John Hope Franklin: Weekly Standard takes notice (again)

Historians in the News

Almost a year ago THE SCRAPBOOK took genuine pleasure in noting the award of the Library of Congress's first John W. Kluge Prize for the Study of Humanity ($1 million) to historian John Hope Franklin, author of the classic From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans (1947). This award, as we noted, could be added to a "hundred-plus honorary degrees, organizational presidencies, visiting lectureships, and appointments to advisory boards, delegations, and commissions" for Dr. Franklin, as well as a bewildering array of prizes, gold medals, and professional citations.

Frankly, our intent at the time was to drop a not-so-subtle hint to the Nobel Peace Prize people over in Oslo that Dr. Franklin, then 91 years old, was not getting any younger, and surely was past due for the honor accorded Jimmy Carter, Le Duc Tho, and Rigoberta Menchú. We regret to say that the folks at Nobel headquarters chose to ignore our advice, but THE SCRAPBOOK's disappointment is alleviated, to some degree, by the news (announced in the Washington Post last week) that this year's recipient of the Records of Achievement Award, given by the Foundation for the National Archives, and sponsored by the Boeing Company, is--yes, John Hope Franklin.

The award is described as "a celebration of history and those who preserve it," and Dr. Franklin now joins an honor roll of distinguished past recipients, including our particular favorite, Tom Brokaw (2005). THE SCRAPBOOK's congratulations to all involved.

But all these cheerful tidings got us thinking. Surely there must be some official recognition somewhere for distinguished Americans, like Dr. Franklin, who are officially recognized on a regular basis. Alas, our researches have turned up no such meta-award, to recognize distinguished Americans who have been officially, and repeatedly, recognized for their distinction. Sort of a Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for intellectuals.

So without further ado, let us propose one: We would favor joint government-corporate sponsorship, a framed citation or cut-glass bowl (perhaps both), a check, and a gala banquet covered by C-SPAN or PBS during Pledge Week. We would suggest naming this award for the sort of distinguished American bound to receive it, Dr. Franklin being a natural choice.

An obvious first recipient would be, say, Fr. Theodore M. Hesburgh, former president of Notre Dame, who holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for Most Honorary Degrees (150). Another inescapable choice would be poet Maya Angelou, whose official website describes her as "a remarkable Renaissance woman who is hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature," and recipient of dozens of prizes, citations, medals, Woman of the Year awards, and (by THE SCRAPBOOK's count) 35 honorary degrees--as well as, perhaps you saw this coming, the 2006 John Hope Franklin Award.

Well, maybe we'll call it the Father Hesburgh Award.
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