Media Institute Announces 2021 Award Recipients

AT&T Chairman William E. Kennard, CBS Evening News anchor Norah O'Donnell and NAB CEO Gordon Smith will be honored at the Media Institute’s Free Speech America virtual gala on Oct. 20.

The Media Institute will honor William E. Kennard, chairman of the board of AT&T; Norah O’Donnell, anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News; and NAB President-CEO Gordon Smith at its annual Free Speech America Gala on Oct. 20. The gala will be in virtual format once again.

Kennard will receive the American Horizon Award, while O’Donnell will receive the Freedom of Speech Award.  Smith will be presented a special Lifetime Achievement Award, and will also be the event’s featured speaker. The master of ceremonies will be communications attorney and former FCC chairman Richard E. Wiley of Wiley Rein.

Kennard has served on the AT&T board since 2014 and became chairman in January 2021. He was the U.S. ambassador to the European Union from 2009 to 2013.  From 1997 to 2001, he was chairman of the FCC. His FCC tenure was marked by an explosion in wireless phones and broadband technology.

O’Donnell is the anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News. She also anchors CBS News election specials and is a contributing correspondent for 60 Minutes. An Emmy-winning journalist, she has spent more than two decades covering major stories around the globe and interviewing some of the world’s most important leaders.

Smith is president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters. He joined NAB in 2009 following two terms as a U.S. senator. After more than a decade as the voice of U.S. television and radio broadcasters, Smith announced he would retire at the end of 2021, capping a career of leadership in both government and industry.

Master of Ceremonies Wiley serves as chairman of the board of The Media Institute.


The American Horizon Award recognizes an individual for visionary leadership in the communications industry. The Freedom of Speech Award recognizes an individual who has worked to advance free speech, a free press and the First Amendment.

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