Presentation of the Gentleman of Distinction Award to Mike Rowe

as delivered by

Walton Family Founcation Senior Program Officer

Lori Armistead

at the

Independent Women's Forum 2018 Annual Awards Dinner

November 14, 2018


Lori Armistead:

Thank you.  Thank you for having me here today.  

My name is Lori Armistead and I'm a Senior Program Officer with the Walton Family Foundation’s K-12 Education Program.  I've had the privilege of working with IWF on our shared mission of putting the needs of our nation’s students at the forefront for many years now.  In fact, in a previous life, I was a senior fellow at the IWF and I – this group and these ladies hold a very dear place in my heart.  

At the Walton Family Foundation, we work to ensure that all children have the chance to attend great schools that will prepare them for a lifetime of opportunity and well-being.  We believe that those closest to the problem are best positioned to find the solution, and so we support parents, advocates, and local educators to fight these tough issues head-on, and we try to get the bureaucracy out of the way so the educators and stakeholders can put the needs of students first.  

While Walton Family Foundation’s focus is on K-12 education, we also know that for many students succeeding in college and in careers and post-secondary options can be a greater challenge than just getting there.  So, we support innovative programs, taking new approaches to helping students obtain the requisite skills to overcome the barriers they confront on the pathway to a college degree or a thriving career.  

That's why I was thrilled when I learned that IWF was honoring Mike Rowe as this year’s Gentlemen of Distinction.  

Mike has been at the forefront of ensuring people with all different abilities and interests are able to obtain the skills and experience they need to have rewarding careers and lives.  Most of you know Mike Rowe for his famous and often cringe worthy television shows, Dirty Jobs and Somebody's Got to Do It.  

These shows aren't just entertaining, but they have also helped to remind America of the tremendous hard work it takes to keep this amazing country running and that much of the comfort we enjoy in our daily lives comes from some people doing the hard and dirty work.  But Mr. Rowe has taken it beyond television and has been doing really important work to change how society thinks of trade and service-oriented jobs, and to encourage more people to consider pursuing them as their profession.  

He is raising awareness of the tremendous lost opportunity we have when there are millions of people out of work and millions of jobs that can't be filled for lack of qualified workers.  To solve that problem, he created Mike Rowe Works Foundation, which awards scholarships to students pursuing careers in the skilled trades.  

Last year he launched a web series on Facebook called “Returning the Favor” to tell the stories of people who are helping in their communities and celebrating their contributions.  That web series has already had an impressive 200 million views.

For three years in a row, Forbes has named Mike Rowe as one of the most trusted celebrities, and for good reason.  

He tells it like it is, but with kindness, humor, and humility.  He celebrates the best of people and is creating a better community for everyone.  Thank you, Mike Rowe, for your important work and for your tremendous example.  IWF is proud to name you this year's Gentlemen of Distinction.