Born in Ireland, Father Edward J. Flanagan arrived in the United States in 1904. Eight years later, he was ordained a priest and assigned to the Diocese of Omaha. Father Flanagan became a social reformer and a true visionary for changing how America cared for its children and families, passionately speaking out and taking action on social issues that few dared to address. He believed that children had the right to be valued, to have the basic necessities of life and to be protected. He sought to close reformatories and other juvenile facilities where children were abused and literally held as prisoners. In 1917, after years of working with Omaha's homeless men, he opened Father Flanagans Boys Home℠, which later became Boys Town, and championed the causes of children across the country.
Father Flanagans Boys Home℠ accepted all boys, regardless of their race, creed or cultural background. The priest offered every child a new start in life, and he went to great lengths to seek out and bring in the neediest and most helpless - even boys who were in prison for serious crimes. Father Flanagan died in 1948, but his successors have faithfully carried on his legacy and the mission he started at Boys Town. Today, at 100 years strong, Boys Town still follows many of the same principles and practices that originated with Father Flanagan's vision.
To honor our founder, the Father Flanagan Award for Service to Youth is given to individuals who have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of children. Honorees are chosen based on their significant contributions to the youth of our nation and the influence they continue to have on young people through an exemplary public and private life.
The Writings of Father Flanagan
The work will continue, you see, whether I am there or not, because it is God's work, not mine.
Often it has been said that youth is the nation's greatest asset. But it is more than that. it is the world's greatest asset. More than that, it is perhaps the world's only hope.
There are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking.
When parents fail to do their job, when they allow their children to run the streets and keep bad company, when they fail to provide them with good examples in the home, then the parents, and not the children, are delinquent.
The poor, innocent, unfortunate little children belong to us, and it is our problem to give them every chance to develop into good men and good women.
Without God at the beginning, there can be only confusion at the end.
A true religious training for children is most essential if we are to expect to develop them into good men and good women - worthy citizens of our great country.
No race that does not take care of its young can hope to survive, or deserves to survive.
Our country needs good men and good women who have learned to love God above all things, and their fellow man for the love of God.
There is nothing the matter with our growing boys that love, proper training and guidance will not remedy.
I do not believe that a child can be reformed by lock and key and bars, or that fear can ever develop a child's character.
It costs so little to teach a child to love, and so much to teach him to hate.
I have yet to find a single boy who wants to be bad.
A boy given the proper guidance and direction - kept busy and constructively occupied during their leisure or free time - will prove my statement that there is no such thing as a bad boy.
I feel that school buildings throughout the nation which stand idle after school hours are a waste of available space and the taxpayer's money when constructive programs could be offered through their intelligent utilization.
Rehabilitation needs greater emphasis, punishment less.
I know when the idea of a boys' home grew in my mind, I never thought of anything remarkable about taking in all of the races and all of the creeds. To me, they are all God's children. They are my brothers. They are children of God. I must protect them to the best of my ability.
The Father Flanagan Award for Service to Youth
The Father Flanagan Award for Service to Youth, named for the organization's founder, Father Edward Flanagan, is given to individuals who dedicate themselves to helping children. The person must have made a significant contribution to the youth of our nation and continue to further influence young people by an exemplary public and private life.
The award is a 19-inch bronze statue of Father Edward Flanagan, created by artist Fred Hoppe and stands on a wooden base with a plate which bears the recipient's name.
Past recipients of the Father Flanagan Award for Service to Youth include:
- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
- Bob Hope
- Dr. Jonas Salk
- Danny Thomas
- Julius Erving
- Nancy Reagan
- Dr. Denton Cooley
- Michael Jordan
- Laura Bush