Each year, the Ellis Island Honors Society (EIHS) recognizes Americans who have made it their mission to share their wealth of knowledge, courage, compassion, talent and generosity with those less fortunate. The Ellis Island Medal of Honor is officially recognized by both Houses of Congress as one of our nation’s most prestigious awards and annually memorialized in the Congressional Record.
Kent, who was among more than 90 honorees recognized at the May 11 gala on Ellis Island, was born in New York when his father served as Turkey’s consul general. He grew up in India, Thailand, Iran, Poland and Sweden before deciding to make a life in the United States during a 1977 road trip through California.
“Those were not America’s brightest days,” Kent recalled during the ceremony. “And, yet, even then, I saw so much potential and opportunity.”
Kent credited America’s founding fathers with constantly challenging the status quo in pursuit of progress. “We remain rich beneficiaries of their positive restlessness, their insatiable drive to make things better,” he said. “Indeed, with each generation, new and native-born Americans have come together, shoulder-to-shoulder, to propel our ongoing, benevolent cycle of rebirth and renewal.”
Invoking the nearby Statue of Liberty, Kent saluted immigrants for representing America’s “dreams of the future.”
“Dreams of better lives, ever-expanding liberty, and a pursuit of happiness that’s always advancing, at home and around the world,” he concluded. “That’s the enduring hope we salute and celebrate: the light of the lady who stands in the harbor. Waiting and welcoming. Tonight and always.”
Since the Medal was founded in 1986, EIHS has honored distinguished and diverse Americans including seven Presidents of the United States, Vice President Joe Biden, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Nobel Laureates Elie Wiesel and Malala Yousafzai, Coretta Scott King, John Sculley, Muhammad Ali, Lee Iacocca and Rosa Parks. This year’s honorees included former Google executive Eric Schmidt, MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, CNN medical reporter Sanjay Gupta and entertainer Paula Abdul.