[youtube width=”640″ height=”375″]http://youtube.com/watch?v=CRfuEBj6WDk[/youtube]
In 2008, Ocean Robbins, along with his wife and colleague Michele, received two of the nation’s most prestigious awards. Remarkably, one of these awards came from one of the country’s foremost centers of progressive change, while the other came from a center of established power. 1) Freedom’s Flame Award: Each year, the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute in conjunction with 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference sponsors the Bridge Crossing Jubilee. The Jubilee takes place at the foot of Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, and is a celebration and commemoration of the right to vote and the march from Selma to Montgomery. Each year, 30,000 people gather on the bridge to commemorate “Bloody Sunday” — the historic bridge crossing march in 1965 that was blocked by violence, yet ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights act. A feature of the Jubilee is the giving of the Freedom’s Flame awards. According to the Jubilee’s website (www.thebridgecrossingjubilee.org), the giving of the Freedom’s Flame awards “is the Jubilee’s most prestigious event. The 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference join with the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute to honor the keepers of the flame of freedom.” In 2008, Ocean Robbins and his wife Michele Robbins were honored as winners of the “Couple of the Movement” Freedom’s Flame award. They received the award in Selma, Alabama, on March 8, at a gala reception and dinner attended by many celebrities and heroes of the civil rights movement, on the eve of the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee. Michele and Ocean are the first white people ever to receive this award. The first winners of the Freedom’s Flame “couple of the movement” were Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Corretta Scott King. 2) The Jefferson Awards for Public Service were established in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Senator Robert Taft, Jr., and several prominent philanthropists. The goal, according to the Jefferson Awards website, was “to create a Nobel Prize for public and community service… to encourage and honor individuals for their achievements and contributions through public and community service.” Each year, four national awards are given, one in each of four categories. The board of the Jefferson Awards prides themselves on being nonpartisan, and the recipients over the years have been leaders who cross the entire range of the political spectrum. The winners of these awards have included many of the most prominent and influential people in the nation today (including, just to name a smattering, Colin Powell, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Ralph Nader, Walter Cronkite, Bob Hope, Jimmy Carter, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill and Melinda Gates.) See a list of the past winners of the Jefferson Awards. One of the four categories is Greatest Public Service by an Individual 35 Years or Younger. Previous winners in this category have included Max Cleland, Faith Hill, Lance Armstrong, and Peyton Manning. In 2008, Ocean Robbins was the winner in this category. The black-tie awards ceremony took place in Washington, DC, on June 17. The ceremony was attended by more than sixty members of the U.S. Senate. Ocean Robbins’ remarks prepared for his acceptance speech can be found on his blog.