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2008 Distinguished Alumni - Johnson



Kirk W. Johnson - Class of 1998

2008 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award - Human Rights 

Kirk Johnson is an extraordinary humanitarian, an Arabist and expert on Near Eastern languages and civilizations.  He served our Country as regional reconstruction coordinator for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Iraq.  At age 28 Johnson founded “The List Project”, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to resettle to safety Iraqi allies who served with our Armed Forces.  His remarkable story has been chronicled by CBS “60 Minutes”, The New York Times, The New Yorker Magazine, and the Off-Broadway play, Betrayed by George Packer.

At Community High School, Johnson was a member of the 1997 Illinois State Champion Chess Team, National Honor Society, French National Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America, and the Tennis Team.  A childhood fascination with hieroglyphs and the wonders of ancient Egypt led him during high school to Arabic language classes at College of DuPage and The Egyptian Consulate in Chicago. 

In 2002, Johnson completed his undergraduate degree in Near Eastern Languages and Studies at the University of Chicago.  He studied and researched throughout the Middle East, including Syria in 2001 on a FLAG grant and Egypt in 2002-2003 as a Fulbright Scholar.

By 2005, Kirk Johnson was serving our Country as reconstruction coordinator for USAID in Baghdad and Fallujah at the height of the Iraq War.  When Iraqi citizens, who risked their lives alongside Johnson and our American troops, were labeled “conspirators” and “collaborators” by their fellow Iraqis, Johnson sprang into action.

“They rejoiced at the toppling of Saddam and signed up to serve as interpreters for our armed forces, as engineers and as experts with the U.S. Government. . . . Now they are the most hunted class in Iraq.  The lethal stigma they bear as ‘collaborators’ transcends sect or tribe, and they are being systematically targeted for assassination.”K. Johnson

In 2007, with a firm commitment to aid his fellow man and a belief that the United States Government has an urgent moral imperative to resettle to safety Iraqis who are in danger due to their affiliation with the United States of America, Kirk Johnson founded The List Project.  By early 2009, Johnson’s tireless advocacy to former President Bush, the press, the State Department, the U.S. Congress, several prestigious law firms, The Center for American Progress, and President Obama resulted in over 300 of the 2000 desperate Iraqis on The List finding safety and a new life in the United States. 

Kirk Johnson has put his career on hold in a Herculean effort to save lives and to urge the United States Government to do the right thing.

The CHS Education Foundation honors Kirk W. Johnson, class of 1998, with The 2008 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award for Human Rights.

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