This week, in the spirit of the holiday, I was thinking about who is deserving of thanks. My answer is someone who passed away in 2009, but whose legacy impacts my work everyday: Claiborne Pell.
Senator Pell represented Rhode Island from 1961-1995. During that time, he introduced legislation to create Basic Educational Opportunity Grants to provide access to higher education for students with financial need to attend college. The grants, later renamed Pell Grants in honor of him, now represent $67 billion in aid and have helped over 100 million students. Many students, myself included, could not have attended college without this help.
As monumental as the Pell Grant system is, it is not Senator Pell’s only important work. He was the main sponsor of the bill to establish the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He also advocated for mass transportation and supported legislation which led to the formation of Amtrak.
Senator Pell was from an affluent family, attended Princeton and Columbia, and could have had many lucrative careers. Instead he chose to serve his country in the Coast Guard, as a Foreign Service Officer and finally as Senator, and lend his stature and credibility to promoting causes that benefited the less fortunate.
I believe America today is a better place because of him, and on this Thanksgiving Eve I say Thank You Senator Pell for the work that influences us yet today.
Who has left their mark on your work — and what work are you doing that will benefit the next generation?
— beth triplett