It was a career highlight for Rappahannock County resident Ben Goddard when, last month in Rome, he was awarded the prestigious Democracy Medal by the International Association of Political Consultants.
The medal was presented at a black-tie gala Nov. 19 attended by 250 political notables from around the world during the 47th annual IAPC World Conference in Italy.
IAPC awards its Democracy Medal to an individual or organization that has worked courageously to foster, promote and sustain the democratic process. Previous honorees include Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Aung San Suu Kyi and U.S. Presidents Clinton, Carter and Bush.
“I have seen how what we do can have a real impact in the world, and I am honored to be acknowledged for my efforts,” Goddard said upon receiving the medal.
The award recognizes Goddard’s lifetime of achievement in the United States and across the globe. During his career, Goddard, a former television newsman, helped engineer dozens of important U.S. political campaigns, including the presidential campaigns of Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson and Gary Hart. Goddard was one of the first to recognize that the techniques used in candidate campaigning could be applied to political issues.
Goddard is widely credited with creating the genre of issue-advocacy advertising with his hugely successful 1993 “Harry and Louise” television ad campaign, which is now included in the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. (The ads opposed President Clinton’s health-care plan.)
Over the course of his career, Goddard has worked with hundreds of high-profile clients around the world. In the winter of 1993, he was invited to Russia to advise Boris Yelstin’s government on television advertising and the country’s first democratic election. Over the years, Goddard has assisted campaigns throughout Europe and Latin America, and in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Afghanistan.
He is the founder of renowned, D.C.-based Goddard Gunster, and London-based Goddard Global. His firms have won numerous awards for branding and advocacy, most recently the 2013 American Association of Political Consultants Excellence Award for Public Affairs/Advocacy Campaign of the Year. Fortune magazine dubbed Goddard and his teams “the go-to guys in issue advocacy.”
Over the years, Goddard tackled issues including energy, the environment, stem-cell research and stopping the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Goddard wrote and directed an award-winning HBO docudrama, and a documentary featuring interviews with Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, George Schultz, Bill Perry, Colin Powell and Mikhail Gorbachev for the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Goddard also produced the 2000 feature film “Taliesin Jones” that won the Berlin International Film Festival.
Idaho born and bred, with a Masters in Political Science from the University of Idaho, Goddard has lived and had businesses in Washington State, Arizona, Colorado and California before moving to Washington, D.C., in 2003. He and his wife, Louise (whom he met when he cast the former actress in the Harry and Louise campaign), bought a weekend farm in Rappahannock soon after their arrival on the East Coast. When Goddard retired in January of this year, they sold their D.C. residence and now live in Rappahannock full time.
“I am drawn to the Rappahannock county area, not just for its beauty, but because it reminds me of where I grew up,” says Goddard, who is an avid collector of the work of local artists. “It’s a rural community with warm, genuine people.”
He still consults on issues close to his heart, Goddard says, and is chairman of the Goddard Institute of Public Affairs. The institute conducts seminars and classes throughout the United States, the European Union, the Middle East and Central and South America — anywhere, as he says, we can help democracy flourish.