Obama presents 2011 National Humanities Medal to Ghanaian-born Prof. Anthony Appiah

Prof. Kwame Anthony Appiah presented with a National Medal of Humanities by President Obama. © Getty Images

US President Barack Obama has presented the 2011 National Humanities Medal to Ghanaian-born Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah at an awards ceremony held at the White House.

The event also saw the US First Lady Michelle Obama attending.

In an official citation read at the award ceremony,  a White House statement February 13, 2012 read “Kwame Anthony Appiah for seeking eternal truths in the contemporary world. His books and essays within and beyond his academic discipline have shed moral and intellectual light on the individual in an era of globalization and evolving group identities.”

Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah who is the President of the American center of PEN, a writers’ organaisation , is a philosopher advocating a school of thought he calls ‘cosmopolitanism’.

He told broadcast news network Al Jazeera in an interview February 18, 2012 what cosmopolitanism means, describing it as “A tradition of thought that tries to develop the metaphor of the idea that we are all citizens of the world.”

Prof. Kwame Anthony Appiah, who is a Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University, is a writer. He has written three novels and edited numerous nonfiction books.

Prof. Appiah is from a family of renowned academics and writers. He is the son of Joe Appiah, a lawyer and politician, who was also, at various times, a Member of Parliament, an Ambassador and a President of the Ghana Bar Association, and Peggy Appiah, the novelist and children’s writer. Both parents are deceased.

Prof. Appiah is recognized as a world traveler immersed in everything from ethics to racial identity, who has written often about Africans and African-Americans and set his fiction in England and Italy.

Born in London, Prof. Appiah had lived for many years in Ghana, before moving on to a career in teaching abroad.

Some of his achievements include been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

He was inducted in 2008 into the American Academy of Arts and Letters; and he has served on the boards of the PEN American Center, the National Humanities Center and the American Academy in Berlin.

He has honorary degrees from the University of Richmond, (2000), Colgate University (2003) Bard College (2004), Fairleigh Dickinson University (2006) and Swarthmore College (2006), and received the degree of Honorary Doctor of Philosophy in May 2008 from Dickinson College, where he gave the Commencement Address in the pouring rain.

In the fall of 2008, he was awarded the first Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize by Brandeis University for “outstanding and lasting scholarly contributions to racial, ethnic and/or religious relations.”

By Ekow Quandzie

Watch Prof. Appiah’s interview with Al Jazeera

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