President Obama honored our co-founder, Judge and Congressman Abner J. Mikva, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. We’re so proud of and inspired by Judge Mikva, whose vision for involving young people in politics has helped us grow from a small organization that worked with 120 students in 8 schools to one that now engages over 6,000 youth from 120 Chicago area schools annually and trains teachers from across the country.

Abner Mikva started his political career in 1948, when he tried to volunteer for the Stevenson/Douglas campaign and was rudely dismissed by a Chicago ward committeeman with the words, “We don’t want nobody nobody sent.” Beating the odds, Abner continued to push his way into the tightly knit political grid and was elected in 1956 to the first of five consecutive terms in the Illinois General Assembly. Over the course of his career, he held positions in all three branches of the U.S government, a distinction that few can boast.

The idea that all of us “nobodies” should have a voice in the political process is an important one for Ab, one that he and wife, our co-founder Zoe Mikva, considers the cornerstone of a thriving democracy. We continue to promote the public service values modeled by Ab and Zoe through our work here at Mikva Challenge.

“Of all the accomplishments in my professional life, what I am most proud of is helping found the Mikva Challenge.” Abner Mikva