It isn’t every day that a member of the British royal family walks the halls of the US Capitol.
Washington welcomed HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, with a reception Monday evening by honorary co-hosts Sen. Roger Wicker, Sen. Mary Landrieu, Sen. Kay Hagan, and Sen. Thad Cochran. The Queen’s youngest son is the international champion of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a program founded by his father, Prince Phillip, more than fifty years ago. The award is designed to encourage youth around the world between the ages of 14 and 25 with character and self-esteem development through volunteering and physical challenges.
“We hear a lot about young people going wrong and very rarely do we actually give credit to the vast majority of young people want to go right. And here’s just one program that does that,” said Prince Edward. “At the end of [the program] they get recognized for their achievements and that’s a mark that will then hopefully open doors for them wherever they go.”
The program is now in 132 countries and has helped more than 800,000 youth become leaders in their communities. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – Young Americans’ Challenge was founded in the US in 2007, and is currently in 20 states and the District of Columbia.
Josh Randle, the President and Executive Director of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in the US, explains: “To earn a bronze, silver or gold award, participants spend approximately 1 hour each week on each activity, culminating with the adventurous journey component. The award is non-competitive, it’s non-academic but rather it aims to develop one’s entire self, creating responsible and experienced citizens and encouraging selfless service to others.”
Prince Edward is traveling to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and New York City to share the program’s mission, and to encourage and develop support from additional states, as well as other local and national youth programs, universities, and businesses.
“I’m proud to say that my state of Mississippi is among one of the 21 states to have embraced the award,” said Sen. Roger Wicker. “The award has achieved excellent momentum since it was launched four years ago here in the United States. I’m very excited about the work that has been done and the work that is to come.”
Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan is starting to work towards her own Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. In traveling the country and talking to young people she hears time again the biggest issue facing teens today is peer pressure.
“I think that says something huge. Why is peer pressure an issue? Because they don’t have the self-confidence to stand up to it. And how do we develop that self-confidence so they do have that and they’re able to stand up against peer pressure? By giving them opportunities for self-improvement. To have that sense of accomplishment that many people don’t get until they’re much older. And that’s what this program is all about, that’s what the Miss America Organization is all about: earning that sense of accomplishment.”
Attending the royal reception were Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – US Board Members Sam Haskell and Lanny Griffith; British Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald; Rep. Dennis Kucinich and wife, Elizabeth; Greta Van Susteren and John Coale; POLITICO’S Roger Simon and Marcia Kramer; Ellie Schafer, White House Visitor’s Office; Nathan Naylor, Veterans Affairs; AP’s Kimberly Dozier; Juleanna Glover; Ed Henry; and Michael & Meryl Chertoff.
For more information about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program in the United States go to www.usaward.org.