Press Release

The National WWII Museum and Hancock Whitney Present the 2021 American Spirit Awards

American Spirit Awards

NEW ORLEANS (May 17, 2021) – The National WWII Museum is proud to bestow the 2021 American Spirit Award—its highest honor—along with the American Spirit Medallion, Silver Service Medallion and Billy Michal Student Leadership Award to individuals across the country who embody the American spirit through their extraordinary leadership and service. 

The 2021 American Spirit Awards Virtual Celebration presented by Hancock Whitney will be held entirely online on Friday, June 18 with the presentation of the American Spirit Award as the highlight of the evening. This year’s slate of honorees includes two distinguished WWII veterans who have dedicated their postwar careers to service and philanthropy as well as three accomplished literary figures who have advanced the study of American history, particularly related to the legacies of World War II. 

The 2021 American Spirit Award recipients are: 

Richard Duchossois—The former Arlington Park racetrack executive, philanthropist, and entrepreneur is a decorated WWII veteran who served in five European campaigns with the 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion. He has also honorably served as a member of The National WWII Museum’s Board of Trustees from 2013 to 2019.

The Honorable Henry A. Kissinger—Best known for his influence on US foreign policy as the 56th Secretary of State, Kissinger will be presented the American Spirit Award for his lifetime commitment to service, including his WWII service in the 84th Infantry Division and his willingness to volunteer for hazardous duties during the Battle of the Bulge.

Henry Louis Gates Jr., PhD—Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, Harvard professor, acclaimed author and host of Finding Your Roots genealogy series on PBS, Gates will be honored for his literary and cultural contributions, especially in lifting up African American voices to more deeply inform the story of the American experience.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, PhD—Presidential historian and best-selling author of books such as the Pulitzer-winning No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt - The Home Front in World War II, Goodwin will be recognized for her exploration of how presidential leadership has shaped our nation’s history.

Victor Davis Hanson, PhD—As one of America’s preeminent military historians, Hanson will be honored for providing new insights on the events of World War II and their impact today through his definitive account, The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

“This year’s award recipients have embodied the values of the WWII generation and advanced the American spirit through their impactful service to our country and local communities,” said Stephen J. Watson, President & CEO at The National WWII Museum. “Our nation has always been at its strongest when we unite for a common purpose and help lift our neighbors when they need it the most. Despite the enormous challenges we faced during World War II, the ideals of community, sacrifice and compassion fostered the needed optimism and resolve to ultimately secure Allied victory, and these ideals are still relevant today.”

In addition to the American Spirit Award, the 2021 American Spirit Medallion—bestowed upon individuals who demonstrate extraordinary dedication to the principles that strengthen America’s freedom and democracy through unselfish contributions to their community, state, or nation—will be presented to nonprofit leader and vintage WWII aircraft aviator Captain Daniel K. Fordice III, USA (Ret.); trailblazing NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson (receiving the award posthumously); Holocaust survivor and educator Anne Levy; and the first Latina General to serve in the US Marine Corps Major General Angela Salinas, USMC (Ret.).

Additionally, the Museum will present its Silver Service Medallion to three WWII veterans who have served our country with distinction and leadership: B-17 bomb pilot and Eighth Air Force Squadron Operations Officer Major John H. “Lucky” Luckadoo, USAF (Ret.); Army Nurse Corps Officer aboard USAHS Thistle Lieutenant Rose Bayuk, USANC (receiving the award posthumously); and Warrant Officer with the 494th Quartermaster Port Battalion that landed on Omaha Beach WO1 Johnnie A. Jones, Sr., USA (Ret.).

The Museum will also bestow the annual Billy Michal Student Leadership Award to one student from each state who demonstrates the American spirit in his or her community. The award is named after Michal — a 2017 Silver Service Medallion winner — who was just a child during World War II. At the age of 6 years old, he helped his one-room school win a statewide scrap paper-collection contest during the war, proving that every citizen could contribute to victory in the war. The students who receive the honor have a strong record of volunteerism, school and community activism and implementing creative solutions to recognized problems. 

“The American Spirit Awards celebrate and honor the remarkable individuals who make our country and our communities better by carrying on the selfless service of the Greatest Generation,” said John M. Hairston, President & CEO at Hancock Whitney, the event’s longtime presenting sponsor. “The men and women who valiantly defended the United States and its allies during World War II still stir our hearts with humility, patriotism and pride.”  

Proceeds from the American Spirit Awards will support educational programming at The National WWII Museum, including the ongoing development of classroom materials and professional-development opportunities for teachers in schools across the country, as well as online experiences that bring the Museum and its resources to students around the world.

For information on the 2021 American Spirit Awards presented by Hancock Whitney, visit The celebration is also generously supported by Todd Ricketts & Sylvie Légère,

Freeport-McMoran and The Richard Adkerson Family Foundation. 

The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that future generations will know the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, the institution celebrates the American spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. For more information on TripAdvisor’s #1 New Orleans attraction, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit