Retiring Virginia Sen. Jim Webb (D) joined famed authors Ruth Colvin and David Baldacci on Wednesday to receive the National Literary Leadership Award. The nonprofit National Coalition for Literacy presented the awards at the Dirksen Senate Office building in D.C.
The awards recognize individuals who have made "extraordinary national contributions to improving adult literacy and English language learning in the United States."
Webb, an Emmy Award-winning journalist and author of nine books, made his comments brief. "This (funding adult literacy programs) has been an issue close to my heart as long as I've been in the Senate," sais Webb, who was elected in 2006. "My father went to night school for 26 years to get his degree, and, he said, 'You can get anything you want in this country if you work for it, and don't forget it.'"
Baldacci is the author of 24 best-selling novels, including "Absolute Power" and "Last Man Standing." "We have a severe adult literacy problem in the United States," he said. "And if you look at literacy, it's the most core element you will ever have or not have."
Colvin, a literacy champion for more than 40 years, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. She was unable to attend.
Adult learner Marty Finsterbusch is the president of the NCL. "You can't imagine what it must be like to go to the hospital and be handed a form to fill out and not know what to do," he said.
About 15 percent of about 200 million U.S. adults over the age of 25 have not earned a high school diploma, according to the American Community Survey. And, about 93 million Americans function below the high school level, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy.