The Grand Rapids Bar Association (GRBA) presented Koning with its annual Liberty Bell Award during a special presentation in conjunction with the American Bar Association’s celebration of Law Day.
The Liberty Bell Award honors a non-lawyer or nonprofit organization that has made an outstanding contribution to the cause of justice or to advancing public understanding of the Constitution and the legal system.
The theme for this year’s honor is “Assuring Equal Justice for All.”
Judges for the award based their decision on promoting a better understanding of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The award also honors those who encourage greater respect for law and the courts, stimulate a deeper sense of personal responsibility so that citizens recognize duties as well as rights, contribute to the effective functioning of our institutions of government and foster a better understanding and appreciation of the rule of law.
As the winner, Koning also is automatically nominated for the State Bar of Michigan’s Liberty Bell Award, to be presented at the annual meeting of the state bar here in September.
According to the Liberty Bell citation, Koning has been recognized nationally and internationally for his global work in the field of information democracy and has appeared in national media including, “Good Morning America.”
Inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s observation that information is the currency of democracy, Koning says he works to ensure that everyone in the community has the tools to exercise their rights under the Constitution, including the right to vote and to speak freely.
He said those tools also include access to information and to the means to make one’s views and concerns public.
In regards to Koning’s work and the work of the Community Media Center and its affiliate, the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy, GRBA president Dale Ann Iverson said, “The selection of Dirk Koning by the award committee speaks to the Constitution as a living, breathing document that relies on visionaries like Dirk to keep it alive in a landscape radically changed from the time when democracy and freedom under law were first promised. He has worked to help fulfill those promises for our entire community.”
The GRBA has been honoring Liberty Bell winners for 40 years.
In 1998, Leona Spencer was given the award for her tireless work in the community on behalf of children and families.
Glenn Barkan of Aquinas College won the Liberty Bell Award in 1999. The 2000 recipient was Wayne Bentley, a middle school government teacher.
Susan Heartwell of the Children’s Assessment Center was honored with the award last year.