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Synopsis: In honor and support of National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, whistleblower advocates traditionally host an Awards Reception in the courtyard of the Stewart Mott House on Capitol Hill. In addition to the traditional film industry award, e.g., Best Feature, Best Documentary, Best Short, etc. the Whistleblower Summit also recognizes real-life heroes and advocates. The Pillar Award presentation is an annual ceremony celebrating notable First Amendment, Civil Rights and Human Rights champions.

Pillar Awards Presentation by:

• Michael McCray, ACORN 8
• Marcel Reid, Pacifica Whistleblower Liaison

Pillar Award for Human Rights
“Person’s of Conscience”

As whistleblowers, we are a community outspoken activists and advocates who frequently speak truth to power. We are trans-partisan, and view whistleblowing not in terms of Left versus Right—but instead as Right versus Wrong. The Pillar Award is a way for our community to give credit and recognition to the individuals and institutions that form the foundation that supports our community, in particular First Amendment, protections.

We traditionally present Pillar Awards to courageous lawmakers who have sponsored or co-sponsored important legislation or supported our community in other tangible ways. Since it takes Democrats and Republicans to actually pass legislation into law we often recognize the sponsors and co-sponsors of relevant legislation from both sides of the aisle. We have also given Pillar Awards to other exemplary individuals and organizations supporting Civil Rights, Civil Liberties and Human Rights, including Media Organizations, Journalists and Community Activists.

Martha Mitchell & Frank Wills Award
“Unsung Heroes”

We are also proud to announce the “Martha Mitchell & Frank Wills” Award for Whistleblowers and Unsung Heroes. This award is given to whistleblowers and others who suffer great tragedy and setbacks for speaking truth to power or otherwise doing the right thing. Frank Wills was the security guard who reported the break-in at the Watergate Hotel and Martha Mitchell was the wife of John Mitchell, United States Attorney General under President Richard Nixon. She kept the Watergate story alive due to her frequent phone calls to reporters and colorful comments on the state of the nation, until it was eventually picked up by the Washington Post and several high-profile magazines.

Their courage eventually brought down the Presidency of Richard Millhouse Nixon. Tragically, everyone benefited from the Watergate story, including the criminals; except the Whistleblowers, i.e., Frank Wills suffered retaliation and died destitute, while Martha Mitchell who was divorced, committed to a mental health institution and died of multiple myeloma three years later. This award honors his memory and highlights the tension between how whistleblowers are used regularly by media outlets but are then readily discarded when the news cycle ends.

Grace Lee Boggs Award
“Civic Activism”

We are also proud to award the “Grace Lee Boggs” for civic activism. Grace Lee was an American author, social activist, philosopher, and feminist. A prominent activist her entire adult life, Grace Lee was born in Rhode Island in 1915, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. She studied at Barnard College and Bryn Mawr, receiving her Ph.D. in 1940. Her studies in philosophy and the writings of Marx, Hegel, and Margaret Mead led not to a life in academia, but rather to a lifetime of social activism. Lee’s activism began in Chicago, where she joined the movement for tenants’ rights, and then the Workers Party, a splinter group of the Socialist Workers Party. In these associations, as well as in her involvement with the 1941 March on Washington, Lee focused on marginalized groups such as women and people of color.

In 1953, Lee married black auto-worker and activist James Boggs and moved to Detroit, where she remains an activist today, writing columns for the Michigan Citizen. James died in 1993. She believed that by working together in small groups, positive social change could happen, not in large revolutions where one group of power simply changes position with another. The “Grace Lee Boggs” award honors civic activism and grassroots engagement.

Gladys Louise Smith Award
Mary Pickford

Gladys Louise Smith (April 8, 1892 – May 29, 1979), known professionally as Mary Pickford, was a Canadian-born American film actress and producer. With a career spanning fifty years, she was one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who present the yearly “Oscar” award ceremony. In her prime, Pickford was known as “America’s Sweetheart” and the “girl with the curls”. She was one of the Canadian pioneers in early Hollywood and a significant figure in the development of film acting. Pickford was one of the earliest stars to be billed under her own name, and was one of the most popular actresses of the 1910s and 1920s, earning the nickname “Queen of the Movies”. She is credited as having defined the ingénue archetype in cinema. She was awarded the second-ever Academy Award for Best Actress for her first sound film role in Coquette (1929). Also, she received an honorary Academy Award in 1976.

She was a co-founder of both the Pickford–Fairbanks Studio (along with Douglas Fairbanks) and, later, the United Artists film studio. United Artists Corporation (UA), currently doing business as United Artists Digital Studios, is an American film and television entertainment studio. Founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, the studio was premised on allowing actors to control their own interests, rather than being dependent upon commercial studios. In consideration of her contributions to American cinema, the American Film Institute ranked Pickford as 24th in its 1999 list of greatest female stars of classic Hollywood Cinema.


Family Friendly



Run Time

75 minutes

Country of Origin

United States

Production Year


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