Kelsey Wirth and Mothers Out Front are the recipients of the 12th annual John P. McNulty Prize
Contact: Nina Sawhney
The Aspen Institute
New York, NY, October 30, 2019 –– The McNulty Foundation and the Aspen Institute today announced Kelsey Wirth and Mothers Out Front as the recipient of the 12th annual John P. McNulty Prize, which recognizes individuals who are creating sustainable models for social change. Mothers Out Front is mobilizing more than 30,000 women and their children to demand those in power at all levels of US government take bold action that will accelerate the nation’s transition away from fossil fuels.
Co-founded in 2013 by Wirth and Vanessa Rule, Mothers Out Front uses a proven model of grassroots organizing, and has trained and empowered mothers and others who are influencing decision-makers and showing up in force. Much of their work is focused on building power in frontline communities — low-income communities and communities of color that have been hit hardest by the health and environmental costs of the climate crisis.
“Climate change affects everyone, but it harms the vulnerable and marginalized most of all,” said former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, chair of the McNulty Prize Jury. “We need courage and leadership on this issue now more than ever. If anything can move politicians to act, it’s an organized and diverse movement of mothers fighting for their children’s futures.”
It was that same paradigm shift that propelled Kelsey Wirth to found her organization. “If a car was driving down the street and my daughter ran in front of it, I would throw myself between her and the car. That’s how I came to understand climate change, not as a citizen, but as a mother.”
Unable to sit idly by while her daughters stood to inherit an increasingly poisoned planet, Wirth organized meetings in her home with other moms in her Massachusetts neighborhood. What started there has grown into a 30,000-strong force, with more than 45 mother-led teams driving change in 10 states, with more states on the horizon.
“To be a mother is to think about the future,” said McNulty Foundation President and Aspen Institute Trustee Anne Welsh McNulty. “Mothers Out Front taps into the unique voice and moral authority of moms, parents and all those who are hard-wired to protect their children, and engages them in direct actions in their communities. They are winning results across the country.”
Think Globally, Fight Locally, Win Everywhere
The organization’s teams of moms have hit the pavement and achieved real wins. In Massachusetts, groups of mothers physically tagged and cataloged hundreds of methane leaks in gas pipelines – leaks that account for an estimated ten percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Their campaign was instrumental in Massachusetts’ committing to reduce its statewide carbon emissions by five percent.
Other wins have resulted in pipeline regulations to address methane leaks, the halting of new fossil fuel infrastructure in frontline communities in New York and Virginia, and increasing renewable energy use, including passing the nation’s largest community clean energy program in California, and replacing diesel school buses with new fleets of electric buses.
The movement is rapidly growing across the United States. “It’s about creating a space and a movement for everyone who is concerned for our children’s wellbeing, everyone who wants to ensure that children born into the world today can grow up in the kind of world that we want for them,” says Kelsey Wirth.
The John P. McNulty Prize was founded by Anne Welsh McNulty in memory of her late husband, to recognize the boldness and impact of individuals using their expertise and entrepreneurial talents to address the world’s toughest challenges. A distinguished jury, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Ugandan statesman Olara Otunnu, international development expert Brizio Biondi-Morra and Ford Foundation president Darren Walker selected the 2019 winner. Previous juries have included Mary Robinson, Bill Gates, Sr. and Sir Richard Branson, among others.
Henry Crown Fellow Kelsey Wirth was one of four McNulty Prize Laureates selected from the Aspen Global Leadership Network. The 2019 Laureates include Srikumar Misra for Milk Mantra in India, Maria Pacheco and Alexandra Kissling for Vital Voices Central America in Central America, and Joshin Raghubar for the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative in South Africa. Each Laureate receives $25,000 while the Winner receives $100,000. The 2019 Winner and Laureates will be honored at the annual McNulty Prize celebration in New York on November 13.
Visit mcnultyfound.org and follow the conversation on Twitter @McNultyPrize and on Instagram @mcnultyfoundation with #McNultyPrize. Press interested in attending the McNulty Prize celebration or interviewing Laureates should contact [email protected] for more information.
The Henry Crown Fellowship seeks to develop the next generation of community-spirited leaders, providing them with the tools to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It was established in 1997 to honor the life and career of Chicago industrialist Henry Crown (1896-1990) and was initially funded by the Henry and Gladys Crown Charitable Trust Fund. The program is the flagship Fellowship of the Aspen Institute and the founding Fellowship of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. For more information, visit aspeninstitute.org/crown.
The Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN) is a growing, worldwide community of more than 3,000 high-integrity, entrepreneurial leaders from over 60 countries who share a commitment to enlightened leadership and to using their creativity, energy, and resources to tackle the foremost societal challenges of our times. Fellows convene annually at the AGLN’s flagship event, the Resnick Aspen Action Forum. For more information, visit agln.aspeninstitute.org.
The Aspen Institute is a community-serving organization with global reach whose vision is the creation of a free, just, and equitable society. For 70 years, the Institute has driven change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the world’s greatest challenges. With headquarters in Washington, DC, the Institute has offices in Aspen, Colorado and New York City, as well as an international network of partners. For more information, visit aspeninstitute.org.