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Let Us Now Praise ... Amy Goodman

Mar 04, 2009
She produced the evening news for New York’s WBAI radio station for ten years, then founded Democracy Now1 in February 1996. Intended as a short-term daily election program for the 1996 campaign, it was so popular that it has extended its run for 13 years.

She has been beaten, arrested, and banned in East Timor; she, along with Jeremy Scahill, won the 1998 George Polk award for a documentary exposing Chevron’s role in killing Nigerian protestors; and she was manhandled and arrested by the police during the Republican convention in 2008.

Democracy Now, her one-hour news program, airs five days a week on 750 radio stations, satellite and cable television, and the internet, and is available in both audio and video podcasts. She is the first journalist to win the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize” for “developing an innovative model of truly independent grassroots political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by the mainstream media.” She has won a host of other awards.

For her physical and intellectual bravery; for her devotion to the cause of exposing cupidity and criminality in high places; for her innovative exploitation of, and longevity in a media world controlled by a handful of billionaire corporate moguls; for giving voice, day after day and year after year, to the progressive struggle for a humane and just world, we award Amy Goodman our sixth Golden A for Achievement.
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1 DemocracyNow.org
tags: Golden A

Let Us Now Praise ... Sarah Chayes

Oct 31, 2008

There’s a title of a book that has come into parlance now, Clash of Civilizations. There are a lot of people, I think, both in the west and in the Muslim world who believe in the clash of civilizations, who want to see the world as a place dominated by two irrevocably hostile blocks. I don’t want to live in that kind of world. I think that we live in an interconnected world full of rich, flawed, varied civilizations that are inextricably intertwined. So what I am doing in Afghanistan is working for that intertwined world.1
Sarah Chayes resigned her position as a reporter for National Public Radio in 2002. She had been covering the fall of the Taliban and the post-Taliban era in Afghanistan. She decided to stay in Kandahar and has since devoted her life to helping the Afghan people find a safe, profitable, and legal route toward self-determination and self-sufficiency. Her cooperative skin-care business, Arghand, established in 2005, has begun to wean local farmers from dependence on an opium crop, and is successfully exporting its natural products to the U.S. and Canada.

Articles by and about Chayes, and additional information and photos, may be found on her web site, SarahChayes.net “Chayes graduated in history from Harvard University in 1984, earning the Radcliffe College History Prize for best senior thesis written by a woman. She served in the Peace Corps in Morocco, then returned to Harvard to earn a master’s degree in History and Middle Eastern Studies, specializing in the medieval Islamic period. She was born in Washington DC, in 1962.”2

In his video interview with Chayes, Bill Moyers remarked, “There’s a thin line we sometimes walk, we human beings, between hope and folly. [Chuckling] Are you very close to that line?”

Chayes replied, “I don’t think that hope is relevant. I think determination is all that counts. You just have to try. It doesn’t matter if you hope you’re going to succeed or not. You have to keep trying.”3

For keeping on trying, in the midst of a dysfunctional society as dangerous as any on earth; for a determination to make a positive difference in that environment—whether that determination be hopeful or foolish; for her acumen in establishing a business pursuit perfectly suited to the conditions in which she has found herself; and for her belief in a world where we are all “inextricably intertwined,” we award Sarah Chayes our fifth Golden A for Achievement.


Update: View Sarah Chayes’s December 19, 2008, interview with Bill Moyers and read her concurrent guest blog on his site, Negotiating with the Taliban.
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1 Bill Moyers Journal, February 22, 2008 (Accessed October 23, 2008)
2 Sarah Chayes, from Transom.org, undated (Accessed October 23, 2008)
3 Bill Moyers Journal, loc. cit.
tags: Golden A

Let Us Now Praise ... Ralph Nader

Sep 30, 2008
All Together Now bestows our Golden A on individuals who have devoted their professional lives to bringing about a world we believe in: a world of compassion and hope and cooperation; of liberty and justice; without bullies or unearned privilege or despair; where no one is allowed to go hungry or uneducated or to brutalize their fellows, physically or economically. Our awardees have foregone physical comforts in pursuit of their beliefs and of our common interests.

No one better epitomizes these qualities than Ralph Nader. With his early success with Unsafe at Any Speed, the book that revealed fatal design flaws in the automobile industry, and the $425,000 he won from General Motors in a subsequent invasion-of-privacy suit, Nader established the first of over 100 nonprofit organizations devoted to fighting for the public interest of all citizens. His work was instrumental in establishing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Safe Drinking Water Act, among others.

In his three major campaigns for the presidency, he has spoken in the voice of the American middle class against a plutocratic corporate/governmental complex that has hijacked our country; stifled our economic growth; engaged us in endless war; and enriched itself beyond the dreams of European aristocracy or Asian potentates. American moral leadership is in tatters and our economic leadership has vanished in the pincer of emerging capitalist giants abroad and gross financial mismanagement at home.

For his lifelong devotion to the bedrock principles of democracy, that all citizens are created equal and that government is the servant of the people; for his tireless and eloquent struggle against corporate hegemony; for the inspiration that has brought generations of young people to his side to fight entrenched one-party rule in Washington; and for the solid legislative successes which have held the line on an even more oppressive and exploitative ruling class, we award Ralph Nader our fourth “Golden A” for Achievement.
tags: Golden A

Let Us Now Praise ... Paul Farmer

Aug 31, 2008
You can read about him on Wikipedia, but you’d do better to pick up a copy of Tracy Kidder’s book, Mountains Beyond Mountains.

Forty-nine-year-old Paul Farmer is the co-founder, and moving spirit behind Partners in Health (PIH), a worldwide movement dedicated to providing health care for the poor. From hands-on labor as a physician in Haiti, providing care to the poorest citizens of the poorest country in the western hemisphere, Dr. Farmer developed a model for effectively providing care to the poor around the world. PIH now works in Haiti, Peru, Russia, the U.S., Rwanda, Lesotho, Malawi, Mexico, and Guatemala.

Their vision statement is quite remarkable all by itself:

At its root, our mission is both medical and moral. It is based on solidarity, rather than charity alone. When a person in Peru, or Siberia, or rural Haiti falls ill, PIH uses all of the means at our disposal to make them well—from pressuring drug manufacturers, to lobbying policy makers, to providing medical care and social services. Whatever it takes. Just as we would do if a member of our own family—or we ourselves—were ill.
From one man living in the mountains of Haiti and bringing aid to sufferers who would otherwise die unnoticed and unmourned, PIH has grown into a $50 million miracle that is showing the world how to deliver world-class health care to its most abject and needy citizens. They do it by working together, forging partnerships with local community health workers, nurses, doctors, administrators, sister organizations, NGOs, local and national governments, and funders.

For his instinctive compassion for his fellow human beings, for the bravery and generosity which has led him to dedicate his life to the neediest, for the brilliance with which he has built a global enterprise and peopled it with individuals as committed, capable, and dedicated as he is, we award Paul Farmer our third “Golden A” for Achievement.
tags: Golden A

Read the History of Partners In Health

Let Us Now Praise ... Nicholas Kristof

Jul 31, 2008
We are reminded of the observation someone once made about Ginger Rogers: She did everything Fred Astaire did, but she had to do it backwards wearing high heels and a dress.

Our favorite New York Times columnist, and one of our heroes, is Nicholas Kristof. Like others of his colleagues we read—Friedman, Herbert, Dowd, even Brooks from time to time—Kristof does everything they do, but he does it in terrifying locales, under horrible conditions, and at enormous personal risk. His heart is with the poorest of the poor, the most maligned, abused, forgotten (but for him) peoples on earth, from Darfur’s beleaguered refugees to enslaved, pre-pubescent girls in southeast Asian brothels. They are his cause and we are those to whom he has pled his cause year after year. All we need do is listen.

For his bravery, for his eloquence, for his dedication and his persistence, for the causes he espouses which—whether we acknowledge it or not—are our causes, we award Nicholas Kristof our second “Golden A” for Achievement.
tags: Golden A

Nicholas Kristof's Blog

Let Us Now Praise ... Greg Mortenson

Jun 30, 2008
If we could live our life over again, we'd want to be Greg Mortenson.

If you haven't read Three Cups of Tea, by Greg and David Oliver Relin, then run, don't walk, to your nearest neighborhood book store or library and get it, read it, and pass it on to a friend. Then set out your penny jar at the office and get cracking. Greg Mortenson is the power, the inspiration, the miracle behind the Central Asia Institute (CAI), and he has devoted his life to bringing education to rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. He has built dozens of schools, provided scholarships for advanced education beyond the primary grades, trained and employed scores of teachers, provided health care training and services, and developed projects to bring clean water to remote communities.

Starting out on a shoestring, living in his car, handwriting over 500 letters of appeal to potential donors for his first school, Mortenson in a mere 15 years has accomplished more to bring us together and to advance world peace than anyone else we know of. CAI's Mission Statement should be a mission statement for all of us: “To promote and support community-based education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.” And it can be. Go online, learn more about CAI, read that book, then give, to a cause that is quietly reforming one corner of the world, and showing us how to do it planetwide.

Though he is overdue the Nobel Peace Prize, all we can do here is award Greg Mortenson All Together Now's first “Golden A” for Achievement. In his compassion, his farsightedness, and his industry, we see the future of our species, if our species is to have a future at all.
tags: Golden A

Read the History of CAI

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