The Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts awarded Sam Nunn, the former United States Senator from Georgia and an alumnus of the Institute, with the inaugural Ivan Allen Jr. Award for Social Courage for Nunn’s work to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons. The College presented the $100,000 award during its Founder’s Day celebration on March 15, recognizing the 100th birthday of its founder, former mayor of Atlanta Ivan Allen Jr.
“[Nunn’s] work [at the Nuclear Threat Initiative] helps to ensure the security in our country and security in our world. It also sends an important message to the nation and the world that an individual of his stature and his intellect comes from our own Georgia Tech and state of Georgia,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed at the awards ceremony.
Nunn is currently the co-chairman and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an organization dedicated to reducing biological, chemical and nuclear weapon threats.
In his acceptance speech, which was preceded by taped congratulations from President Barack Obama and Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Nunn offered advice to the nation’s leaders, outlining three challenges he believes to be most important: deciding on fiscal policy, creating a sustainable energy policy and fixing eroding math and science educational programs.
Afterward, Nunn elaborated on the importance of bringing the nation’s finances in order.
“Everything in government is going to have to be on the table. We have to play with all fifty-two cards in the deck in order to make the kinds of changes we have to have a sound fiscal policy. If we don’t have a sound fiscal policy, it’s not just our economy that’s at stake…it’s also the global economy. The dollar and American leadership is crucial to confidence in the world,” Nunn said.
He concluded with his thoughts on social courage.
“Social courage is not a matter of chance or coincidence. The character and integrity revealed in acts of social courage are not qualities that can be simply switched on when needed. They have to be built and practiced day by day, week by week and year by year,” Nunn said.
Administrators, faculty and students praised the choice of Nunn as the inaugural recipient of the award and highlighted its special meaning to Tech.
“Sen. Nunn is a fabulous recipient, and his connection with Georgia Tech adds a unique benefit to this,” said Institute President G. P. “Bud” Peterson after the acceptance speech. “[The award] is designed for somebody who has demonstrated the type of courage Mayor Allen did. The fact that Sen. Nunn has done that and is also a Tech alum is extra special. I think it helps place Georgia Tech on the national and international stage.”
Richard Barke, Associate Professor in the School of Public Policy, believed that Nunn was a strong first choice for the inaugural award this year.
“It’s going to be a tough act to follow next year,” Barke said. “When they first announced there was going to be a prize for social courage, I was skeptical. How in the world are they going to find somebody that exemplifies the courage that Mayor Allen showed? They nailed it.”
“It’s phenomenal that we’re recognizing the excellence that is held in the Ivan Allen College and the strong legacy we have for students. Recognizing that example of Sam Nunn and Ivan Allen both is very important,” said Austen Edwards, member of the Ivan Allen Student Advisory Board and third-year PUBP and INTA major.
At the request of Nunn, the Ivan Allen College hosted the Allen Prize Symposium the day before the award ceremony.
Experts in global security, nuclear proliferation and global leadership made presentations at the event, framed by “Seven Revolutions” discussed by the researchers from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, of which Nunn currently serves as the chair.
Nunn felt that presenting these complex issues in an accessible fashion would help educate the public.
“There is a lack of foundations sometimes for the kind of political courage we require in our leaders,” Nunn said. “Citizens have to understand problems, and when they do in America, we usually solve them.”