About the Beacon Prize
The Beacon Prize will be awarded annually during the Human Rights Summit in Washington, DC to an individual or organization whose work embodies the best in the tradition of American leadership on human rights. Starting with Eleanor Roosevelt’s pivotal role in the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Americans – government officials and private individuals – have nurtured and shaped the human rights movement, turning the principles enumerated in the Declaration into action to transform lives.
The annual award is named the Beacon Prize to echo the calls of leaders from President Ronald Reagan to President Barack Obama who have called the United States a beacon for those seeking freedom. The Beacon Prize invokes this description as a challenge: that beacon shines brightest when the United States leads by example and its actions match its ideals. The Beacon Prize celebrates people and organizations whose actions to promote human rights have brought the United States closer to this ideal.
With this award, Human Rights First seeks to publicly demonstrate that support for human rights is both firmly rooted in the American tradition and that this support is as broad as it is deep, a value that unites Americans of different races, religions and political affiliations. As President Jimmy Carter said of the special relationship between this country and the universal aspiration for human rights, “America did not invent human rights. . . Human rights invented America.”
The Beacon prize is open to American citizens, residents, and companies or organizations with headquarters in the United States.
2012 Beacon Prize Winner
Honoring Ambassador J. Christopher StevensHuman Rights First is proud to announce the recipient of the 2012 Beacon Prize: the Honorable J. Christopher Stevens, Ambassador of the United States of America.
In postwar Libya, Ambassador Stevens heroically represented the United States and embodied her highest ideals in a region where Americans are often viewed with mistrust. Motivated by his longstanding conviction that he could not be an effective ambassador from behind a bunker, Ambassador Stevens refused to let security threats deter him from developing the personal relationships essential to his mission. His courageous work and commitment to human rights won him the respect and friendship of many Libyans and, after he was killed by a terrorist attack, they joined Americans in grieving his death. His work in Libya was the capstone of a sterling two-decade career in the U.S. Foreign Service. Throughout the Middle East—from Damascus to Cairo to Riyadh— Ambassador Stevens quietly did the essential work of building bridges to people in other cultures, putting American ideals into practice. Human Rights First is honored to recognize his extraordinary leadership with our inaugural Beacon Prize.