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April 24, 2017

Victoria Reggie Kennedy Announced as a 2017 NECO Ellis Island Medal of Honor Recipient

Institute Co-Founder and President of the Board among exceptional Americans honored by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations

BOSTON – Today, the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations – NECO, announced recipients for the 2017 Ellis Island Medals of Honor. Co-founder of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate Victoria Reggie Kennedy, legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi, TV host and journalist Fareed Zakaria, CEO of HSN Mindy Grossman, former actress and film studio executive Sherry Lansing, chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller, are amongst the one-hundred outstanding Americans in business, government, medicine, art, and education, as well as honorees from all branches of the military, who will receive the 2017 medal.

In its 31st year, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor ceremony will once again be held on Ellis Island on May 13, starting at 6:30pm. The ceremony will be followed by a black-tie Gala Dinner in the historic Great Hall, the original registry room and gateway for 12 million immigrants to the US.

Victoria Reggie Kennedy is both an accomplished attorney and a nonprofit leader. She is President of the Board and Co-Founder of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The Institute has won international awards for its innovative and interactive design and approach to encouraging participatory democracy, invigorating civil discourse and inspiring the next generation of citizens and leaders to engage in the civic life of their communities. As senior counsel in the corporate and securities practice group at Greenberg Traurig LLP, she advises clients on governmental, governance and regulatory issues and assists them in devising strategies for the resolution of complex business problems.

Kennedy is a champion for arts education and outreach to underserved communities. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts where she chairs the Education Committee. She is a member of the Board of Fund II Foundation, which among other things, works to provide music education in public schools and to preserve the cultural richness of the African American experience. She also serves as a member of the Board of Overseers of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. In addition to her law practice, board service and non-profit leadership roles, Kennedy has been a leading voice for the empowerment of women and girls in our society. She also is an advocate for expanding medical research and for access to health care to all Americans. She is the widow of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

“Ellis Island remains an iconic symbol of hope, new beginnings and freedom. NECO’s Medals of Honor stand to remind citizens to support ethnic inclusion, diversity and pursuit of the American Dream for all, something especially needed in the current political climate,” said Nasser J. Kazeminy, Chairman of NECO.

The medal recognizes individuals who have made it their mission to share with those less fortunate their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents and selfless generosity; all while maintaining the traditions of their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America. Since the Medal was founded in 1986, NECO has honored such distinguished and diverse Americans including: seven Presidents of the United States; Nobel Prize recipient Elie Wiesel, Generals Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Secretaries of State, Madeline Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, Bob Hope, Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra, Rosa Parks, Mike Wallace and Mia Farrow, all of whom have distinguished themselves through their significant philanthropic and humanitarian contributions to this country.

“The Ellis Island Medal of Honor is an award that recognizes the contribution by people of diverse ethnic backgrounds to the ideals and spirit of America. I am deeply honored and humbled to be among those chosen to receive this important award. As the granddaughter of immigrants whose own American Dream began when they arrived at Ellis Island, I am particularly grateful to NECO for keeping this program at the forefront of its efforts to recognize the many outstanding Americans who make the United States a beacon of freedom,” said Kennedy.

The Ellis Island Medal of Honor ranks among the nation’s most renowned awards. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have officially recognized the Ellis Island Medals of Honor, and each year the recipients are listed in the Congressional Record.

To see the full list of 2017 recipients, please visit:


About NECO The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations - NECO- was created on the conviction of its founders that the diversity of the American people is what makes this nation great. Its mission is to honor and preserve this diversity and to foster tolerance, respect and understanding among religious and ethnic groups. NECO is the sponsor of the Ellis Island Medals of Honor which are presented annually to American citizens, both native born and naturalized, who have distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups while exemplifying the values of the American way of life. For more information, visit:

About the Edward M. Kennedy Institute The Edward M. Kennedy Institute is dedicated to educating the public about the important role of the Senate in our government, encouraging participatory democracy, invigorating civil discourse, and inspiring the next generation of citizens and leaders to engage in the civic lives of their communities. To learn more about the Institute, please visit

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