights and equal opportunity; author of A Theory of Justice (1971) and Political Liberalism(1993).

Steven Spielberg (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Acclaimed filmmaker who has brought history and literature to life for millions of Americans; producer and/or director of Academy Award-winning films Saving Private Ryan (1998), Amistad (1997), Schindler's List (1993) and The Color Purple (1985).

August Wilson (Seattle, Wash.)
Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (The Piano,1990, and Fences , 1987) whose plays present an epic story of the black experience in America over the course of a century; influential promoter of the advancement and preservation of black theater and performing arts.

The National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens' engagement with the humanities. The humanities carry the voices of one generation to the next through history, literature, philosophy, religion, languages, archaeology and related subjects that make up the record of human civilization

Recipients of the National Humanities Medal are selected by the President of the United States. Annually the National Endowment for the Humanities assists in the selection process by soliciting nominations for the medal from the humanities community. These nominations are first reviewed by the National Council on the Humanities NEH's presidentially appointed board of advisors. The NEH chairman then selects a list of the most highly qualified candidates, whose names are then forwarded to the White House for final consideration by the President.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1965, is the largest funder of humanities programs in the United States. NEH awards grants that create and preserve knowledge, enrich classroom learning, expand humanities content on the Internet, and bring ideas to life through public television and radio, museum exhibitions, and programs in libraries and other community places.

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