In 1972, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Senator Robert Taft, Jr. and Sam Beard established The Jefferson Awards. The purpose of the Jefferson Awards is to honor individuals for their achievements and contributions through public and community service in order to inspire and encourage others to get involved.
The Jefferson Awards are presented on two levels: national and local. National award recipients represent a "Who's Who" of outstanding Americans. On the local level, Jefferson Awards recipients are ordinary people who do extraordinary things without expectation of recognition or reward.
The national awards are given in five categories:
- Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official
- Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen
- Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged
- Greatest Public Service by an Individual 35 Years or Younger
- Outstanding Public Service Benefiting the Local Community
Past winners of the national award include Jimmy Carter, Walter Chronkite, General Colin Powell, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Oprah Winfrey, Kirk Douglas, Arthur Ashe, Paul Newman, Lance Armstrong, Peyton Manning, Bill & Melinda Gates, among many others.
The Jefferson Awards is the nation's largest media partnership highlighting service to America.
Engage • Train • Measure Impact
From the founding of the Republic, volunteerism and public service have been integral to the American culture and experience. Based on our 40 years of non-partisan support, history and prestige, the Jefferson Awards is uniquely positioned to spread this spirit.
Do you know someone in your neighborhood who's making a difference and deserves recognition?
Nominate a resident for a Jefferson Award by completing this online nomination form.
The selection criteria for the national and local Jefferson Awards winners are parallel.
There are two basic considerations:
- Outstanding Personal Acts
- Community Impact
First, the selectors review acts of courage, vision, dedication, and tenacity. Is there anything outstanding, unique, heroic about the nominee and his or her character?
Second, they review the impact on the community. Public service is about serving people and communities. As the nominee addresses important issues facing local communities or the country, has the nominee had a measurable impact?
Jefferson Awards highlight the "Unsung Heroes." Eligibility includes volunteers as well as paid professionals who go well above and beyond their expected service. "Unsung" means not normally in the media.
CALL TO ACTION – GET INVOLVED
Improve your life and those around you by lending a hand in your community! Select a volunteer matching service below and get started!
You can get involved in the Jefferson Awards in a number of ways:
You can get involved in your local community by volunteering for a local organization:
helps interested volunteers get involved with community service organizations throughout the United States. Volunteers enter their ZIP code to quickly find local volunteer opportunities matching their interests and schedules.
is the premier website on service and volunteering. Users can enter their zip code, city, state, skills, interests, and availability and be matched with organizations needing help. SERVEnet is also a place to search for calendar of events, job openings, service news, recommended books, and best practices.