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Awardee Profiles - 1999

Michael K. Powell, Freedom of Speech Award
Decker Anstrom, American Horizon Award
Conrad Burns, Special Guest

Michael K. Powell, Recipient of the Freedom of Speech Award

Jeff Bezos has always been interested in anything that can be revolutionized by computers. Intrigued by the amazing growth in the use of the Internet, Mr. Bezos created a business model that leveraged the Internet's unique ability to deliver huge amounts of information rapidly and efficiently.

In 1994 Mr. Bezos founded Amazon.com, Inc., now the world's leading online retailer, which offers services that traditional retailers cannot: competitive prices, authoritative selection, and a wealth of product information. Mr. Bezos is the company's chief executive officer.

Before heading West to start Amazon.com, Mr. Bezos worked at the intersection of computer science and finance, helping build one of the most technically sophisticated quantitative hedge funds on Wall Street for D.E. Shaw & Co. He was involved in the development of computer systems that helps manage more than $250 billion in assets for Bankers Trust Company.

Mr. Bezos graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, in electrical engineering and computer science from Princeton University in 1986.

Serving customers in more than 150 countries, Amazon.com has become a rich source of information in areas where bookstores are scarce. Through the efforts of Mr. Bezos, Amazon.com has extended the reach of authors and their ideas to a worldwide audience -- at times over the objections of local governments. The Media Institute recognized the role of Mr. Bezos in furthering free expression around the globe by honoring him with its Freedom of Speech Award.

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Robert L. Johnson, Recipient of the American Horizon Award

Robert L. Johnson is the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of BET Holdings II, Inc., the leading African-American owned and operated media company in the United States.

Before founding BET in 1980, Mr. Johnson was vice president of government relations for the National Cable Television Association. Prior to that he was press secretary for Congressional Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy. He previously held positions at the Washington Urban League and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Among the many organizations that have honored Mr. Johnson are Broadcasting & Cable (Hall of Fame Award), CTAM, Cablevision, NCTA, NAACP, and the National Women's Political Caucus. He has also received a Distinguished Alumni Award from Princeton University.

Mr. Johnson serves on a number of boards including US Airways, Hilton Hotels, and General Mills. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois and holds a master's degree in international affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

BET Holdings operates five major cable channels and two movie production companies, and also publishes books and magazines. Other BET ventures include an interactive Web site, several themed restaurants and clubs, and a premium movie channel.

Recognizing his role as leader and visionary, The Media Institute presents its American Horizon Award to Mr. Johnson. The award is given annually to recognize leadership in promoting the vitality and independence of American media and communications.

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Rick Boucher, Special Guest

The Honorable Rick Boucher is serving his ninth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Virginia's Ninth Congressional District.

Congressman Boucher is a member of the House Commerce Committee. He serves on its Telecommunications Subcommittee and is the ranking member of the Energy and Power Subcommittee. He also sits on the House Judiciary Committee and its Courts and Intellectual Property Subcommittee. Since 1985, he has served as an Assistant Whip.

Congressman Boucher originated the House Internet Caucus in 1996 and is one of two House co-chairman of the 140-member group. In that position he is a leading architect of federal policy for the Internet. His first Internet legislation in 1993 authorized electronic commerce by permitting messages with commercial content to traverse the Internet backbone. In addition, his proposals to promote competition in the cable and local telephone industries are at the core of the 1996 Telecommunication Act.

A native and current resident of Abingdon, Virginia, Congressman Boucher earned his bachelor's degree from Roanoke College and his law degree from the University of Virginia Law School. He has practiced law in New York City and in Virginia. He served for seven years as a member of the Virginia State Senate.

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