American Library Association presents James Madison Award to former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta

Contact: Frank DiFulvio


ALA News Release

For Immediate Release

March 12, 2001

American Library Association presents James Madison Award to former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta

The American Library Association (ALA) is proud to present the 12th annual James Madison Award to former White House Chief of Staff John D. Podesta. ALA President Nancy Kranich will present the award Friday, March 16, at the National Freedom of Information (FOI) Day Conference sponsored by the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center in cooperation with the ALA. This year's conference theme is "Access, Privacy & Security: A Troubled Tangle."

From his days in the U.S. Senate to his service with the Clinton administration, Podesta has argued vigorously for an open and accountable government. In the White House, he advocated the archiving of White House e-mail files, and, later, as chief of staff, organized internal staff opposition to the draconian "official secrets act." That act resulted in a Presidential veto, even though it was passed with unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate -- and had the full backing of both the Department of Justice and the CIA.

Earlier, in 1995, then-Staff Secretary Podesta played a key role in President Clinton's "secrecy reform executive order," which produced more declassified material in five years than had been done during the tenure of all other presidential administrations.

"John Podesta was a consistent and leading advocate for openness and public disclosure of government information during his long and honorable public service with the Senate and the Clinton Administration," Kranich said. "His courageous and often unpublicized efforts to provide Americans with equal and uncensored access to government information set a positive example to all those in government who put the public interest before private considerations."

Each year, the James Madison Award is presented on FOI Day to recognize those individuals or groups that have championed access to government information and the public's right to know. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act, and March 16 is the 250th birthday observance for James Madison, regarded as the Father of the Constitution, as well as the foremost advocate for openness in government. Madison's birth date has been observed for many years as National Freedom of Information Day.

"John Podesta is an ideal candidate for the Madison Award," said Paul McMasters, First Amendment ombudsman at The Freedom Forum. "His career-long commitment to freedom of information principles sets the standard for all of us. We are pleased John will be sharing his experience and perspective as the keynote speaker for this year's National Freedom of Information Day Conference at The Freedom Forum."

Podesta heads up a list of 27 distinguished speakers and presenters scheduled for the conference. More conference details can be found at The Freedom Forum Web site:

The National Freedom of Information Day Conference will run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday, March 16, at The Freedom Forum World Center, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va.

As James Madison himself once proclaimed, "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it. For freedom is a virtuous right to be vigilantly defended generation after generation, if we are to remain in the future what we seek to be in the light of the present -- a free and honorable people."