Kwame Anthony Appiah | As a philosopher, you have led a life of deliberate introspection, driven by the search for the deepest truths about who we are … You are at home exploring history, political theory, evolutionary biology, identity, and human nature—all informed by your work in African and black cultural studies and traditional African religions—to make singular connections that distinguish you as one of our most powerful global thinkers today … In your most recent treatise, The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen, you illustrate how the undimmed power of an ancient tradition can be harnessed to drive societal change, inspiring us to see the positive promise of shared leadership and responsibility.
Joseph R. Biden, Jr. | You were only 29 when first elected in 1972 to represent Delaware in the US Senate—one of the youngest persons ever elected to that office. Though tragedy befell that same year, you found the courage to continue in the demanding roles of devoted single parent and new legislator … As chairman or ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 17 years, you oversaw landmark criminal justice legislation, including the 1994 Crime Bill and its ban on assault weapons. You were also the author of that year’s Violence Against Women Act, whose protections you have called “a sacred commitment.” … Now in your second term as Vice President of the United States, you are a trusted and by all accounts consummately candid advisor to President Barack Obama.
Ursula M. Burns | Your internship in 1980 at Xerox led to a career spanning more than 30 years. As you rose to leadership, you tackled strategic issues within a photocopying giant that was evolving to embrace new digital technologies. In 2001, when the company was challenged with near bankruptcy, you helped survey a changing marketplace and define a new business model: a services-based provider that would bring the company to a return to profits in just a few years. The mission: offer business support that will free companies to focus on their real business, whether it is firefighting, baseball, or health care. Today, as chairman and CEO of Xerox, you are the first African-American woman to head a Fortune 500 corporation—an inspiration to millions who aspire to leadership in business.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala | As the first woman to serve as Nigeria’s Coordinating Minister for the Economy and as the Minister of Finance, you fight daily to bring financial reform and economic growth to the most populous country in Africa … You were also instrumental in obtaining the first ever sovereign credit ratings for Nigeria—a benchmark critical for the success of an emerging world market and for one of the world’s fastest growing economies … Over the course of two decades at the World Bank, you rose to the second-ranking position of Managing Director. With strategic oversight for an $81 billion operational portfolio across Africa, Europe, and Asia, you led initiatives to assist low-income countries in crisis.
Samuel H. Preston | You are considered by many to be the world’s preeminent demographic scholar. You are responsible for many innovations to your field, including the Preston Curve, a staple of demography, in wide use today as a fundamental tool for examining life expectancy relative to varying income levels … The US government has sought your expertise on Social Security reform and the Census, and you frequently advise the United Nations. A member of Penn’s sociology department since 1979, your commitment to the highest standards for research and education earned you the deep respect of your peers … You are famously known on campus as a generous colleague, a great listener with an open office door, and a free giver of high-fives.
Lonnie G. Thompson and Ellen Mosley-Thompson | At The Ohio State University, massive storage facilities protect the treasures you have so painstakingly collected: four miles of data captured in slim cylinders of glacial ice preserved at thirty degrees below zero. Drilled from the most remote regions on Earth, they are a testament to your quest to understand the mysteries of our planet’s climate history … As Distinguished University Professors in Ohio State’s College of Arts and Sciences, and as leading scholars in the Byrd Polar Research Center, you have constructed meticulous, compelling histories of millennia of global-scale climatic patterns … You have braved hardship, harrowing conditions, and separation during more than 70 polar, tropical, and subtropical expeditions. With solar-powered equipment you specially developed, you have remained for months in sites accessible only to professional mountaineers, drilling through hundreds of feet of ice to retrieve the secrets locked deep within.
James Edward West | Despite few role models to light your way in the era of segregation, your curious nature led you to Temple University. In 1957, you received your Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and then joined Bell Laboratories (now Lucent Technologies) as an acoustical scientist. Only five years later, with fellow inventor Gerhard Sessler, you developed the foil electret microphone … It soon became the industry standard, and as testament to your technical talents, it remains so today. An incredible 90 percent of the two billion microphones produced each year are foil electret microphones—hard at work in hearing aids, digital cameras, baby monitors, and virtually every cell phone on earth. Each day, your inventions ensure that our voices come through loud and clear.