CHICAGO – Governor Blagojevich’s Director of Veteran’s Affairs L. Tammy Duckworth was honored this evening in Washington D.C. with the 2007 Hubert H. Humphrey Civil Rights Award – the civil rights community’s highest honor – for her long-standing public service, outstanding leadership and dedication to serving the country.
Duckworth was one of three prominent figures honored with the Award by the Leadership Council on Civil Right’s for their 31st Annual Hubert H. Humphrey Civil Rights Awards Dinner. President Bill Clinton and Scholar John Hope Franklin were also recognized by the nation’s oldest and largest civil and human rights coalition for their dedication to social justice, patriotism, and scholarship. Duckworth was introduced at the ceremony by former U.S. Senator Bob Dole.
“I am very honored to receive this award. It is a privilege to serve the veterans of this great country as Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. I wake up everyday with a renewed commitment to the mission of caring for the men and women who served our country. My buddies saved my life in Iraq and I will do all I can to honor their bravery everyday through my work with veterans” said Director Duckworth. “I am truly humbled to receive this award and want to thank the Leadership Council on Civil Rights for the important work that they do everyday.”
Founded by giants of the civil rights movement, the Leadership Council on Civil Rights (LCCR) is made up of nearly 200 national organizations representing people of color, women, children, older Americans, people with disabilities, gays and lesbians, labor unions, major religious groups and civil liberties and human rights groups. The coalition is recognized by legislators and social justice leaders as a leading voice for equality and equal opportunity, and their Education Fund is a leading expert on research and education regarding civil and human rights.
The Hubert H. Humphrey Award, named after the U.S. Vice President, Senator, and civil rights leader who changed the face of America, is presented at the LCCR Annual Dinner to outstanding individuals who best exemplify “selfless and devoted service in the cause of equality”. Past recipients of the Hubert H. Humphrey Civil Rights honor include labor leader Dolores Huerta, civil rights icon Julian Bond, actor-activists Danny Glover and Edward James Olmos, journalists Tom Joyner and Ellen Goodman, as well as elected leaders Ted Kennedy, Barbara Jordan, and John Lewis.
“Tammy Duckworth made the health and welfare of returning veterans a priority in her public service work,” said LCCR President and CEO Wade Henderson. “Her tireless efforts on behalf of children, families, and veterans embody the true spirit of civil rights and we are honored to celebrate her work.”
Director Duckworth has served the country both in uniform and in public service. As a Major in the Illinois Army National Guard, Director Duckworth served as Commander of a 15-ship, UH-60A Blackhawk Helicopter Company, supervising the training for 60 aircrew members and overseeing maintenance for over $50 million in equipment. She was a Battle Captain and Assistant Operations Officer, who helped with planning, assigning and tracking combat missions of a 500-soldier aviation taskforce in Iraq, and flew over 200 combat hours as a Blackhawk pilot. Director Duckworth was the Manager for the Club and District Administration Department for Rotary International’s Asia-Pacific Region from 2002 to 2004, with direct supervision over employees in five regional offices in Japan, New Delhi, Sydney, Seoul and Chicago, providing administrative services to the organization’s tens of thousands of members. She helped to establish new Rotary clubs to do much-needed community service projects in countries such as East Timor and Afghanistan and also helped American and Middle Eastern Rotary clubs send wheelchairs to Iraq.
Since coming home from Iraq, Director Duckworth has remained active in the public arena, regularly speaking to veterans’ groups, testifying before Congress on issues of medical care for returning veterans and running for a U.S. Congressional seat. She has been a leading spokesperson in calling the nation to fulfill its commitment to the care of returning veterans and worked to establish facilities to make the health and welfare of returning veterans a priority.
In November of 2006, Major Duckworth was appointed by Governor Rod R. Blagojevich as Director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. She was confirmed by the Senate in March of 2007, and since her appointment has made an immediate impact on the veteran community. With Governor Blagojevich’s and Director Duckworth’s leadership and perseverance, the State of Illinois will continue to be a model for the entire nation with its innovative programs and initiatives for veterans including:
Veterans Care: Jointly created by Gov. Blagojevich and Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, and launched in September of 2006, Veterans Care is designed to provide affordable, comprehensive health care to thousands of Illinois veterans who do not qualify for coverage through the federal Veterans Administration.
Veterans Cash: Launched in February of 2006, Veterans Cash is the Lottery’s first lottery ticket where 100 percent of proceeds go to support Illinois veterans. Proceeds from the sale of this ticket are deposited into an interest bearing account in the State Treasury called the Illinois Veterans Assistance Fund. The Illinois General Assembly appropriates this money solely to IDVA who awards the money in grants, fund additional services or conduct research relating to veterans’ Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, homelessness, health insurance costs, and disability benefits.
Manteno Home PTSD Pilot Program: Blagojevich Administration officials broke ground in 2006 on a building that will house a landmark pilot program to help provide housing and supportive services for 15 disabled, homeless Illinois veterans at the state’s Veterans’ Home in Manteno. The pilot program will serve as a national model for how to overcome challenges in providing permanent housing for homeless and disabled veterans, including veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and will help Illinois lead the nation in preparing for the likely increase in mental health problems among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.