This year’s Harry S. Truman Public Service Award is being given to U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, who has represented Kansas City and much of Eastern Jackson County in Congress for the last nine years.
“I think Reverend Cleaver has emulated Truman in that he has worked for the people, not himself,” Independence Mayor Don Reimal said Thursday.
The city gives the award each year. The mayor appoints and sits on the committee that makes the selection. Past winners include Presidents Ford, Carter and Clinton, several senators and congressmen, historians and other national civic leaders. Last year’s winner was Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The city also has a Truman community service award, which this year is being given to the Missouri Mavericks, a Central Hockey League team that plays at the Independence Events Center.
“In the last five years, they’ve raised more than $1 million for one charity or another. ... They’re just a real asset to the community,” Reimal said.
The awards will be presented at 2:30 p.m. May 10 at the Truman Library. A reception follows. The events are free and open to the public.
Cleaver has been “always there for Independence when we needed” help, Reimal said.
Cleaver had served 12 years on the Kansas City Council when he was elected as the city’s first African-American mayor in 1991. He held that position for eight years. In 2004, he was elected to Congress. During most of that time, he was also the senior pastor at St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, where he started serving in 1972. Even when in Congress, he would come home from Washington on weekends and preach. Asked once how he found time to write sermons, he joked that it was done “planefully.” Five years, his son, Emanuel Cleaver III took over as senior pastor of the 2,600-member congregation.
Cleaver, a Democrat who serves on the House Financial Services Committee, has made a call for civility in Congress and in public life in general a hallmark of his time in office.
The Public Service Award has been given since 1974, and over the years nearly a dozen senators and congressmen have received it. Many have been from Missouri, including Sens. Thomas Eagleton, Stuart Symington and Christopher S. “Kit” Bond, and Rep. Richard Gephardt.
In 2006, the award went to Rep. Ike Skelton, who idolized Truman and whose district at one time included much of Eastern Jackson County. Speaking at a Truman Library event two weeks after Skelton’s death last fall, Cleaver said Skelton “became my older brother, the brother I never had.”
The days around Truman’s birthday, May 8 – he’d be 130 this year – are always busy in and around Independence, and there’s plenty on the schedule this year. The Public Service Award is given on the afternoon of May 10, the same day Jackson County officials plan to seal an 80-year time capsule. That’s also a nod to Truman, who as the county’s presiding judge in the early 1930s oversaw the renovation of the Square Courthouse. Last September’s rededication of that building – these days usually called the Truman Courthouse – was 80 years to the hour from the 1933 rededication ceremony.
Then on May 14, this year’s Truman Good Neighbor Award is given to Leon Panetta, a former congressman, director of the CIA and secretary of defense. That luncheon is at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown.