More than 30 years after they opened their first ice cream scoop shop in a dilapidated gas station in Vermont, Ben & Jerry’s cofounders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield found themselves humbled and honored this weekend as they accepted The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center Annual Salute to Greatness Award.
“First and foremost, it is an incredible and humbling honor,” Greenfield says about the recognition and nomination. “We grew up in a time where Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most significant figures of our generation. He inspired us to embrace peace and non-violence. To be recognized not only as individuals, but for the work of Ben & Jerry’s as a company is really one of the most significant moments of my life.”
The King Center's Salute to Greatness Award, one of the King Center's highest honors, is presented to individuals and corporate citizens in recognition of outstanding contributions toward building Dr. King’s “Beloved Community.” The recipients are recognized for achievements that improve the quality of life for all, forge valuable partnerships with the corporate community, and advance the quest for social justice and world peace.
“We are proud to honor you and the Ben & Jerry’s corporation for your numerous achievements in business leadership,” stated King Center president Martin Luther King III. The award has been presented to some of America’s most distinguished leaders, including Bono, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, and King Center founder Coretta Scott King.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change is dedicated to research, education, and training in the principles, philosophy, and methods of Kingian nonviolence.
“As much as it is an honor for us, it is also an opportunity to focus on the important and unfinished work of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Cohen says. “Today our country is at war, spending vast sums of money that could better be used to fight poverty and what Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to as programs of social uplift. I can think of no greater honor than for all of us to commit to peace, nonviolence, and to continue to hold our leaders accountable to these same principles in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s memory.”