Alex Witt began the inspirational program with a warm and gracious welcome, recalling her experience with The Common Good and introducing TCG Founder Patricia Duff.
The first American Spirit Award of the evening was given to acclaimed artist William Pope.L,for Activism in the Arts. Pope.L was presented the award by TCG member and art documentary filmmaker, Diandra Douglas, who has made many documentaries and films for MoMA, HBO and Channel 13. Pope.L, while humble in his acceptance, was honored for his witty, intense and bold artwork that brings political and social messages to public attention. He spoke of the importance of art as a tool of activism.
Judge Jed Rakoff, federal court judge, received the American Spirit Award for Public Service from TCG member Richard Farley, a partner at Paul Hastings Law Firm. Farley applauded Judge Rakoff’s exemplary reputation for thoughtful justice. Judge Rakoff took the opportunity to address the state of mass incarceration in the United States, stating that the current attitude towards imprisonment it is “both inhumane and counterproductive.” While explaining that there is much work to be done, he optimistically recognized that that change is underway.
Andrea Pino and Annie Clark were honored for their work to advocate for policies that aim to prevent sexual harassment and assault at universities. The award was presented by ground-breaking author and social activist, Naomi Wolf, Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, co-founders of End Rape on Campus (EROC), presented stunning statistics on campus sexual assault and described their own personal experiences, noting the importance of greater awareness to empower others by powerfully stating “you are not alone, it is not your fault and you are believed.”
Bob Woodruff received the American Spirit Award for Citizen Activism. Woodruff’s stellar career in journalism as co-anchor of ABC News’s weekday news broadcast, World News Tonight, was abruptly cut short as he was courageously covering the war in Iraq and was critically wounded by a roadside bomb. Since his hard-won recovery, Woodruff has dedicated himself giving our injured veterans access to the high level of support and resources they deserve, for as long as they need it. The award was presented by J.R. Martinez, a veteran who also survived critical injuries and burns in Iraq from a roadside bomb and who has used the tragedy as a personal mission to inspire others.
Peter Yarrow of Peter Paul & Mary ended the evening with a moving tribute to Congressman John Lewis. One of the “big six” leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, Congressman Lewis played a key role in ending legalized racial discrimination and granting African Americans the right to vote. Yarrow shared his relationship with Congressman Lewis, which began in 1965 at the Selma to Montgomery March. He then led the audience in a rendition of Bob Dylan’s classic song, “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
Thank you to everyone who joined us for this outstanding event. We hope to see you next year!