Former U.S. Sen. John C. Danforth will be in Independence next week to receive a regional award for statesmanship and patriotism.
“For him, it was always about doing the right thing,” said Steve Potter, CEO and library director of the Mid-Continent Public Library and a member of the committee presenting the award.
It’s the Doniphan Community Service Award. The ceremony is at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Truman Library, 500 West U.S. 24. A reception is at 5:30, and the events are free and open to the public.
Danforth, 82, represented Missouri in the U.S. Senate for three terms. He also was Missouri’s attorney general and, after his Senate days, briefly served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Three years ago he was given the Truman Public Service Award by the city of Independence, and in 1994 was given the Truman Good Neighbor Award.
The award, given to someone who has contributed to a better community, is presented by the Alexander W. Doniphan Community Service and Leadership Foundation in memory of a man revered in Restorationist church history. During the Mormon War in 1838, Doniphan was a brigadier general in the state militia, but he refused an order for the summary execution of church founder Joseph Smith and other church leaders.
A book on Doniphan’s life is being put together – and published by Mid-Continent – in connection with the state’s bicentennial in 2021.
Doniphan lived much of his life in Liberty, and the foundation has generally held its award ceremony north of the river.
“But they decided they wanted to reach across the river and have it in Independence,” Potter said.
Potter said Danforth has embodied the idea of doing the right thing rather than the popular thing and, much like the late Sen. John McCain, could both buck the establishment and reach across the political aisle to find compromises and get things done.
“And we need more of that right now,” Potter said.
He also noted Danforth’s consistent focus on the need for civility in public life,
“That’s the type of model,” he said, “that we need.”