Next week, former Gov. Madeleine Kunin will be honored by the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill (ERVK) for her years of service to women, children and community.
Though less of a shock than Obama's win, it's perhaps no less an honor to win a medal named for the former First Lady. Sure, it's not the Nobel, but the award — named for First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt — has a pretty distinguished list of winners, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Christopher Reeve, Barbara Jordan, Pete Seeger and Queen Noor of Jordan.
"I am honored, especially to step one toe into the footsteps of Eleanor Roosevelt. My mother read her column 'My Day' every day and I read it over her shoulder," Kunin told Seven Days. "When asked once who my role models were Eleanor Roosevelt is at the top of the list because she led such an active life fighting for social justice."Kunin, a three-term Democratic governor, is one of just four recipients this year of the prestigious medal.
"Governor Kunin is being recognized for her inspiring and energetic leadership and commitment to the principles that Mrs. Roosevelt championed for women, children and community," said the center in announcing the award.
The co-chair of the center's medal committee is Marc VanderHeyden, the former president of St. Michael's College.
Along with Kunin, VanderHeyden said this year's winners reflect a range of activities that Roosevelt would champion today.
“Her efforts to help those in need, to inspire the next generation, to encourage those in power and to be a 'light in the darkness' are reflected in the honorees this year,” said VanderHeyden, who is also an ERVK board member.
In honoring Kunin, the center said of Vermont's first female governor:
Hon. Madeleine Kunin is a former governor of Vermont and Ambassador to Switzerland. She is the first woman in U.S. history to be re-elected governor three times. Governor Kunin is being recognized for her inspiring and energetic leadership and commitment to the principles that Mrs. Roosevelt championed for women, children and community. Most noteworthy are Governor Kunin’s actions to improve the quality of education, creating early education programs for low-income children and establishing statewide kindergarten programs for all public schools. Additionally she protected the environment by establishing programs to protect open spaces and farm land, helping to retain Vermont’s distinctive rural character.
Aside from Kunin, this year's awards are being given to the Anderson Center for Autism, architect Jeh Johnson and Judith S. Kaye, former chief judge of New York state. The award honors organizations and individuals who have lived the values Eleanor Roosevelt espoused in her public life.
The public is invited to the medal ceremony at the Eleanor Roosevelt Historic Site in Hyde Park, NY, where the center is located. Tickets are $175 and all proceeds are used to fund the center's activities. For information about attending, contact the center.