The Ramon Magsaysay Award was created in 1957, the year the Philippines lost in a plane crash a President who was well-loved for his simplicity and humility, his passion for justice, particularly for the poor, and his advancement of human dignity. Among the many friends and admirers of the late President around the world were the Rockefeller brothers. With the concurrence of the Philippine government, the trustees of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) established the Award to honor his memory and perpetuate his example of integrity in public service and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society.
Supported with a generous endowment from the RBF, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) was organized in Manila in May 1957, with seven prominent Filipinos as founding members of the foundation's board of trustees. The Foundation has since implemented the Magsaysay Award program, pursuing the mission of "honoring greatness of spirit in selfless service to the peoples of Asia." The first Ramon Magsaysay Awards were given on August 31, 1958 to five outstanding individuals working in India, Indonesia, Philippines, Republic of China (Taiwan) and Sri Lanka, and a Philippine-based organization.
Today, the Ramon Magsaysay Award program is managed by the RMAF board of trustees composed of nine Filipinos serving staggered four-year terms. An appointed president oversees the full-time administration of the program. Annually, the RMAF solicits award nominations from a wide-ranging pool of international nominators. Nominations are carefully investigated and the awardees are determined after rigorous evaluation by the Foundation's board of trustees. Presentation Ceremonies are held annually in Manila on 31 August, the birth anniversary of the late President.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award is given to persons - regardless of race, nationality, creed or gender - who address issues of human development in Asia with courage and creativity, and in doing so have made contributions which have transformed their societies for the better. The Award is given in six categories: government service; public service; community leadership; journalism, literature and creative communication arts; peace and international understanding; and emergent leadership. The Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership seeks to inspire young people to apply their talents and energies to selfless and innovative service in Asia; this award category was created in 2000 with support from a Ford Foundation grant, and honors greatness of spirit among men and women forty years old and below.
Collectively, the Awardees' stories paint a portrait of remarkable change and achievement in areas as diverse as rural and urban development, poverty alleviation, public health, the environment, governance, education, business, human rights, culture, and the arts. In the five decades of the Ramon Magsaysay Award's existence, Asia has made great progress, some nations more than others. Yet the region continues to grapple with problems of poverty, malnutrition, disease, and violence - as well as with newer problems that have come with economic progress itself.
In continuing to recognize individuals and organizations who address these issues with extraordinary vigor, integrity and selflessness, the RMAF seeks to honor the legacy of President Ramon Magsaysay and to place living examples of inspiring leadership and service before the public. From them, present and future generations may draw courage, challenge, and hope.
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