It should go without saying but somehow it doesn’t: the range of people the Institute draws in, and who are drawn to the Institute, is year to year a source of constant surprise. Week to week, I should say. At the annual New York City Awards Dinner, a very large and grand event, I listened to Darren Walker, the visionary head of the Ford Foundation who is laser-focused on dismantling inequality of many kinds, talk with his longtime friend Sarah Jessica Parker about their shared values, including creating and nurturing deeply connected communities.
Just a few nights later, I had dinner with two friends who had invited Clare Byarugaba, a Ugandan human-rights activist who had bowled them over at “Undaunted,” an annual event in Aspen where the Institute’s New Voices fellows tell their stories. Hers: the moment when she realized that as part of the LGBT community, she was not safe in her own church. The dinner was a very small, and inspiring, event.
Byarugaba was meeting with high-profile politicians to ask them to speak out against calls to kill LGBT people, like the calls she heard from the pulpit of her church. And doing all the meetings alone. Wasn’t that, well, daunting? Oh no, she said sunnily. Every day I don’t walk out the door and feel physically threatened is like being on holiday.
At the dinner, Parker said she always turned down awards, but so admired the Institute’s work she just had to be there. It’s people like Byarugaba, whose calls to action are heard globally thanks to New Voices, who keep drawing us in—and drawing us together.