The Ridenhour Courage Prize

2020 / Denis Hayes

2020 / Denis Hayes

As president of the Bullitt Foundation, Denis leads an effort to mold the major cities of Pacific Northwest and British Columbia into models of sustainability for a rapidly urbanizing planet. The Foundation applies ecological principles to the design of healthy, resilient human ecosystems.

2019 / George Soros

2019 / George Soros

George Soros, who has dedicated his life to promoting the values of open society, human rights, and transparency around the world, is the 2019 recipient of The Ridenhour Courage Prize.

2018 / Tarana Burke

2018 / Tarana Burke

Tarana Burke, who popularized the phrase “me too” as a way to empathize with sexual assault survivors more than a decade ago, is the 2018 recipient of The Ridenhour Courage Prize. Burke is a longtime social justice activist who, in 2006, co-founded Just Be Inc, a youth organization focused on the health, well-being, and wholeness of young women of color.

2017 / Anna Deavere Smith

2017 / Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith has spoken out fearlessly on unpopular truths, and through her art and her unique and distinguished body of work she has advanced public understanding and social progress on issues of fundamental importance, in her distinctive work she has addressed social and civil unrest, confronted racial stereotypes and documented changes in racial identity, sexual politics, and multiculturalism. By combining elements of stagecraft, journalism, storytelling, social commentary, and personal observation, Smith has redefined the role of the artist as an engaged citizen and communicator.

2016 / Jamie Kalven

2016 / Jamie Kalven

Jamie Kalven played a central role in exposing what really happened the night Laquan McDonald was killed. In reporting that appeared ten months before the fateful release of the video footage, he challenged the official account of the shooting by police, having secured the autopsy report that revealed the 17-year-old had been shot sixteen times and located a civilian eyewitness.

2015 / James Risen

2015 / James Risen

James Risen, author and New York Times investigative journalist, is the recipient of the 2015 Ridenhour Courage Prize. Risen is credited for his bold and forthright reporting shedding light on government abuses and his refusal to betray his sources in the face of overwhelming pressure and legal intimidation by the Bush and Obama administrations.

2014 / Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr.

2014 / Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr.

Formally known as the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, the Church Committee was formed in 1975 in the wake of the Watergate scandal to investigate illegal intelligence gathering by federal agencies including the CIA, the FBI and the NSA. Chaired by Frank Church (D-ID), Schwarz acted as its chief counsel. The committee revealed shocking activities such as the CIA hiring the Mafia to help in its attempts to assassinate Cuba’s Fidel Castro, and, for 30 years, that the NSA received copies of most telegrams leaving the United States.

2013 / James Hansen

2013 / James Hansen

Over the decades since, Hansen has used his stature as NASA’s top climate scientist to convincingly argue that climate change is the work of humans, and that “global warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening.”

2012 / Rep. John Lewis

2012 / Rep. John Lewis

Often called “one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced,” John Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls “The Beloved Community” in America. His dedication to the highest ethical standards and moral principles has won him the admiration of many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the United States Congress.

2011 / U.S. Senator Russ Feingold

2011 / U.S. Senator Russ Feingold

Russell Dana “Russ” Feingold has spent nearly three decades serving the people of Wisconsin, first as a State Senator from 1983 – 1993, then as a three-term U.S. Senator from 1993 until the end of 2010. Feingold was a different kind of legislator—more committed to progressive principles than to a party, an internationalist who opposed free-trade deals because they served multinational corporations rather than multinational communities, a stalwart defender of the Constitution whose commitment to civil liberties and belief that wars be declared by Congress led him to stand alone against presidents and colleagues.

2010 / Howard Zinn

2010 / Howard Zinn

An inveterate activist, Zinn protested segregation and the Vietnam War; he warned of the perils of blind nationalism in the years after 9/11 and railed against U.S. intervention in the Middle East and around the globe. His scholarly and political work embodied his belief that “to be neutral and to be passive is to collaborate with whatever is going on.”

2009 / Bob Herbert

2009 / Bob Herbert

The champion of the under-reported story, Herbert brings moral clarity and a sense of outrage to his ongoing depiction of injustice. Whether he is exposing abuses of power, complacency in the face of urgent need or the enduring racial divide, Herbert’s columns form the moral center of American journalism.

2008 / Bill Moyers

2008 / Bill Moyers

The 2008 Ridenhour Courage Prize is awarded to Bill Moyers in recognition of his fierce embrace of the public interest and his advocacy of media pluralism. Throughout his distinguished broadcast career, Moyers has contributed an unyielding moral voice to our national discourse. In the face of political and institutional opposition, he has fought tenaciously on behalf of open debate and liberal values, and against the corporate takeover of culture and information that actively threatens to weaken our democracy.

2007 / President Jimmy Carter

2007 / President Jimmy Carter

For more than a quarter of a century, Jimmy Carter has leveraged the prestige and influence he earned as the 39th President of the United States to carry out his celebrated commitment to peace, human rights, environmental quality, freedom, and democracy.

2006 / Gloria Steinem

2006 / Gloria Steinem

The Ridenhour Courage Prize is given to an individual in recognition of a life-long defense of the public interest and a passion for social justice. Gloria Steinem’s first, most notable act as a feminist was as a journalist. In April 1969, Steinem published “After Black Power, Women’s Liberation” in New York Magazine.

2005 / Seymour M. Hersh

2005 / Seymour M. Hersh

In 2004, Hersh exposed the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in a series of pieces in the magazine; early in 2005, he was awarded the National Press Foundation’s W.M. Kiplinger Distinguished Contributions to Journalism Award and received his fifth George Polk award, making him that award’s most honored laureate.

2004 / Daniel Ellsberg

2004 / Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg is best known for leaking a 7,000-page document, which became known as the Pentagon Papers, which revealed that victory in Vietnam was far from certain, despite government assurances to the contrary. The publication of the Pentagon Papers in the New York Times and the Washington Post was a turning point in public opinion against the war.