Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Public Service


Arlin M. Adams

In recognition of

contributions to public life reflecting the best skills a lawyer can possess: leader of the bar, distinguished judge, public policy advocate, settler of disputes, generous donor of time and talent.

At the American Philosophical Society, a former president and much more.  Pioneer of Head Start and other public welfare programs that have improved the lives of countless children. World War II veteran.  Native son of Philadelphia who has given back to his city and state throughout a 64-year legal career.  A model of fairness and negotiator extraordinaire, who brings adversaries to the table and persuades them to talk because they trust him.



John Hope Franklin

In recognition of his achievement as the first American black scholar to break triumphantly through the color barrier when he was appointed Chair of the Brooklyn College History Department in 1956, and in recognition of his pioneering role in rescuing African-American history from oblivion through seventy years of powerful scholarship and teaching, the American Philosophical Society salutes John Hope Franklin. His life-long commitment to civil rights for all Americans, and his life-long determination to combat racism in all of its ugly forms, has liberated us all.



Sam Nunn

In recognition of

  • his lifelong dedication to public service, first as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, then for 24 years as a U.S. Senator from Georgia, and now as Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, as a distinguished professor in The Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and as chair of the board of trustees of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
  • his truly bi-partison commitment as U.S. Senator reflected in the landmark Department of Defense Reorganization Act, drafted with Senator Barry Goldwater, and the "Nunn-Lugar" Cooperative Threat Reduction Program which provides assistance to Russia and the former Soviet republics in securing and destroying their excess nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.
  • and, his tireless devotion and leadership in efforts to reduce the global threat from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.




James D. Wolfensohn (presented in 2006)

In recognition of his strong and wise leadership as President of the World Bank for 10 years, 1995 to 2005. During his transforming Presidency, the World Bank

  • firmly refocused on the war against global poverty as its primary mission,
  • fought to beat back the HIV/AIDS pandemic and to improve the environment, education and health in developing countries,
  • obtained debt reduction for 27 highly indebted poor countries,
  • identified corruption as a major burden for the poor in developing countries and supported anticorruption programs in nearly 100 countries, and
  • modernized and decentralized its own operations and made them more transparent and accessible.

And in recognition of his dedicated service in the most recent 12 months as Special Envoy in the Middle East to coordinate the Gaza Disengagement.



Sandra Day O'Connor

In recognition of her lifelong commitment to public service, including service in all three branches of State government in her native Arizona and, now for nearly twenty-two years, membership on the Supreme Court of the United States, and In recognition of the trailblazing example she has set for others as the first woman Majority Leader of a State Senate and as the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, and In recognition of her contributions to the work of the Court in thoughtful and well-written opinions, and In recognition of her valuable participation in the efforts of American lawyers and judges to promote the rule of law in Central and Eastern Europe.



Mary Robinson

Distinguished legal scholar; Professor of Law at Trinity College, Dublin Exemplary barrister; devoted to human rights Admired legislator, member of the Seanad Eireann Beloved President of the Republic of Ireland Dedicated international public servant; United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Tireless champion for the homeless, the dispossessed and the oppressed The American Philosophical Society salutes this daughter of Ireland and citizen of the world, and commends her unswerving devotion to human dignity and freedom.



Nelson Mandela

Steadfast advocate of justice, Tireless champion of freedom; the American Philosophical Society salutes this son of a chief and father of a nation, and recognizes his extraordinary contribution, not only to the citizens of South Africa, but also to countless men and women in other lands; Who, as a prisoner of conscience for 28 years, so used his captivity to instruct and inspire others, that the prison in which he was confined has now become a symbol of courage and hope, and a place of pilgrimage; And who, as leader of his people and their first elected president, led the way to equality, improved education, housing and economic growth, with vision, determination, energy and magnanimity, achieving reconciliation and cooperation between long-standing adversaries. In awarding Nelson Mandela the Franklin Medal, the American Philosophical Society salutes this international statesman and applauds his consistency of purpose, his resolute courage, his generosity of spirit and his inspiring example.



George Mitchell

In recognition of his distinguished service as United States Senator, Majority Leader of the Senate, and more recently, as trusted facilitator of the fragile dialogue that holds hope of bringing peace to Northern Ireland.



Alan Greenspan

In recognition of his leadership and his work as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Their wise formation and skillful execution of monetary policy has contributed significantly to the longest period of prosperity in the United States on record.



William Scranton

In recognition of his leadership on the state, national and international level as a political leader who earned the respect of colleagues in both political parties, and his voice of reason guided important studies which revealed what troubled American society at home, and suggested paths toward greater amity among nations.