On Sept. 21, the International Day of Peace, veteran and peacemaker Ron Kovic was honored at the Capshaw-Speilberg Center for Educational Justice in Santa Monica.
Kovic is a former U.S. Marine sergeant who was paralyzed from the chest down during his second tour of Vietnam. His bestselling autobiography, Born On the Fourth of July, was turned into a hit movie starring Tom Cruise and directed by Oliver Stone. For the past 40 years, Kovic has been a campaigner for peace.
Stone and Cruise offered video tributes applauding Kovic for his bravery and perseverance. Another video greeting came from former military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, famous for leaking the notorious Pentagon Papers to the press and sparking the 1972 Watergate scandal.
Frank Cavestani, Director of Operation Last Patrol honored Ron Kovic and described him as being, “One of the greatest orators of our time."
The evening's festivities included live music by New Roads Community Jazz Band and Stuart Pearlman, Prominent speakers including filmmaker Skip Blumberg, documentarian Loretta Smith and Joyce Sharman, wife of former Laker coach Bill Sharman. Sharman spoke of her late brother, who was killed in Vietnam, and of her close friendship with Kovic. She shared images of Kovic's art from her personal collection and talked about the annual Ron Kovic Peace Prize, awarded by Kovic each year at the MY HERO International Film Festival.
Robert Scheer, legendary journalist and editor-in-chief of Truthdig.com, concluded the evening by presenting Kovic with the first MY HERO Messenger for Peace Award. Scheer called Kovic "a great American hero."
Accepting his award, Kovic thanked the audience, saying, “My life his been a blessing in disguise, I refuse to see it any other way, I am a fortunate man, even though I have had to deal with a lot of hurt, I have been given so many gifts. Each and every one of you is what keeps me going, your love, your caring.”
He added, “No matter what obstacles we have before us, no matter how frustrating it may seem, no matter how many wars they may threaten to begin in this world, there are more peacemakers in this world then there are war makers. There are more opportunities for a more beautiful world right now....We are going to move forward and make this country and world a much better place.
The MY HERO Project is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 by Jeanne Meyers, Rita Milch, and Karen Pritzker, to combat the violence and negative role models so prevalent in mainstream media. The MY HERO Project uses media and technology to celebrate the best of humanity and empower people of all ages and all backgrounds to realize their own potential to effect positive change in the world.