Gleitsman Citizen Activist Award

The Gleitsman Program for Leadership in Social Change encourages individual commitment and leadership by recognizing the exceptional achievement of innovators who have sparked positive social change. We seek those individuals whose vision and courage inspire others to join with them in confronting and challenging injustice.

In that spirit, the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School awards annually the Gleitsman Activist Award, created in 1993 by the late Alan Gleitsman, to honor exceptional leaders and innovators who have sparked positive social change and inspired others to do the same. Mr. Gleitsman once described the intent of this honor to “recognize people who make a difference, tell their story, and make other people aware of what one person can do.”

The winner of the Gleitsman Activist Award receives a $150,000 prize and a specially commissioned sculpture designed by Maya Lin, the creator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC and the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, AL. The awardee is honored at a ceremony at Harvard University.

The Gleitsman Citizen Activist Award, given biennially (alternating with the International Activist Award), honors leadership in social activism that has improved the quality of life in the United States. Read the news announcing Gleitsman Citizen Activist Award winner Tarana Burke.

2019: Tarana Burke, Founder, 'me too.' movement
2017: John Lewis, Civil Rights Leader and U.S. Representative, 5th District of Georgia
2014: Eric Greitens, Founder, The Mission Continues
2012: Rebecca Onie, Founder, Health Leads
2010: Susan Burton, Founder, A New Way of Life Reentry Project (ANWOL)
2008: Bill Shore, Co-founder and CEO, Share Our Strength
2006: Gloria Steinem, Women’s Movement Activist; Ron Grzywinski & Mary Houghton, Co-Founders of ShoreBank Corporation of Chicago; Julie Stewart, Founder of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM).
2004: Chris Barbic, Yvonne Chan, Mike Feinberg & Dave Levin, Bertha Lewis, Michelle Rhee, Mark Rosenbaum, J.B. Schramm, Agnes Stevens, Margot Stern Strom, Kevin Sved, and Jonathan Williams, U.S. education activists
2002: Mike Farrell, Chairman, California Committee of Human Rights Watch; Mimi Silbert, Co-founder, President, and Chairman, The Delancy Street Foundation
2000: Dr. Jack Kevorkian, A pioneer for end-of-life rights; Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director and Founder, Equal Justice Initiative
1998: Al Gore, Alan Blum, Stanton Glantz, Christine Gregoire, C. Everett Koop, Janet Carol Mangini, Henry Waxman, Jeffrey Wigand, Merrill Williams, and Patricia Young, Campaign Against Tobacco activists
1996: Geraldine Jensen, Founder, Association for Children for Enforcement of Support; Tanya Tull, Founder, President, and CEO, Beyond Shelter
1994: Ralph Nader, American consumer protection advocate; Wendy Kopp, Founder, Teach For America