WASHINGTON, D.C.- Thomas R. Pickering, career diplomat, and Diana Walker, former White House photographer, have been named the 2003 recipients of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery’s 2003 Paul Peck Presidential Awards. The annual awards honor individual excellence in presidential service and portrayal. Pickering won the award for Service to a President, and Walker won for Portrayal of a President. The winners will receive $25,000 and a specially designed Smithsonian medal at a dinner on Oct. 18.
The Paul Peck Presidential Awards were founded in 2002 and are the only award in the United States to celebrate achievement in support of the presidency. The awards are named after Paul Peck, the National Portrait Gallery’s chief individual donor, and are one of several presidential initiatives undertaken by the gallery.
"From the intimate view of the presidency in Diana Walker’s photographs, to the intricate work of Thomas Pickering’s diplomacy, this year’s Peck winners provide a powerful understanding of the nation’s highest office," said Marc Pachter, director of the National Portrait Gallery.
The award for service to a president honors members of the president’s executive staff, a cabinet member, or a member of Congress. Officials from the current administration are not eligible.
Thomas R. Pickering served as U.S. ambassador to nations in the most sensitive regions of the world for more than 40 years. He was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs under President Bill Clinton and holds the rank of Career Ambassador, the highest in the U.S. Foreign Service. He is currently the Senior Vice President, International Relations, at the Boeing Co.
"I am greatly honored by this distinguished award and was immensely pleased-and surprised-when told of my selection," said Pickering upon hearing of his selection.
The award for portrayal of a president is given to an individual who has depicted the presidency in either a visual or literary form. This winner could be a portrait artist in any medium, a journalist, a presidential biographer or a scholar.
Diana Walker began photographing the presidency during the Ford and Carter administrations. After joining Time magazine as one of two White House photographers, she was assigned to cover the Reagan, Bush and Clinton presidencies. In 2001, she left her White House assignment to publish Public and Private: Twenty Years Photographing the Presidency. A retrospective of her work is on view at the National Museum of American History. She currently works with Time as a contract photographer for special assignments.
"I am delighted that the distinguished committee would choose someone from the medium of photojournalism to honor this way," commented Walker.
The National Portrait Gallery houses the nation’s only official portrait collection of all 43 presidents, other than the collection at the White House. Since opening in 1968, the gallery has explored and celebrated the presidency in public programs, research, exhibitions and publications, while amassing a collection of more than 1,200 presidential likenesses.
The Paul Peck Fund for Presidential Studies was created in 2000 when Peck, a former federal employee with the U.S. Customs Service and a successful investor, gave $2 million to enhance the gallery’s presidential programs. The fund has provided resources for engaging panels about topics related to the presidency. The most recent event was held in April 2003 at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. President Carter participated in a town hall forum with students chosen by the Junior Statesmen of America.
The fund has also provided resources such as publications and educational materials accompanying the museum’s popular "Portraits of the Presidents" traveling exhibition, which will be on view in Washington in Oct. 2004. A Web portal is also being developed.
Education plays an important role in this year’s awards. The winners will participate in two programs with high school students affiliated with the Junior Statesman of America and Close Up Foundation. The winners will be interviewed on Oct. 17 on "Close Up on C-SPAN," and on Oct. 18 in separate town hall sessions at the Smithsonian, which will include high school students from the East Coast.
The Nominating Process - The nominating committee consists of eight organizations that are devoted to the study of the American political system and are not associated institutionally or ideologically with any political party. Nominating institutions for this year’s award are the White House Historical Association, the Center for the Study of the Presidency, the American Society of Portrait Artists, the American Political Science Association, the Junior Statesmen of America, the Close Up Foundation, the National Coalition for History and the Portrait Society of America. The National Portrait Gallery does not submit nominations or participate in the selection process.
A selection committee chooses the winners each year. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush are honorary chairs of the committee, and members of the 2003 committee include Sen. Robert Dole, David Gergen, Geraldine Ferraro, Robert Samuelson, Robert Remini, Roger Wilkins, and Cokie Roberts. Background
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery is a landmark destination for people interested in learning the fascinating stories of great Americans who have shaped our country. It is the only museum of its kind in the United States to combine the aspects of American history, biography and art. The Portrait Gallery was established by an Act of Congress in 1962 and was opened to the public in 1968. The museum’s collection includes 18,600 works ranging from paintings and sculpture to photographs and drawings. The National Portrait Gallery is housed in the historic Patent Office Building, which is currently undergoing extensive renovation and is scheduled to reopen in July 2006.