Madeleine Albright, Other Dignitaries Join Awards Celebration to Honor Public Leaders for Building Hope and Opportunity for Future Generations
During a spirited celebration of public service hosted by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, five distinguished individuals who have spent much of their lives in service to the common good received the 2016 Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership Award.
Presented with the overarching theme of “building hope and opportunity for future generations” at a gala dinner and ceremony June 6, the awards recognize leaders who have taken exemplary measures to protect the environment, promote peace and security, create equal opportunities for students of color, identify bipartisan solutions to social issues, and build inclusive communities.
Nearly 400 people, including many dignitaries from politics, business, and the nonprofit sector, attended the event to recognize the awardees. They included former Vice President Walter Mondale, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chutich, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, and several members of the University’s Board of Regents. (View the 2016 Public Leadership Awards photo gallery)
"The leaders we're honoring are making remarkable contributions in building hope and opportunity for future generations," said Eric Schwartz, dean of the Humphrey School. He noted that current Humphrey School students share the commitment of the honorees to make the world a better place, even in the face of our current political challenges.
“These challenges only steel the determination of our students, who are not naïve about obstacles to progress, but are hopeful and optimistic about the boundless potential of humankind,” Schwartz said.
The 14th Annual Public Leadership Award winners are:
Lisa Jackson, vice president of environment, policy, and social initiatives at Apple, for her pursuit of sustainability and equity, and responsible stewardship of our environment.
Thomas Pickering, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, for his lifelong commitment to addressing global challenges and promoting peace and security through diplomacy.
Alan Page, retired Minnesota Supreme Court justice, for his esteemed career in the judiciary and his tireless promotion of equal opportunities for students of color through the Page Education Foundation.
David Durenberger, former U.S. senator, for his promotion of bipartisan solutions to our most challenging social issues, and civility in the public discourse.
Sia Her (Alumni Recipient), executive director, Minnesota Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, for her work to strengthen and build a more inclusive community across socioeconomic, gender, and generational lines.
In their remarks, the honorees touched on similar themes: The rewards of being involved in public service; the need for more tolerance and cooperation in the political arena; and the important role played by the Humphrey School in preparing leaders of the future.
Her (MPP ’07), an alumna of the Humphrey School, said she was especially grateful for the opportunity to work with the late professor and former Humphrey School Dean John Brandl.
“In our many and long discussions, professor Brandl shared with me the importance of good governance and good policy, and the belief that good intentions are not good enough,” Her said. “These discussions, my parents’ stories of our struggles to survive the journey to America, and our family’s modest and sometimes tremendous successes in America, built the foundation upon which I make decisions as a public servant.”
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was invited to present the Public Leadership Award to Thomas Pickering, whom she described as “a very dear friend and one of America’s finest diplomats.” During his 40-year career, Pickering served as U.S. ambassador to several countries, as well as ambassador to the United Nations.
Albright noted that Pickering played a significant diplomatic role in several international hot spots during his career, including Israel, El Salvador, and Colombia.
“Few people have served our country better or in more capacities than Tom Pickering,” Albright said. “When I became Secretary of State [in 1997], there were some questions as to whether or not—as the first woman—I would be comfortable having ‘strong men’ in my orbit. I put those questions to rest by bringing Ambassador Pickering, who was a legend in the Foreign Service, back from retirement.”
“I am very grateful for the opportunity I had to serve our country, and to be recognized for that service,” said Pickering, while also expressing his concerns about the current presidential campaign.
“We find at this stage a preoccupation with calumny and intolerance. It is not the future of our country to be led by these values,” Pickering said. “It would be a serious mistake to ignore that, not only at home but elsewhere, since we are the leading economy and military in the world. The U.S. is highly esteemed for its principles and values, the heights to which the rest of the world seek to attain.”
Former Sen. David Durenberger echoed those sentiments, recalling a time earlier in his career when politicians from both parties were much more willing to cooperate on important issues such as civil rights, rights for those with disabilities, and air pollution.
He noted that Hubert Humphrey was one of those politicians.
“Hubert was successful when working with Republicans in the Senate. I know from experience that the same bipartisan interdependence was true of Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Because it builds trust in those we serve,” said Durenberger.
Lisa Jackson, former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who now is an executive at Apple, observed that while “you can teach public policy, public service is a choice.” She recalled her decision to pursue a career in public service, after studying chemical engineering in college. It was in the early 1980s, when the toxic waste dumped at Love Canal in New York State began contaminating nearby homes.
“I was trained to be an oil and gas chemical engineer, to work at a chemical plant. That’s what I thought I would do with my life,” Jackson said. “I remember thinking, it’s chemical engineers who make this waste through our work. It’s our responsibility as citizens to clean it up, to get rid of it.”
The honorees all urged those in the audience to give of their time and talents to serve others in some capacity. Alan Page, whose Page Education Foundation has provided $13 million in college scholarships to some 4,500 young people since 1988, expressed the sentiment best.
“I encourage each and every one of you to do more, to work a little harder, and to make the future for all of us—in Minnesota, across the country and across the globe—a little brighter than it otherwise might be.”
The Public Leadership Awards were established in honor of the Humphrey School’s namesake, Hubert H. Humphrey. During the past 13 years, the annual awards dinner has raised more than $1 million for Humphrey School student scholarships.
Many students rely on scholarships, fellowships, and other financial support to cover the cost of their education. One of those students, Tory Duoos, told the attendees the fellowship she received was the difference for her. When Duoos entered the Humphrey School in 2014, she was selected as one of four inaugural recipients of the Marvin Borman Public Service and Community Engagement Fellowship.
Duoos said the Borman Fellowship allowed her to complete her Master of Public Policy degree this year, so she can pursue her passion for working with refugee communities.
“In pursuing a career in human rights, it’s practically expected that you complete an unpaid internship, if not several. Without generous donations like the Borman family’s, young people who are passionate about human rights may be unable to follow this career path,” Duoos said. (See photos of the event here)
EXCERPTS FROM THE HONOREES' REMARKS:
Madeleine Albright, introducing Thomas Pickering
I’m delighted to be back in the Twin Cities, and very pleased to be with friends and supporters of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, which is one of my favorite institutions, led now by one of my favorite people, Eric Schwartz.
It’s my great pleasure to introduce Tom Pickering, one of America’s finest diplomats, who is also a very dear friend. You may not know that American embassies in other countries typically have a hallway decorated with photos of all the former ambassadors. When I went on trips as Secretary of State, I would run into Tom’s picture everywhere. This was after four years of seeing his charismatic face starting back at me at the American mission at the UN, and as many people reminded me when I took that job, “you’re no Tom Pickering.”
Few people have served our country better or in more capacities than Tom Pickering, who is a legend in the Foreign Service. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of the 2016 Humphrey Public Leadership Award than Tom. As with all our distinguished honorees tonight, he has made the world a better place.
We are now in a crisis that I think perhaps rivals, without too much distortion, the election of 1861. The future of our country is at stake. We find at this stage a preoccupation with calumny and intolerance. It is not the future of our country to be led by these values.
I am deeply concerned. But I’m not so concerned because in this school, those of you out there who have your lives and careers before you, can make a unique contribution in public service. It is an approach to life whose greatest reward is not monetary realization. In many ways, that is replaced by the great rewards that result from serving your fellow human beings. I am very grateful for the opportunity I had to serve our country, and to be recognized for that service.
My story is just to tell you something you already know—especially in this crowd—which is that you can teach public affairs, but public service is a choice. Thank you to all of you who help people make that choice every day here at the Humphrey School.
To be a public servant is to have days when you sit in front of people who really want to kill you, and are angry at you because their government isn’t giving to them that which they believe is their birthright. And to have to work through those issues, to have to see both sides, to have to compromise.
There’s so much today that says business people should go into government and fix it. And I hear all that. But I think I did it the right way, which is to get all that wonderful experience and then hopefully bring back to our friends in the private sector the ability to show them where they can plug in, how they can work for the common good as well.
When winning is everything, and money is the principal means to that end, we have lost the trust of those we serve and our ability to make America great again. To say nothing of our ability to make Minnesota partisan politics as beneficial to our common wellbeing as they once were, and our effectiveness a national example of good governance.
Partisan politics in this 21st century has not been kind to hope and opportunity. But I, for one, have chosen to believe that we Americans are not sailing in unchartered waters—simply because we can’t predict what Donald Trump will do or say next. We know what to do when it comes to taking back our own future from these kind of politicians. We just haven’t found a way to do it. What better time than now, to suggest that we don’t have as far to go as we may think. To discover what’s gone wrong in this country, and in this state. And what we should be doing about it.
I’m a little speechless, and the reason is because I’m never quite sure that I am deserving of this kind of recognition. The things that I have done, I have done not for the recognition, but because I believe they are the right things to do. All of us—me, each one of you—has the power within you to bring about change for the better. We have the power to change the lives of young people. And that has inspired me.
I would be remiss if I didn’t call all of you to action. We all have the power, the opportunity, and the obligation to make this world a better place. I encourage each and every one of you to do more, to work a little harder, and to make the future for all of us—in Minnesota, across the country and across the globe—a little brighter than it otherwise might be.
I am in awe of the way life comes full circle. I now find myself where I influence public policy, as the executive director of the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans. Our objective at the Council is to work with both branches of government to achieve a Minnesota where the circumstances of one’s birth do not determine the trajectory of one’s life. Clearly this belief was nurtured during my studies at the Humphrey.
To the Humphrey community, thank you for lending your hearts, your minds, and your resources toward building a more inclusive state. All of us are the manifestations of our parents’ hopes and dreams. When we invest in each other, we increase our capacity to overcome the tragedies of yesterday, revel in the opportunities of today, and prepare for a better tomorrow for all of us.