Sean Carroll’s Remarks on Acceptance of InterAction’s Julia Vadala Taft Outstanding Leadership Award

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I am humbled. To be given an award named after and honoring Julia Vadala Taft, a towering lighthouse of humanity and leadership, is a huge honor. As it is to follow in the steps of several in this room who received it before me. And also to know that I am fortunate to be among other leaders who will receive it in the future. This feels a bit like an intra-award at InterAction. But for me that enhances its meaning and value.

I am grateful for this recognition. For the recognition that leadership – not mine or ours alone, but that of all my tireless, amazing colleagues at Anera, and so many at InterAction member organizations – that leadership in the pursuit of the world’s better angels is needed now more than ever. In the midst of unimaginable tragedy and failures of political leadership that breed fear and oppression, that discriminate and dehumanize, that start wars and keep them going, this award is a salve to the sadness, anger and despair that so many of us are feeling. It buoys us in the battle for humanity.

Working with and learning from fellow leaders at Anera – and in my previous work at USAID in the Obama Administration, at the National Democratic Institute, in the US Congress and elsewhere in my career – and from leaders throughout this community of action, integrity and human development, is an honor and a privilege. And provides purpose that I cannot imagine waking up every day without.

I understand that every day Julia Taft left home for work, kissing her husband and saying, “I’m off to save the world!” I’m sure she said it with humility, but also with a conviction that she wanted to be, as she once said, “right at the point where decisions are made about the futures of people and how to treat them most humanely so that they retain their integrity and get viable opportunities.” Isn’t that a good summation of what we try to do every day? I believe we all share that conviction, which reminds us that If not I, then who? If not now, then when?

Delivering food in Gaza.

Anera staff in Gaza immediately recognized the call, and have since October delivered 30 million meals, nearly 7 million medical treatments and conducted hundreds of psychosocial support activities and free health clinics. Our donors and supporters did too: we have more than 60,000 new donors, some 300 companies are matching their employees’ contributions to Anera, and nearly 60 other organizations – governments, UN agencies and other NGOs – are working with or through Anera on the emergency response. But more is needed to respond, recover and rebuild.

So, let us use the heft of our individual and collective experience, action and – yes – voice, to do what we can every day to save ourselves, our fellow human beings, and this world. We weren’t able to save our Anera colleague Mousa Shawwa or his six-year-old son Karim. Mousa was a loving and beloved daddy, home from a day of delivering life-saving aid, when an Israeli air strike killed him and fatally injured Karim.

Anera’s Mousa Shawwa

So let us begin by calling on Israel, Hamas, and everyone else who can sway belligerents, to call for, implement and adhere to a ceasefire. Ceasefire now. Ceasefire forever. Thank you.

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