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World Affairs Council of Western Michigan | 2021 Vandenberg Prize to General James Mattis

June 21

June 1, 2021

Grand Rapids, Mich.--The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan (WACWM) has announced its Vandenberg Prize will be awarded to General James N. Mattis, who served as the 26th Secretary of the Defense (2017-18). In addition, General Mattis was the Commander of the U.S. Central Command (2010-13), the Commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command (2007-10), and the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (2007-09), among other leadership positions.

The Vandenberg Prize is given annually to a national or international leader who has been influential in developing global understanding and collaboration on the world stage.

General Mattis completed a sterling 43-year career in the Marine Corps, serving in command positions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The general’s recent book, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead details his career and vision of leadership.

General Mattis will receive the Vandenberg Prize on Monday, June 21, at a 12 noon virtual event, with a conversation on the military, diplomacy, and global engagement moderated by Congressman Peter Meijer (MI-3), himself a veteran of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The public can register for the event at

The Vandenberg Prize is named after Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg (1881-1951), the inspiration for founding the Council in 1949 by Grand Rapids attorney (and later Federal Judge) Douglas Hillman and businessman Edgar Orr. The first recipient of the Prize, in 2020, was to Ambassador (ret.) Jon M. Huntsman, Jr.

“General Mattis has always upheld the notion that America must lead in diplomacy and international collaboration, that peace won at the diplomatic table was much preferrable to peace won because of the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform,” said Council executive director Michael Van Denend. “We are honored to highlight the General’s service to the country and the world.”

In addition, the Council will present the annual Hillman-Orr Award to the late Ambassador (ret.) Peter F. Secchia, former Ambassador to Italy and San Marino and president and chairman of the board of UFP Industries. Ambassador Secchia passed away on October 21, 2020 but was aware of the award before his passing.

The Hillman-Orr Award goes to a West Michigan individual or institution that mirrors the intent of the Council’s founding leaders to bring global awareness and international understanding to the West Michigan community.

“There was no hesitation among the board of directors about this year’s Hillman-Orr Award,” said Council board president Dick Gauthier. “Peter’s service to country and skill in developing a global business that brought the world to our community is inspiring.”

Hillman and Orr were inspired by the life and work of Senator Vandenberg, an isolationist who became a strong advocate of internationalism in the wake of World War II. Vandenberg forged bipartisan support for the Marshall Plan and NATO and was appointed one of the first U.S. delegates to the brand-new United Nations. Senator Vandenberg has always been considered the “patron saint” of the Council.

The Council is grateful for a formational gift by The Meijer Foundation to launch this special recognition of the importance of global connectedness to West Michigan along with longtime World Affairs Council corporate supporters Amway and Bank of America.

More information on the Vandenberg Prize and free registration for the event can be found at by calling Michael Van Denend at 616.481.9569.

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