Honoring a Nashville-bred compatriot of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the natural inheritor and present-day driver of St. Jude Hospital's crucial mission, and four entrepreneurs from worlds apart, the 2012 Freedom Awards announced by the National Civil Rights Museum this week carry a perfect message for the City of Memphis.
They recipients are:
International Freedom Award – Dr. Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize recipient , creator of the innovative Yunus Centre and founder of the Grameen Bank, whose innovative plan to lend money to people without funds or collateral has grown to more than 1,781 branches in 58 countries;
National Freedom Award – Dr. Bernard Lafayette, the Nashville native who served as part of Dr. King's brain trust, served as the National Coordinator for the 1968 Poor People's Campaign, and assisted in the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC);
Humanitarian Award – Marlo Thomas, frequent Memphis visitor as the National Outreach Director for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital;
Legacy Award – The 3 Doctors (Dr. Rameck Hunt, Dr. Sampson Davis, Dr. George Jenkins), whose story of vowing as children to become doctors to overcome at-risk circumstances is chronicled in the book and documentary "The Pact."
With the visit of the Dalai Lama among the crowning achievements, the Freedom Awards have helped extend the museum's worldwide reach. Last year, the stage glittered with show business stars committed to community service. And Beverly Robertson, the museum's executive, said the Yunus story of entrepreneurship for the poorest of the poor represents a long held dream.
"For the past four or five years we've had Muhammad Yunus on our radar to receive the Freedom Award because of his successful work in creating micro-loans for poor people," said Robertson. "We are delighted because his work is a model for so many nations around the world."