Ten Outstanding Young Americans – TOYA

Over the years, more public attention has been focused on the Ten Outstanding Young Americans (TOYA) program than any other United States Junior Chamber of Commerce activity. The annual selection of honorees is noted for identifying rising stars in the fields of politics, science, entertainment, sports, military service, business and human improvement.

For more information, contact toya@usjaycees.org.

Originally the he concept for the Ten Outstanding Young Americans was was fathered by Durward Howes, publisher of a yearly volume, “America’s Young Men. Howes published in his books for 1934, 1935, and 1936, his own selections for the twelve outstanding young men in America. In the 1937 volume, he cut the list from twelve men to ten. It has remained that number to the present day.

In 1938, Howes gave Future Magazine, at one time the official publication of the The United States Jaycees, the exclusive right to publish his selection. As the organization’s president in 1939-31, Howes felt that publishing this list would call attention to the important role of young men in the world of the day. Through 1941, editors of Future Magazine selected the ten men with the assistance of Durward Howes and other judges. Since 1942, a panel of distinguished judges has made the selection process. In, 1984 with the advent of women members into the organization, The U.S. Junior Chamber changed the program’s name from Ten Outstanding Young Men of America (TOYM) to Ten Outstanding Young Americans (TOYA) in 1985.

During the 1986 honors presentation the first three women were honored at an historic ceremony celebrating the accomplishments of extraordinary young people. Individuals considered for the award are often submitted by USJC state organizations. For example, the Minnesota Junior Chamber has a “Ten Outstanding Young Minnesotans” (TOYM) program. Similarly, the Texas Junior Chamber has a similar “Five Outstanding Young Texans (FOYT) and other have Distinguished Service Award (DSA)” program as examples. These recipients, as well as the nominees from the other USJC state organizations, are nominated to be considered for the TOYA award.

The ten selected individuals may be submitted to JCI as nominees for the Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP) program.

In, 1954 recipient Arthur M. Kraft designed the “Silver Hands” trophy that each Honoree receives. The inscription on its base reads:

“The hope of mankind lies in the hands of youth and action”.

Each Honoree has shown a commitment to that hope, reminding all Americans that no problem is too difficult when handled with grace, ingenuity, courage, and determination.” The trophy is named the ‘JAYSON’, an acronym standing for “Jaycees: Active Youth Serving Our Nation.” Each one weighs 11.5 lbs and is constructed of a marble base with nickel-plated hands. In addition to the artistically designed trophy, each honoree is presented with a framed certificate to display prominently in their home or work space. They are also presented with a lapel pin that was specially designed and crafted by Erffmeyer & Sons Company from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The pin features the TOYA emblem surrounded by ten black onyx stones and is similar to the traditional Jaycee national officer pins. Both the certificate and pin is presented to each of the honorees during a private luncheon the day of the public presentation.

Currently, winners are selected on their achievement or contribution in at least three of the following areas:

  • business, economic and/or entrepreneurial accomplishment
  • political, legal and/or government affairs
  • academic leadership and/or accomplichment
  • cultural achievement
  • moral and/or environmental leadership
  • contribution to children, world peace and/or human rights
  • humanitarian and/or voluntary leadership
  • scientific and/or technological development
  • personal improvement and/or accomplishment
  • medical innovation

Initally, the criteria for selection used the following categories:

  • personal improvement or accomplishment;
  • financial success or economic innovation;
  • social improvement to major contemporary problems;
  • philanthropic contribution or voluntary service;
  • politics or government service; scientific or technological contributions;
  • legal reform; cultural achievement (literature, history, education, arts);
  • academic leadership or accomplishment;
  • moral and religious leadership;
  • athletic accomplishment;
  • success in the influence of public opinion;
  • any other important contribution to the community, state, or nation.

Copies of all entries are sent to screening judges who independently select and rank the twenty semi-finalists. The entries of the semi-finalists are sent to finalist judges who independently narrow the selection to the ten men and women selected as TOYA honorees.

Many notables have been honored as Outstanding Young Americans in the past. Each Honoree exemplifies the fifty-two words in the Jaycee Creed and dedication to creating a better nation. Of the more than 600 young Americans honored, many were recognized before the achievements for which they are now known: Past prominent recipients include U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Bill Clinton, and Vice Presidents Al Gore, Dan Quayle, and Richard Cheney. Also honored were Howard Hughes, Orson Welles, Elvis Presley, Henry Ford II, Nelson Rockefeller, Ted Kennedy, dogsled champion Susan Butcher, Jeanna Yeager, Larry Holmes, Gale Sayers and actor Christopher Reeve.

The inaugural class of TOYM recipients in 1938, announced in January 1939 by Future Magazine, still ranks as one of the most famous. Included were: George Gallop, pollster; Elmer Layden, football coach; Howard Hughes, business and aviation; Douglas Corrigan, aviation; and Rudy Valee and Orson Wells, entertainers. A 1939 TOYM group was never selected but in 1940 and every year until 1973 a TOYM group was selected for a year and recognized the next year. There were no winners for 1972. In 1973, the TOYM event was revised to honor the designates for the current, rather than the previous year. Because of this change, there were no winners for 1972. Since 1973, the tradition of recognizing outstanding young people for the year in which awarded has continued.

Currently, candidates must be United States citizens, age 18 through 40, who exemplify the best attributes of the nation’s young people, the Jaycee Creed and dedication to a better nation. Thousands of nomination forms have been distributed each year before judging panels reduce the field to 20 candidates and then select the final 10. Currently the awards program is conducted each year in March at the United States Jaycees National Meeting.

Accepting the Jaycee Honor “Terrified Presley” read the headline in the Memphis Press-Scimitar. The “King” was shakin’ backstage, but no tin the manner that most people would have thought, as excerpts from the newspaper story show:

“Elvis Presley stood in the wings at the Auditorium in memphis on January 18, 1971, and admitted he was ‘terrified.’”

“He was perspiring profusely and his head was hanging low as he awaited his turn on stage as one of the United States jaycees 10 Outstanding Young Men of America for 1970.”

“‘I’m scared to death.’ he told Frank C. Taylor, chairman of the Outstanding Young Men (sic), who reminded the superstar that he had appeared hundreds of times before much larger crowds. ‘Yeah but not like this,’ Elvis replied.

“‘It was a different plateau for him,’ Taylor said. ‘For the first time, he was being paced on the level with achievers in realms other than entertainment, and for the first time Elvis felt he was being accepted like a true professional. He like the association of being given such an honor along with those nine other guys, and he was impressed by their tremendous abilities. And none of the others singled Elvis out for adulation more than any other, and he liked that too.”

When Elvis’ turn came, he took his place at the podium and looked back at the other winners seated on stage. With a sweeping gesture, he said: ‘These men may be the Kingdom of God.’”

“The famous voice cracked, he could not go on.”

“‘He was the only one to have genuine tears in his eyes and to break up,’ Taylor said.

“Elvis stopped, stepped back for a second, regrouped himself and spoke again.”

“‘Without a song, the day would never end, without a song, a man ain’t got a friend,’ the famous singer said, quoting a classic song.”

“Then he ended with difficulty, saying humbly: ‘So I’ll just keep on singing my song.’”

Elvis always consider the Jaycee Awards as his most valued achievement. The honor was so important to Elvis, he was there to receive it in person labored weeks over his now famous speech. The Jaycee Award was one of the few trophies that Elvis received during his lifetime that held a special place. It represented Elvis initiation into the mainstream, acceptance by his peers for his contributions as a humanitarian and entertainer. His Ten Outstanding Young Men trophy, as well as the tuxedo he wore to the ceremony that night, have been kept on display at his Memphis home, Graceland and is seen by thousands of visitors every day.

Watch the video highlights from the event hosted by the Memphis Jaycees in 1971.

Watch the acceptance speech by Elvis Presley.

A Jaycee Connection to a Meeting of Two Ten Outstanding Young Men Nominees

On December 21, 1970 through a strange series of events Elvis Presley and then President Richard M. Nixon met for the first time in the Oval Office of the White house.

Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley shaking hands in the Oval Office.
Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley shaking hands in the Oval Office.

Copies of this photo (right) are requested from the National Archives more than any other image.

We will not go into detail here, but the meeting was initiated by a personally delivered hand written 6 page letter on American Airlines Stationary from Elvis Presley to President Nixon in which Presley specifically references on pages 4 and 5:

“I was nominated this coming year on of America’s Ten Most Outstanding Young Men. That will be in January 18 in my hometown of Memphis, Tenn.”

“P.S. I believe that you sir were one of the Top Ten Outstanding Young men of America also…”

To view a copy of the letter, a transcript, photos from the meeting and other interesting facts visit the National Archives “When Nixon met Elvis Exhibit”.

Items owned by Elvis Presley were auctioned on August 14, 2014. In an interview on Today on July 29, 2014 Priscilla Presley highlighted and noted the medallian item of jewlerly worn by Elvis at the Junior Chamber of Commerce TOYM ceremony and his meeitng with President Nixon noted above. Click the image to watch the video here.

Learn about the most recent Ten Outstanding Young Americans (TOYA)