Press Release

The National WWII Museum and Whitney Bank Present Annual American Spirit Awards in New Orleans

Multiday extravaganza to feature black-tie gala honoring volunteerism, student leadership

NEW ORLEANS (March 6, 2017) — The National WWII Museum today announced two new recipients of the institution’s highest honor, the American Spirit Award. On June 9, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough and patriotic philanthropist David M. Rubenstein will receive the Award, which recognizes individuals who best exemplify the outstanding qualities of the American spirit, including teamwork, optimism and determination. McCullough and Rubenstein both inspire the exploration and expression of these values through their own life and work.

The new recipients will join a benevolent list of past American Spirit Award honorees, including Congresswoman Corinne “Lindy” Boggs, actor and longtime Museum champion Tom Hanks and famed NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw. Brokaw, who received the Award in 2015, will join the Museum for this year’s multiday Awards extravaganza, taking place in New Orleans from June 8 through 10. Brokaw will act as Master of Ceremonies for the Museum’s signature gala on June 9, a black-tie event honoring those who inspire others through their own acts of courage, sacrifice, initiative and generosity, particularly in the areas of leadership, service to country or community and education.

“During World War II, American citizens rallied together and served in defense of our country,” said Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, president and CEO of the Museum. “This remarkable demonstration of unity and selflessness represents the best of what our nation can be. As the Museum honors similar actions and sentiments at our American Spirit Awards, we help preserve stories of the men and women of the war generation—and their spirit will live on because we are inspired by their valor.”

At the ceremony, three individuals will also receive the American Spirit Medallion—an honor bestowed upon those who demonstrate extraordinary dedication to the principles that strengthen America’s freedom and democracy. The 2017 American Spirit Medallion recipients include James L. Barksdale, chairman of the board and president of Barksdale Management Corp; Captain (Ret.) James A. Lovell Jr., the only astronaut to fly to the moon twice and Phyllis M. Taylor, chair of Endeavor Enterprises LLC.

Additionally, WWII veterans John P. Laborde, Cathy Long and David I. Oreck will receive the Silver Service Medallion alongside former US Secretary of Commerce and US Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta. The American-born son of two Japanese immigrants, Mineta was one of more than 100,000 civilians of Japanese descent placed in internment during World War II. Shortly following the attack on Pearl Harbor, 10 year old Mineta was relocated to Heart Mountain Internment Camp in Wyoming with his family, where they remained for more than three years. Mineta went on to become Mayor of San Jose, California and ran for Congress in 1974. Through his life’s work, he collaborated with other Asian Americans to undertake a legislative program that would redress the wrongs committed against Japanese Americans during World War II.

Billy Michal, who was also just a child during the war, will receive the Silver Service Medallion as well. At just six years old, Michal helped his one-room school win a statewide scrap paper-collection contest during World War II, proving that every citizen could contribute to victory in the war.

During the event, the Museum will bestow the Billy Michal Student Leadership Award to one student from each state who demonstrates the American spirit in his or her community. The Award is a new addition to the celebration and will be distributed annually. The students who receive the honor will have a strong record of volunteerism, school and community activism and implementing creative solutions to recognized problems. Selected awardees will be flown to New Orleans to participate in the Museum’s Awards activities.

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.

The American Spirit Awards gala will be preceded by a patron party reception at the Windsor Court Hotel on June 8. On June 9, a luncheon and leadership forum will be held in the Museum’s US Freedom Pavilion beginning at 10:30 a.m. The Awards presentation and seated dinner, featuring a specially crafted menu by Chef Tory McPhail, will begin at 7:30 p.m. the same evening. The multiday extravaganza will conclude with the grand opening of the Museum’s newest permanent exhibit The Arsenal of Democracy: The Herman and George R. Brown Salute to the Home Front on Saturday, June 10.

The Museum is also offering an exclusive inbound tour that will showcase the best of the Crescent City while offering guests VIP access to American Spirit Award events. Guests traveling on the Operation Home Front tour will take in once-in-a-lifetime experiences of every kind—including the American Spirit Awards gala, grand opening events for The Arsenal of Democracy and a thrilling ride on newly restored patrol-torpedo boat PT-305.

For American Spirit Awards ticket information and additional event details, visit or call 504-528-1944 ext. 334. For additional information on Operation Home Front or to register, visit or call 877-813-3329 Ext 257.

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. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America's National WWII Museum, it celebrates the American Spirit, teamwork, optimism, courage, and sacrifice of the men and women who served on the battlefront and the Home Front. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit Follow us on Twitter at WWIImuseum or on Facebook.