Remarks: 35th Annual Ellis Island Medals of Honor Ceremony


On Saturday, May 14th, the Ellis Island Honors Society (EIHS) hosted the 35th Annual Ellis Island Medals of Honor ceremony, where medalists were recognized for their leadership and service within their communities and professions while exemplifying the values of the American way of life. The black-tie gala was held in Ellis Island’s Great Hall, the original registry room and gateway for 12 million immigrants to the U.S.Former U.S. Ambassador Nancy Brinker delivered the following remarks when receiving her medal.

(as prepared for delivery)

Good evening! I am so honored to be here tonight and I would like to thank board member John Sculley and his dear wife Diane for nominating me for this award.

Thank you to my family and friends for their constant support and thank you to the Honors Society as well, what a wonderful job you have done.

Ellis Island is a reminder that the story of America is a story of immigrants. Mine is an immigrant story as well. My great-grandfather came here, through these waters, seeking freedom, opportunity, and safety.

 As European Jews in the 19th century, they saw members of their community being persecuted. Fortunately, most of my family was able to leave just a single generation before the Holocaust.

To them, America was a land of new beginnings and great hope and opportunity.

But they never forgot what they experienced — and that gave them an overwhelming desire to give back in the form of public service and advocacy. These values were passed on to my grandparents, my parents, my sister Susan G. Komen and me.

Using your voice to help the voiceless is not always popular. In many countries it could result in brutal punishment. My sister – Susan Komen – as she lay dying of breast cancer at the age of 36  inspired me to do everything I could to cure the disease. First, through an organization bearing her name.

And today 40 years later, through the Promise Fund, an organization that is helping impoverished and immigrant women gain access and equity to critical health care services previously denied.

Fifty years ago, the words “breast cancer” couldn’t be said on television, radio, film or printed in a newspaper. Today, we see professional athletes wearing pink to raise awareness of the disease. 

We are fortunate to live in a country that allows us to speak out about the issues we care about. This freedom allows us to make an impact on the lives of others – and in turn, enjoy a life of great meaning.

So, while some would say that public service is a responsibility, I would say it’s a privilege.

Ellis Island is a reminder that not everyone enjoys the same privileges we do. And it is our duty to ensure that future generations remember the past and answer the call to serve our country – not just out of a sense of duty, but out of a sense of enormous gratitude.  

Thank you for this honor.


The 35th Annual Ellis Island Medals of Honor ceremony included: Chairman & CEO of United Therapeutics Corporation and Founder of SiriusXM, Martine Rothblatt; Actor, Nazanin Boniadi; Founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Nancy Brinker; Global Customer Director at The Coca-Cola Company, Sarah Beth Brown; celebrity hair stylist, Martino Cartier; Actor, Comedienne, Author, and Motivational Speaker, Kathy Buckley; Tony Award Winning Producer, Bonnie Comley; California Congressman, Salud Carbajal; Philanthropists, Howard and Wendy Cox; Co-Chairman & CEO of Monarch Casino, John Farahi; Mechanical Engineering Professor and Astronaut, Michael Massimino; Vice Chairman of UBS America, Edward Montero; Professional Golfer and Founder of Chi Chi Rodriguez Management Group, Juan ‘Chi Chi’ Rodriguez; Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command, General Michael Garrett; former United States Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson; and Chairman & CEO, RingCentral, Vlad Shmunis among others. To see the full list of 2022 recipients, please visit: