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From the National Coalition for History column of the April 2011 issue of Perspectives on History

News Briefs, April 2011

Lee White, April 2011

Former-Representative Harman Named to Head Wilson Center

Former-Representative Jane Harman (D-CA) was recently named president, CEO, and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars by the Center’s Board of Trustees. Harman assumed her new duties on February 28. She succeeds former Congressman Lee H. Hamilton who stepped down in November 2010 after leading the institution for nearly 12 years.

Representative Harman has represented California’s 36th Congressional district in Los Angeles’ South Bay since 1993. During her tenure, Harman has focused her attention on counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence matters. As a member of the House Intelligence Committee for eight years—the final four as Ranking Member—Harman helped shape Congress’ policy response to the 9/11 attacks and played a lead role in the creation and passage of the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004. She currently serves as Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence.

2010 National Humanities Medals Awarded

On March 2, President Barack Obama presented the 2010 National Humanities Medals to 10 individuals honored for their outstanding achievements in history, literature, education, and cultural policy. The medalists are: authors Wendell E. Berry, Joyce Carol Oates, and Philip Roth; historians Bernard Bailyn and Gordon S. Wood; literary scholars Daniel Aaron, Roberto González Echevarría, and Arnold Rampersad; cultural historian Jacques Barzun; and legal historian and higher education policy expert Stanley Nider Katz.

The National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.

The official citations honoring the medalists are:

Daniel Aaron for his contributions to American literature and culture. As the founding president of the Library of America, he helped preserve our nation’s heritage by publishing America’s most significant writing in authoritative editions.

Bernard Bailyn for illuminating the nation’s early history and pioneering the field of Atlantic history. Bailyn, who spent his career at Harvard, has won two Pulitzer Prizes, the first for The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, and the second for Voyagers to the West.

Jacques Barzun for his distinguished career as a scholar, educator, and public intellectual. One of the founders of the field of cultural history, Barzun taught at Columbia University for five decades and has written and edited more than thirty books.

Wendell E. Berry for his achievements as a poet, novelist, farmer, and conservationist. The author of more than forty books, Berry has spent his career exploring our relationship with the land and the community.

Roberto González Echevarría for his contributions to Spanish and Latin American literary criticism. His path-breaking Myth and Archive: A Theory of Latin American Narrative is the most cited scholarly work in Hispanic literature. González Echevarría teaches at Yale University.

Stanley Nider Katz for a career devoted to fostering public support for the humanities. As director of the American Council of Learned Societies for more than a decade, he expanded the organization’s programs and helped forge ties between libraries, museums, and foundations.

Joyce Carol Oates for her contributions to American letters. The author of more than fifty novels, as well as short stories, poetry, and non-fiction, Oates has been honored with the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Short Story.

Arnold Rampersad for his work as a biographer and literary critic. His award-winning books have profiled W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Jackie Robinson, and Ralph Ellison. He has also edited critical editions of the works of Richard Wright and Langston Hughes.

Philip Roth for his contributions to American letters. Roth is the author of twenty-four novels, including Portnoy’s Complaint and American Pastoral, which won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize. His criticism has appeared in American Poetry Review and The New York Times Book Review.

Gordon S. Wood for scholarship that provides insight into the founding of the nation and the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. Wood is author and editor of eighteen books, including The Radicalism of the American Revolution, for which he earned a Pulitzer Prize.

The medals, first awarded as the Charles Frankel Prize in 1989, were presented during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. After the ceremony, the medalists and their families and friends joined the President and Michelle Obama for a reception in their honor.

Since 1996, when the first National Humanities Medal was given, 125 individuals have been honored, inclusive of this year’s awardees. Nine organizations also received medals. A complete list of previous honorees is available at: www.neh.gov/whoweare/nationalmedals.html.

Lee White is the executive director of the National Coalition for History. He can be reached at lwhite@historycoalition.org.