Past Speakers

Many prominent figures have addressed the State Honorees of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during the program's national recognition events in Washington, D.C. Here are a few examples of what they had to say:

Robin Roberts, Good Morning America Co-Anchor, 2015
“All I would say to you is to remain patient and persistent…You’re at that age where you’ve got the bullies and you’ve got all that stuff happening. Internalize it. Make it a positive…when you are at your lowest point, think of that. Let that be your energy to go: You know what? I’m going to push through this, I’m going to do that. I always remember this: when fear knocks, let faith answer the door.”
Forest Whitaker, Academy Award-Winning Actor, 2014
"You will be the leaders and innovators of tomorrow, you will scale to such heights that my generation, my generation, we can’t even fathom what you’re going to do."
Kevin Spacey, Academy Award-Winning Actor, 2013
"You have shown us that you see things the way they ought to be, and will not settle for the way they are. All of you are actually living examples, you are giving by example, and what you have done should be applauded, and done in as many cities as possible."
Eli Manning, New York Giants Quarterback and Super Bowl MVP, 2012
"If elite means best in the class, this year’s winners of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award clearly fit the definition. And you have my personal applause for sticking your necks out to make a difference in your community, your state and in your nation."
Susan Sarandon, Academy Award-Winning Actress, 2011
"And you are those good guys. You will want what is just for all and you will recognize yourself in the hungry and the poor and the enslaved. You will do that because you have empathy and imagination, humor, creativity and passion."
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, 2010
"I am here to congratulate a very special group of young people: the winners of these wonderful Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The United States of America is by far the most compassionate country on the face of the earth, because of its people. Philanthropy is deep in our souls and our hearts, and so you follow in a proud tradition of people who've cared to do something for those a little less fortunate... I know you have worked hard to achieve what you have done. You're going to do even greater things in the future. And as you do greater things, you will help to build a foundation for our country and for our world to overcome the many challenges that we have."
Former First Lady Laura Bush, 2009
"Each of you has already realized a priceless truth that some adults never fully understand: a life of service is a life of significance...Before this weekend, you might have felt isolated in your service-one young person tackling big challenges that even grownups haven't solved. By the end of your time in Washington, I hope you'll see what I see by looking at you tonight: a growing light of hope spreading across the United States and around the globe. You inspire me by your commitment and you encourage me by your example. My challenge to you tonight is to serve and to continue serving for the rest of your life. Whether serving in your hometown or on the other side of the world, use your talents and energy to make a better world. Wherever life leads you, pursue the path of service and you'll find fulfillment beyond measure."
Actor Jason Ritter, 2009
"When your eyes are opened to a problem, there are some people, thank God, who just can't shut their eyes again. And that's all of you in this room. You took a stand, and you did something.... The beautiful thing about each and every one of you is that it's not enough for you to be happy and isolated. The problems of the world around you speak to you, and you feel compelled to help. You know that others' problems are also your problems, and that we are all in this together. You are all perfect examples of the golden rule. If everyone treated everyone else as you have treated the people around you...what a great world this would be."
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, 2009
"You guys understand our country's strengths, you understand our weaknesses, you understand the challenges we face, and you understand that none of us can be happy, none of us can be satisfied, until everyone has an opportunity to be successful. And we have to right society's wrongs, so we have to challenge the status quo, when people are hurting, and what you guys are doing collectively, that collective will, that collective power, is absolutely extraordinary. So I thank you for your tremendous hard work, I thank you for the example you're setting for all of us, and I thank you for having this absolute commitment to service."
Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, 2008
"I haven't got the words to describe what it means to me to be standing up in front of young people that are prepared to give up so much to help so many. You're just totally an inspiration. We should do more and more to inspire more young people all over the world to do what you're doing. I take my hat off to you. I thank you for giving so much to me today. I wish my children could be here to see you all. You're an amazing group of people."
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, 2008
"We are here to celebrate you students. All of you are terrific role models for young people all over this country and indeed for all of us…You all are obviously not waiting for the world to change. You are changing it each and every day in your own communities and in your own ways, and we all owe you a tremendous debt. Thank you for making such a positive difference in the lives of those around you…Your generation is really redefining how people think about volunteer service."
  Actress and Recording Artist Beverley Mitchell, 2008
"I've often heard our generation called the ‘me' generation. Don't think they quite had that right, because obviously they never met you guys. You have all proved that the future is in great hands. We are a generation that cares, and we are a generation that is making a difference. We are creative. We are innovative. We are heartfelt. The power of one is amazing, but the power of our entire generation can move mountains."
Indiana Colts Quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning, 2007
"It's always exciting for me to be in the midst of people who think big. And the work you've all done is a true inspiration and is truly thinking big. You're admirable people who live your lives with profound generosity, and your communities and this world are better because of your efforts. Some people may view you as leaders in the making. Well not me, because you've already proven yourselves as leaders, and you never again have the luxury of letting someone else do the job. Anything less would be a waste of your talent. Your passion can ignite the fire within people. As individuals, we can make a difference. You've seen it with your own eyes, and so have I."
Actress and singer Scarlett Pomers, 2007
"Not everyone is fortunate enough to have the kind of national attention a TV actor can get for the things they want to change, but everyone has the ability to make an impact of their own if they are truly passionate about helping others. As I was reading all of your 102 bios, it occurred to me that I can invite any one of you to stand before 102 of young Hollywood's 'brightest stars,' and we'd be hard put to match your accomplishments. My respect for your contributions and the example you set for others is tremendous. You are the true role models of our generation."
Actor and Environmentalist Ted Danson, 2006
"You're an extraordinary group of people. You're doing things in life that took me years to realize I was supposed to be doing, too. You're out there making a difference in the world. You guys have figured out the key to life. Maybe it is because some of you have already suffered in life, or maybe you had great parents, or maybe you just came into this world smart. But for whatever reason, you figured out that it is more blessed to give than it is to receive. It is more blessed and it is more fun, and it is definitely what the world needs right now."
General Colin L. Powell, Former U.S. Secretary of State, 2005
"I want to say to the youngsters who are going to be recognized today and tomorrow: thank you for what you are doing for your communities; thank you for what you are doing for our nation. As you grow up strong and true and as you move out of the educational system and into the workforce, never forget to make service an integral part of your life. I can assure you that it will give you great satisfaction, as it has in your teenage years, and it will give you even greater satisfaction as adults."
Actress and Comedienne Whoopi Goldberg, 2004
"It's a great thing to care. It's a great thing to be thoughtful. It's so hard to get people to understand that it is the selfless things that make the nation great. What you've accomplished is mind-boggling. It's a shame to say that because this should be the norm. And maybe with your help you'll make it the norm. This will be what will re-energize young people again, make them believe that they have a place and have a way to make things happen. You all are like beacons of light. I can actually brag that I've been in your company."
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, 2003
"I think it's necessary in the atmosphere in which we live to say to young people that politics is a very noble thing to do. It's one of the better things you can do with your life. Because you're going to get more of an opportunity to help people in a broad way than in many, many other things that you could do. As a young person, it's a very exciting thing to think about doing. And there are thousands of ways to train yourself to do it, but the best way is to get a good education. The broader your education and the deeper your knowledge, the more effective you're going to be ultimately-in politics or in anything else in life. And the happier you're going to be."
"7th Heaven" TV Star David Gallagher, 2003
"It makes me feel good to know that there are people in our world today like you who won't stand by and do nothing when help is needed. It is important to help others who cannot help themselves and to be able to see something that isn't right and be brave enough to do something about it. You guys are nothing less than heroes."
Actor Martin Sheen, 2002
"When I read the names, the ages and the nature of the projects for which you extraordinary young people are being celebrated today, I was heartened and deeply moved. For you have clearly heard the cry of a needy world, and you have responded. In a world made mad by its own self-righteous violence and paranoia, you have chosen to light the candle of non-violence and hope, and a weary world rejoices. It is a world where we are made to feel powerless, yet you have come to an early realization that we are made for a higher power. And that realization is your greatest strength."
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, 2001
"America must lead. That was one of the great lessons of the 20th century, and it's certain to be an imperative throughout the 21st. And that is why the role of our young people here tonight is so very, very important. Because the decisions that democratic nations make reflect the character of the choices made by their citizens. As you proceed through life, I hope you will continue to devote as much time and energy as you can to the purposes that go beyond the borders of your own comfort, to teach and nurture, help and heal. I hope, and I believe, that each and every one of you will be defenders and enrichers of liberty, not just consumers of it, and that you will be strong and determined in charting your own course."
Former Miss America, Angela Perez Baraquio, 2001
"All of you here today, I'm sure that you've had to deal with a lot of opposition from the skeptics who say 'You can't do this.' 'You can't do that.' 'Why do you want to have this idea?' 'It's not going to grow, you're not going to get support.' But when people tell you that you can't, you have to have that tenacity and courage to say 'Yes, I can,' and surround yourself with people who believe in you, sometimes more than you believe in yourself."
Astronaut and former Senator John Glenn, 2000
"I've been fortunate to be able to travel all over the world, and have met a lot of people. I think the people who are happiest are people who are interested in something bigger than themselves, and who are doing something for others. You get a lot of satisfaction out of that. That's what you've been involved with, and the reason I congratulate you most sincerely. So if I could wish you anything for the rest of your lives, it would be that you would keep up this curiosity about developing your own talents, about participating with a group that's devoted to something bigger than just your own self-interest, and continuing your service to others."
Former NBA Star Magic Johnson, 1999
"I am so happy to be here, because you inspire me, you inspire all of us. You're going to be sitting in Washington, D.C., one day, I know it, at least half of you are, because you're tomorrow's leaders, especially when you do the type of things that you've been doing in your communities, helping people. And that's a special, special spirit within you that only God has blessed you with."
Actor Edward James Olmos, 1999
"The thing that you guys have given us-by starting so young-is unprecedented. You are the exception. And it's sad, because we really need this to be the rule. We need every child in America to help us, because the adults are making a mess. You give us hope. Thank you so much for giving your lives in this way. I'm here to beg you to do but one thing: pace yourself. Pace yourself for the rest of your life. This is a lifelong commitment."
Former First Lady Barbara Bush, 1998
"We can accomplish so much if we all work in the same direction. You are the heavy hitters who are active in a meaningful way, but we need to make sure we try to include others in this fight for a better America. They need to know that they have something to offer, that nothing's too small or insignificant. So if you know how to read, find someone who can't. If you've got a hammer, find a nail. If you're not hungry, not lonely, not in trouble, seek out someone who is. In business and in family and in community, it is oftentimes the little acts you do every day that make the biggest difference in the long run."
Actor Richard Dreyfuss, 1998
"I have been a speaker of gloom and doom, I have been warning people about apathy and cynicism and disconnection for a long time, and those words simply have no meaning in any room where you are. You know a real secret that seems to have left many of us. You know that the server is given a gift along with the served, that there is a feeling, an emotional reaction of completeness, of dignity, of value that comes upon anyone who is of service to someone else."
Former President Jimmy Carter, 1997
"There is a natural advantage of young people in doing unprecedented, idealistic, wonderful things. When you're your age, you have the freedom to learn from one another, to criticize the way society is, and then to devise among yourselves what to do about it. You don't have to follow anybody's footsteps. You can be innovative in saying: why don't we do this differently? If anyone is looking for adventure or challenge or unpredictability or excitement or gratification or a new sense of love, figuring out an innovative way to help other people is the best avenue toward that kind of success."
Mario Cuomo, former Governor of New York, 1996
"If the country needs anything at this moment, in my opinion, it's a sense of community. If this country -the richest place the world has ever seen, in all ways the most powerful-if it lacks anything at this moment, it is the sense of community, it is the sense of us all belonging to the same place. If anything threatens this place, it is the idea that maybe we ought to think of ourselves as 250 million disassociated individuals, everybody on his or her own. That for sure would bring the place down."