Retiring NED Vice Chairman Thomas R. Donahue was honored by the Endowment with the presentation of the Democracy Service Medal on March 16, 2006. The ceremony took place at a pre-St. Patrick’s Day dinner at the home of Democratic Party activist Esther Coopersmith.
On hand to offer praise and congratulations were:
- Senator Paul Sarbanes (DMD)
- Former House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt
- Jack Joyce, former president of the Bricklayers International Union
- NED President Carl Gershman
Donahue, who served as the longtime Secretary General of the AFL-CIO, and briefly as its president in 1995, played an important role in the founding of the National Endowment for Democracy. Working closely with the late Lane Kirkland, Donahue marshaled the strengths of the American labor movement to support NED’s early efforts to promote democracy abroad. Most notably, this included the provision of material, financial, and moral support to the Polish trade union movement Solidarity through the Free Trade Union Institute, known today as the Solidarity Center. That relationship was commemorated in 1999, on the 10th anniversary of the Polish Roundtable accord, when NED made its first presentation of the Democracy Service Medal to former Polish President and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland.
Donahue joined the NED Board of Directors in 1997 and was elected vice chairman in 2002. He has chaired the Endowment’s Budget and Audit Committee, on which he remains a member.
The Board of Directors of the National Endowment for Democracy created its Democracy Service Medal in 1999 to recognize individuals who have demonstrated, through personal commitment, their dedication to the advancement of freedom, human rights, and democracy.