"Anything I've done pales in comparison to what I've heard tonight," Reinsdorf said.
The Jefferson Award is regarded as a "Nobel Prize" for public service, and others, such as Supreme Court associate justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former NFL running back Warrick Dunn, were among those feted for their community and volunteer work.
The award, in its 39th year, was created by former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and is named for Thomas Jefferson, a founding father of the United States. Additional recipients, including actress Marlo Thomas, will receive their awards on Wednesday in New York.
Reinsdorf was one of the four recipients of national honors, receiving the award for "Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged." Reinsdorf earned his award for philanthropic efforts through the Chicago White Sox Charities and CharitaBulls, which have raised millions of dollars in donations to help improve life in the Chicago area.
Reinsdorf said that sports teams can make significant impacts on a community, and they can give back in ways other than winning.
"You can't win that often," he said. "We have to bring happiness back in another way. That's why our teams participate in the community as they do."
Before the ceremony, Reinsdorf talked about how players and employees and a volunteer corps of close to 3,000 people do so much to help those who need it in the Chicago area.
He said everyone combined to recently refurbish a local school that needed assistance, and it was fun to see how much everyone enjoyed the effort.
"It's great, and I take a lot of pride in it," he said. "I don't want a lot of credit, but I'm very proud."
Reinsdorf said that it's highly appropriate that players give back to the fans, and that it's not difficult to get them involved -- especially considering how much they eventually enjoy what they do.
"Once they do it the first time, they want to do it again," Reinsdorf said. "You take a player to a hospital, and he gets a chance to mix with sick kids, he wants to go back again. Once they realize the impact they have on the lives of sick kids, they want to go again and again and again."
Reinsdorf joked before the event and during his speech that those who selected him must have been crazy. But it was easy to see how much the honor meant to the White Sox owner.
"It's humbling," he said. "There are some pretty big people who've gotten this award."