The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation Annual Dinner was held at the Capitol Hill Club on June 3, 2019 in Washington, D.C. The Annual Dinner brought together Ford Family members, Foundation Trustees, Ford Administration Alumni and ‘Friends of Ford’ from throughout the country. The Foundation presented former Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill with the 2019 Gerald R. Ford Medal for Distinguished Public Service. They also presented the 32nd Annual Gerald R. Ford Journalism Awards for Distinguished Reporting in 2018.
O’Neill was appointed the 72nd secretary of the Treasury Department in 2001 by President George W. Bush. O’Neill started his career in government service under President John F. Kennedy and continued working under Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Ford. Under the former administrations, he acted as a computer systems analyst from 1961-1967 for the U.S. Veterans Administration and as a staff member and deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1967-1977. After working with the OMB, O’Neill left the government to pursue business interests in the private sector. O’Neill came to the Treasury Department following several years of experience as chairman and CEO of aluminum giant Alcoa.
“Through his tenure as a public servant and as a leader in the private sector, Secretary O’Neill has demonstrated personal and professional qualities making him a worthy recipient of the President Gerald R. Ford Medal for Distinguished Public Service,” said Mike Ford. “Dad always had the highest regard for Secretary O’Neill and his ability to keep our nation’s finances in check while serving as deputy director for the Office of Management and Budget, and later as secretary of the Treasury.”
“During his many years of government service, Secretary O’Neill exhibited the very qualities we deeply admire with respect to President Ford,” said Carla A. Hills. “He devoted much of his life to serving the American people through public service positions and was dedicated to making a difference while he served.”
The Annual Dinner also featured a special live performance of ‘Victors of Characters’. The live performance was commissioned by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and written by Grand Valley State University professor and playwright, Dr. Allison Manville Metz. Based on a true story, the play tells the story of a young Gerald Ford who, as a student and athlete at the University of Michigan, witnessed the heartache and division caused by racial discrimination when his best friend, Willis Ward, was benched from a game against Georgia Tech because of the Jim Crow laws of the south. The play allows the audience to experience not only the events of 1934, but also to learn how this experience shaped both Ford and Ward as leaders later in life.
Additionally, Trustee Carla A. Hills presented the 32nd Annual Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prize Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency and on National Defense.
Molly Ball from Time Magazine received the Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency Award for her coverage of President Donald J. Trump’s second year in office.
The award judges, comprised of journalism and academic experts in areas of the presidency and national defense, said Ball’s reporting, “shed valuable light on the tumult surrounding the president’s year, including a vivid account of Mr. Trump’s relationship with Republican leaders in Congress, a lengthy exclusive interview with Attorney General Sessions, and a close look at the strategic moves of the Trump Legal Team.”
Hills also presented the 31st Annual Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense in 2018 to Jenna McLaughlin and Zach Dorfman from Yahoo! News. Erika Ritchie from Orange County Register also received an honorable mention for Reporting on National Defense.
“Their (McLaughlin and Dorfman) stories on the challenges U.S. defense and intelligence agencies face in maintaining technological leadership at a time when cybersecurity threats change by the day, illuminated the need for creativity and perseverance in an era when state and non-state adversaries can inflict great harm to U.S. personnel and interests at levels below direct armed conflict,” the judges said. “Their efforts challenge readers to evaluate and weigh the consequences of activity in an often unseen realm of national security and force us to consider the commitments required to safeguard the values of free societies.”
Ritchie was selected for an Honorable Mention by judges for representing “the kind of local, hard-nosed reporting that results from the development of trusted relationships with the military personnel in your community. Her work is distinguished by putting a local face to broad issues facing the defense community, such as women in military combat jobs, the increasing number of fatalities from military training accidents and the government’s response to the trend, and the need to reintegrate and train military personnel for jobs in the civilian workforce following service. ”
Trustee Steve Ford, delivered the Invocation. Sergeant First Class Alvy Powell (Ret.) accompanied by Pianist Dan Campolieta closed the event by singing a musical medley.