- William J. Drummond (76-77) – 2015 John W. Gardner Legacy of Leadership Award
John W. Gardner challenged all White House Fellows to commit to a lifetime of public service: to return to their communities after their Fellowship year and become agents of change and renewal, and to work to strengthen the White House Fellows Program. Bill Drummond has met John Gardner’s challenge. By any measure, Bill has lived all the values of the White House Fellows program. His life is one of great personal and professional achievement, leadership, and selfless service to community and country.
Personal Background: Bill grew up in a low-income neighborhood of West Oakland, CA. Orphaned at age 12 and raised by his stepmother, Bill attended public schools and was the first in his family to go to college, the University of California at Berkeley. At Berkeley he discovered he had a flair for writing, and after graduation enrolled in the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. His first job was in 1966 with the Courier-Journal in Louisville, KY, where he covered the civil rights movement from its front lines. The next year he went to the Los Angeles Times, where he reported on campus turmoil, prisoner unrest, and racial conflict, rising in the next 12 years to become assistant city editor and then bureau chief in New Delhi and Jerusalem. After serving his White House Fellowship in 1976-77, Bill served as associate press secretary to President Carter and was a founding editor of National Public Radio’s news program “Morning Edition.” In 1983, he returned to Berkeley to teach journalism, where he has been ever since. He has won numerous awards, including a National Press Club Foundation Award, the Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for Journalism Excellence, and the Award for Outstanding Coverage of the Black Condition from the National Association of Black Journalists.
Leadership, Achievements and Dedication to Public Service: After 40 years, and authoring of literally thousands of news stories, Bill tried, in his words, “to identify a story I wrote, any story, that made anyone’s life materially better.” And yet: “I wasn’t able to think of one.” And so he turned to the San Quentin State Prison, California’s oldest prison and the U.S.’s largest death row for male inmates. Three times a week, he brings his Berkeley students to the prison where they help inmates write for and edit the San Quentin News, one of a handful of inmate-produced newspapers in the world. His most notable assignment to the inmates: write your own obituary. And the creative obituaries that came forth — filled with imagination, remorse, pride, and pain – have begun to redeem Bill’s own sense of progress and purpose in the world. As one student said of Bill, “He pushes me when I feel depleted and encourages me when I feel defeated. He does the same for the writers at San Quentin. Because of his work, they are better reporters and better people.” For this achievement, among others, Bill was awarded a 2015 Chancellor’s Award for Public Service from the University of California at Berkeley.
Support of the White House Fellows Program: Bill has been an active alumnus of the White House Fellows program, serving on Regional Panels, recruiting candidates, reading applications, participating in the first WHF Alumni trip to China in 1979, and helping to organize and provide speakers for annual Leadership Conferences.
Bill Drummond has dedicated his life to public service and giving back to his community. His determination to make a difference through journalism has taken him from the civil rights marches in the U.S. to conflict-ridden world capitals to the White House to San Quentin prison cells. He is a public servant of the highest order, and the White House Fellows Foundation and Association is proud to present him with the 2015 John W. Gardner Legacy of Leadership Award.posted: September 16, 2015