Willie Nelson was honored with the LBJ Foundation’s highest honor, the LBJ Liberty & Justice For All Award, at a gala dinner Friday night (May 12) at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin.
The sold-out celebration featured performances by Eric Church, Sam Hunt, Elle King and Lyle Lovett. Church performed “Funny How Time Slips Away” and “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young,” Hunt offered up new song “Women in my Life” and “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys,” King performed “It’s Not Supposed to be That Way” and “Love Go By,” and Lovett honored Nelson with the classics “Hello Walls” and “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys.”
The special evening raised funds to create the Willie Nelson Endowment for Uplifting Rural Communities in honor of Nelson’s longtime philanthropy and commitment to family farms and sustainable agriculture. The endowment ensures that Nelson’s advocacy will continue and will fund research and student fellowships at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, a part of The University of Texas at Austin. The focus will be on sustainable agriculture, eliminating hunger, resilient energy, sustainable water and natural disaster recovery to benefit rural communities.
“A lot of people don’t realize where their food comes from,” Nelson said in a conversation with Mark K. Updegrove, president and CEO of the LBJ Foundation, at the gala dinner. “You know, when you had breakfast this morning, did your food come from a farmer out here who raised his own?…Or did some trucker drive it in from 150 miles away? So, these are things that you need to think about and how you can help the local communities and help the local farmer. Because he’s trying to make it.”
President and Mrs. Johnson’s daughters, Lynda Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson presented Nelson with the LBJ Liberty & Justice For All Award, which recognizes him for exemplifying President Johnson’s belief that America is a nation where everyone has the opportunity to rise and those in need should not fail.
Former recipients of the LBJ Liberty & Justice for All Award include President George H. W. Bush, President Jimmy Carter, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Sen. John McCain, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein.
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