The Smithsonianâ€™s National Museum of American History will present its Great Americans medal to composer, musician and philanthropist Paul Simon Sept. 18. The presentation of the medal is part of the â€œGreat Americans Award Program,â€� the museumâ€™s emergent and signature honor. Simon will be the sixth honoree and the first musician to receive the award. Â
The â€œGreat Americans Award Program,â€� supported by David M. Rubenstein, chair of the Smithsonianâ€™s Board of Regents, features a conversation between Rubenstein and the recipient followed by a presentation of the Great Americans Medal for lifetime contributions embodying American ideas and ideals. Since its inception in 2016, the â€œGreat Americans Award Programâ€� has honored those who have not only made a lasting impact in their fields but those whose philanthropic and humanitarian endeavors set them apart.
â€œPaul Simon has achieved something truly remarkable,â€� said Anthea M. Hartig, the Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the National Museum of American History. â€œThrough the timelessness and poignancy of his music and his parallel dedication to understanding the beliefs and values of all peoples, Paul Simon has bridged cultures and generations in a way that beautifully exemplifies what it means to be a Great American.â€�
An accomplished musician and songwriter, Simon has produced such masterpieces as â€œBridge Over Troubled Water,â€� â€œSounds of Silenceâ€� and â€œGracelandâ€� over his six-decade career. He has received 16 Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work as half of the duo Simon and Garfunkel. Simon was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a duo in 1990 and as a solo artist in 2001, and inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1982. â€œMrs. Robinson,â€� his song from the film The Graduate, was named to the top 10 of the American Film Instituteâ€™s â€œ100 Years, 100 Songs.â€�Â
Simonâ€™s musical honors include the Library of Congressâ€™ inaugural Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, which recognizes the profound and positive effect of popular music on the worldâ€™s culture. In 2006, Time magazine called him one of the â€œ100 People Who Shape Our World.â€� Simon is also a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
â€œFor more than half a century, Paul Simon has been one of the music worldâ€™s most talented songwriters, recording artists and live performers,â€� Rubenstein said. â€œHe has also been one of the music worldâ€™s most committed philanthropists. The National Museum of American History is thus honored to present Paul Simon with its Great Americans Award.â€�
In June 2017, Simon donated the net proceeds from his U.S. concert tour to theÂ Half-Earth Project, an initiative of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, which is committed to stopping the species extinction crisis. During Simonâ€™s â€œHomeward Boundâ€”The Farewell Tourâ€� in 2018, he thanked each tour city he visited with a financial gift to benefit local youth and environmental organizations. He continues his commitment to perform for charity, donating to organizations dedicated to environmental welfare and species biodiversity.
Simonâ€™s varied philanthropic work includes co-founding the Childrenâ€™s Health Fund (CHF), which donates and staffs mobile medical units that bring health care to low-income children and their families around the United States. Since its inception in 1987, CHF has provided over 5 million doctor/patient visits and created a primary health care source for communities affected by Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina.
About the Great Americans Medal
The museum will present Simon with a specially minted medal struck in Wisconsin from 1.85 ounces of fine gold. It features an American eagle with rays of the sun on the obverse or â€œheadâ€™s sideâ€� with the words â€œGreat Americansâ€� and â€œNational Museum of American Historyâ€� engraved around the edge. The reverse side honors one of the museumâ€™s most important treasures, the Star-Spangled Banner, and includes the mission of the Smithsonian: â€œFor the increase and diffusion of knowledge.â€� It measures approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter and was inspired by the rare Double Eagle coins in the museumâ€™s National Numismatic Collection, which were designed by famed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens for the $20 gold piece. The medal was made possible by museum board member Jeff Garrett and designed by Michael Guilfoyle, an international designer of coins and medals.
The â€œGreat Americansâ€� medal is presented annually to up to two recipients and includes an interview with the awardee by Rubenstein. Honoreesâ€™ accomplishments and influence on American history connect to the museumâ€™s collections and exhibitions, including the impact of American giving. Previous honorees include Madeleine K. Albright, Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), Thomas J. Brokaw, Cal Ripken Jr. and Billie Jean King
Currently the museum is working on a permanent exhibition that will look at history through the power of entertainment. Videos of the recipients and additional information can be found at https://americanhistory.si.edu/great-americans. Explore the museumâ€™s social media on Twitter (@amhistorymuseum), Facebook (@National Museum of American History) and Instagram (@amhistorymuseum).
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. It is located on Constitution Avenue N.W., between 12th and 14th streets, and is open daily (except Dec. 25) from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.
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