It was announced today that television pioneer and former WTTW Board of Trustees chairman Newton N. Minow will be one of 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. The awards will be presented on Tuesday, November 22 in a ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC, which will be streamed live at whitehouse.gov/live.
President Obama said, “The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation's highest civilian honor – it's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better. From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way.”
“Everyone at WTTW was delighted to learn that this prestigious award is being bestowed on Mr. Minow, a true visionary, longtime friend, and generous mentor to many public media executives over the years,” said WTTW President and CEO Dan Schmidt. “He is a monumental figure in the history of media in America, and I can think of no one who has had a bigger impact on the quality of its content.”
Mr. Minow was recruited to the WTTW Board of Trustees as chairman in 1967, and later served in the same capacity for PBS. During his tenure, WTTW held its first membership drive and won its first Emmy Award. WTTW’s annual Minow Fellowship allows aspiring journalists to gain experience with the Chicago Tonight team, and WTTW and WFMT’s planned giving program, the Newton N. Minow Founders Society, bears his name. WTTW presented a documentary – Newton Minow: An American Story – to PBS stations around the country in 2016.
Along with Mr. Minow, others receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 22 will be: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elouise Cobell (posthumous), Ellen DeGeneres, Robert De Niro, physicist Richard Garwin, Bill and Melinda Gates, architect Frank Gehry, mathematician and computer scientist Margaret H. Hamilton, Tom Hanks, Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (posthumous), Michael Jordan, landscape artist and designer Maya Lin, Lorne Michaels, college president Eduardo Padrón, Robert Redford, Diana Ross, sports broadcaster Vin Scully, Bruce Springsteen, and Cicely Tyson.
Mr. Minow’s distinguished career includes service as Law Clerk to Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson of the U.S. Supreme Court and as Assistant Counsel to Governor Adlai E. Stevenson. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed him Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. During his inaugural address to the National Association of Broadcasters, Mr. Minow famously described television as a “vast wasteland” and called on his colleagues to serve the public interest. An early champion of educational television, he is a critically important figure in the development of public service media. Throughout his distinguished career, Mr. Minow has advocated for high standards in programming, advanced new technologies and expanded choice for viewers. In May 2016, Mr. Minow received the 12th annual “Be more” Award from PBS, celebrating individuals who embody the spirit of helping Americans to discover more, to experience more, and to “Be more.”
Mr. Minow was a partner at Sidley Austin in Chicago when, in 1989, he famously introduced the young summer associate Barack Obama to his future wife, attorney Michelle Robinson.
He and his wife, Josephine (Jo) live in Chicago. They have three daughters, Nell, Martha, and Mary.
About the Presidential Medal of Freedom
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
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