This year’s Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award is going to Leon Panetta, a former congressman, director of the CIA and secretary of defense.
The announcement was made by the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award Foundation, which grew out an annual birthday banquet for the 33rd president, put on by friends and supports, held each year in Kansas City in the years after he left office. Truman died in 1972, and since 1973 the foundation has given the award to a well-known public figure – two presidents, several senators and congressmen – on near Truman’s birthday.
Panetta, a Democrat from California, served 18 years in Congress before President Clinton (last year’s Good Neighbor Award winner) named him to head the Office of Management and Budget. Then from 1994 to 1997 he was Clinton’s chief of staff.
In 2009, President Obama named him director of central intelligence, that is, head of the CIA – a position and agency created under the National Security Act of 1947, during Truman’s presidency. Then in July 2011, Panetta became secretary of defense, a position he held until February 2013.
Panetta is the 13th former member of Congress to be given the award. Past winners have included the late Congressman Ike Skelton of Missouri (2012) and Sens. Bob Dole of Kansas (2001), Christopher S. “Kit” Bond of Missouri (2009) and George Mitchell of Maine (2007).
The award also has often gone to military figures, including Gen. Omar Bradley and Adm. Hyman Rickover (both in 1979) as well as Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2006).
Some, like Panetta, have served in a variety of high positions, such as John Warner (2008), a former senator and former secretary of the Navy. Elliot Richardson (1987), held three Cabinet positions, including secretary of defense, in the Nixon administration.
This year’s Good Neighbor Award luncheon is on May 14 in the Imperial Ballroom at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown.
A handful of awards bear Truman’s name, including the Truman Public Service Award, also awarded on or near Truman’s birthday, May 8, by the city of Independence. That award has been given since 1974.
Over the years, several people – Clinton, Gerald Ford, Bond, Skelton, and Truman biographer David McCullough, among others – have been awarded both the Good Neighbor and Public Service awards.
Last year’s Public Service Award went to Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.