Hall of Unsung Heroes Grand Opening Remarks

May 24, 2016

Lowell Milken resize
Lowell Milken gives opening remarks at the Grand Opening of the Center for Unsung Heroes

It is a great pleasure to be here today and to see the realization of a vision that began a decade ago. In my travels across the nation and around the world, I am always eager to speak of the Center. People are excited to learn of an organization – really a “movement” – that seeks to translate values into action. And in the course of my discussions, one question always comes up. “Why Fort Scott?”

The answer is because of you. When Norm and his students started this amazing chain of events by discovering Irena Sendler – the Unsung Hero who rescued 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto – this greater-Kansas community embraced teacher and students with open arms. I believe that this Center could only have been born out of a community that deeply values history, education and diversity. And in the decade since the Center opened, you have rolled out the welcome mat to people from 80 countries!

And as we like to say, from Fort Scott to the world! Through online access and our ever-growing network of educators, more than a million students have already participated in the rigor and adventure of discovering heroes overlooked by the history books. Now, thanks to the scholarship, resources, and creativity that will emanate from this new space and beyond, millions more students, educators and communities will have the opportunity to interact with us virtually. People and events previously unknown serve to challenge our understanding and add context to our decisions to create a more secure future for us and our children.

This is why, in my view, history is never a done deal. I learned this at a very young age from my grandfather, Louis Zax. He was an avid chronicler of history. His life spanned world-changing events of the 19th and 20th centuries.

In particular, I recall his telling account of a flu epidemic in 1918 that was killing thousands. Based on his study of history and the impact of plagues on past civilizations, he packed up his family and left life in Chicago for a cabin deep in Michigan’s North Woods. Tens of millions of people would ultimately perish, and there’s every reason to think that my grandfather’s courage and insight saved their lives.

His example ignited my understanding that there were whole worlds to be understood by the discovery process of watching, listening, and asking questions. This awareness was raised to a level of history—to an understanding and appreciation that for history to be useful, it must be explored – its context and challenges, but most of all, how certain individuals responded and shaped events. Individuals with courage and conviction; vision and perseverance; responsibility and compassion. Individuals who by their heroic actions changed the course of history.  

Sad to say, however, that in an age of instant gratification and self-absorption, the concept of a hero has been turned on its head. The main attribute being to gain fame itself without having accomplished anything for the benefit of others.

This is the wrong message for young people, in fact, for all citizens. Instead, the message we want to convey is that real heroes tower and guide. They are the North Star thattoday’s youth can look up to. But their stories need to be discovered and heard. And when we do, we have the opportunity to motivate new generations to aspire to values that are essential during the challenging times we face individually, as a nation and as a world community.

That is the purpose of the Center for Unsung Heroes. And that brings us to the present and the Unsung Heroes here today: Lieutenant Colonel Tran Ngoc Hue, Ken Reinhardt, Ann Williams Wedaman and Therese Frare. You honor us with your presence and embody the spirit of the new Hall we are about to enter. And as we do, let us challenge ourselves to ask: “What change can I create to improve the lives of others?”




Principal Omar Duron Wins Arizona Milken Educator Award

Jennifer Williams Surprised with Louisiana Milken Educator Award

2019 Lowell Milken Founder's Award Goes to Wildflower School in Goodyear, AZ

STEM Teacher Nichole Anderson Receives Milken Educator Award

2010-19 Missouri Milken Educator Therese Shain Shares Big News

Angie Beavin wins Milken Educator Award in Kentucky

Erica Stephens Accepting 2018 Tenneesee Milken Educator Award

Oklahoma Kindergarten Teacher Hailey Couch Wins 2018 Milken Award

Kansas 2018 Milken Educator Award Recipient Linda Dishman

West Goshen Elementary School Named 2018 TAP Founder's Award Recipient

Teacher Theresa Cross Surprised with Milken Educator Award

Principal Debreon Davis Wins Milken Educator Award

Katherine Watkins Surprised with Milken Educator Award

Knoxville Teacher Paula Franklin Receives Milken Educator Award

Lisa Rodgers Announced as this year's Colorado Milken Educator Award Recipient

Lowell Milken's James Bryant Conant Award Acceptance Speech

Lowell Milken Congratulates 2015 Milken Educator John Lary

Lowell Milken Speaks at 2015 Chapman University Commencement

Lowell Milken with Students at Friendly House Academia del Pueblo Elementary Charter School

Lowell Milken Keynote Address at 2017 TAP Conference

Felicia Casto wins Milken Educator Award at Rim Rock Elementary

Lowell Milken Speaks with Students at East End Prep in Nashville, TN

Ryan James Presented with 2017 Milken Educator Award in Richmond, Virginia

Lowell Milken, Tom Torlakson and Wayne Jospeh at 2017 Milken Educator Award Presentation

Lowell Milken Accepts 2017 James Bryant Conant Award

Media Interviews at Devon Willis-Jones Milken Educator Awards Assembly


Lowell Milken Presents Music Teacher Nicolas Jacques with Nevada Milken Educator Award

Computer Teacher Nichole Anderson Surprise with Milken Educator Award

Missouri Teacher Therese Shain Receives Milken Educator Award

Angie Beavin Surprised with Kentucky Milken Educator Award

Principal Wendy Shirey Receives Nevada Milken Educator Award

Sarah Szymanski Wins Colorado Milken Award

Math Teacher Erica Stephens Wins Tennessee Milken Award in Memphis, TN

Heather Hurt Announced as 2018-19 Alabama Milken Educator Awardee

Oklahoma Kindergarten Teacher Hailey Couch Wins Milken Award

Perry Township Schools Receives First-Ever National Award of Excellence for Educator Effectiveness

AZ Science Teacher Jonathan Cadena Surprised with Milken Educator Award

Math Teacher Angela Boxie Wins Milken Educator Award

Katherine Watkins Surprised with Milken Educator Award

Knoxville Teacher Paula Franklin Surprised with Milken Educator Award

Chino Hills Teacher Alexis King Receives 2017 Milken Educator Award

G.W. Carver Primary School Wins 2017 TAP Founder's Award

Arizona Teacher Ana Gutierrez Receives Milken Educator Award

Milken Archive Releases Retrospective Documentary