The Ridenhour Awards: A Call to Truth
by Sofia Plagakis, 4/27/2012
On April 25, several OMB Watch colleagues and I attended the 2012 Ridenhour Awards, which recognize Americans who engage in "acts of truth-telling to protect the public interest, promote social justice or illuminate a more just vision of society." These individuals, speaking out against large and powerful forces, to expose the truth and protect Americans and social justice, changed history.
I was particularly struck by Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger's fight to expose water contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina that may have caused his daughter’s death from cancer. Filmmakers Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon were awarded the Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize for Semper Fi: Always Faithful, a film about his struggle exposing the largest water contamination case in U.S. history.
Two nominees were given the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, often referred to as the whitstleblower award. Awardee Eileen Foster exposed the systemic fraud (of which led to the 2008 economic crash) at the nation’s largest mortgage provider, Countrywide Financial, when she worked as a fraud investigator at the organization. She gave up economic remuneration to bring the activities to light. Active duty serviceperson Lt. Col. Daniel Davis corrected the distortions of about the war in Afghanistan perpetrated by senior military leadership, at risk of his career.
Ali H. Soufan, a leading counterterrorism investigator, was awarded the 2012 Ridenhour Book Prize for The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al-Qaeda. The book documents the torture (enhanced interrogation techniques) that was U.S. policy for years after 9/11. Soufan argues that torture is not only antithetical to American values, but is ineffective, leading to false information, and counter-productive in our efforts to reduce terrorism.
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a hero of the Civil Rights movement, received the Ridenhour Courage Prize for dedicating his life to protecting human rights and securing civil liberties, often at risk of his own life.
Sponsored by the Fertel Foundation and The Nation Institute, the awards are held in honor of the late Ron Ridenhour, who exposed the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War and later became an award-winning investigative journalist. OMB Watch was proud to contribute to this year's awards.
The courage and sacrifice of the awardees is an example for us all. The words of Lt. Col. Daniel Davis capture the spirit of the awards: the truth is not negotiable.