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2009 Global Leadership Awards Gala

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2009 Global Leadership Awards Gala

2009 Global Leadership Awards Gala

Marking the 10th Anniversary of the Global Classrooms program

Nov. 24 -- The United Nations Association of the USA and the Business Council for the United Nations celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Global Classrooms® program at UNA’s 51st Annual Global Leadership Awards Gala on Nov. 23. Among the speakers was UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. 

In addition, the gala honored Sheryl WuDunn, Pulitzer Prize winner and co-author of “Half the Sky,” with the UNA Leo Nevas Human Rights Award for her humanitarian work. The UNA-USA Champion for Global Change Award was also presented to John C. Whitehead, a vice chairman of UNA’s board of directors.

The gala, chaired by William J. McDonough of Bank of America-Merrill Lynch and by Janet C. Ross, a longtime UNA supporter, was held at Cipriani 42nd Street in Manhattan. The event was attended by more than 400 people and presented by Lesley Stahl, the CBS News correspondent for “60 Minutes.” 

Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, a co-chairman of UNA, spoke about the success of Global Classrooms in diversifying the Model UN population through the participation of more public schools. 

“Global Classrooms is an effective catalyst to bring out the best in our students in world affairs and in all areas,” Pickering said. 

Ibrahim Diallo, a Global Classrooms graduate and recipient of the 2008 Leo Nevas Student Advocate Award, thanked UNA-USA for encouraging a new generation of “global citizens that will rise to the challenge.”

Emphasizing the value of using Global Classrooms in school curriculum, Stephen Spear, a social studies teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Manhattan, said that the material has helped his students realize that “conflict in the world is rarely simple” and that the “American perspective is not always the correct one.”

Before the formal presentation of the evening’s awards, UNA President and Chief Executive Thomas J. Miller spoke about the organization’s recent achievements, citing, among other successes, UNA’s role in encouraging the US to stand for election to the Human Rights Council.

UNA’s Leo Nevas Human Rights Award was then presented by Jo-Ann Nevas Price to Sheryl WuDunn, who wrote “Half the Sky,” a book on the abuses women suffer worldwide, with her husband, Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times columnist. WuDunn and her husband are the first couple to win a Pulitzer Prize. 

The Leo Nevas award, inaugurated in 2007, is named for UNA’s longest-serving board member, Leo Nevas, a lawyer and human rights advocate who helped establish UNA’s human rights program. It is financed by a grant from Newman’s Own Foundation. 

In her speech, WuDunn used an old Hawaiian tale to illustrate the value of small gestures to solve large problems. A boy was throwing stranded starfish into the ocean, she said, when someone looked at the shore, strewn with the starfish, and told him he couldn’t possibly make a difference. The boy picked up another starfish, threw it back into the water and replied, “I just made a difference for that one.”

John Whitehead accepted the UNA-USA Champion for Global Change Award for his legacy of leadership and life of service. Whitehead served as deputy secretary of state in the 1980s, after rising through the ranks at Goldman Sachs, where he was made a senior partner and co-chairman in 1976. In 1985, he became deputy secretary of state, serving until 1989. In 1998, with UNA-USA he helped found the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. 

“At the crux of John’s partnership with UNA has been his passion for education and knowledge that through this comes global change,” said William J. McDonough, co-chairman of UNA.

Delivering the final remarks of the evening, Secretary-General Ban acknowledged in a heartfelt 15-minute speech the contributions that WuDunn, Whitehead and Global Classrooms have made in improving the world. He also touched on the difficulty of carrying out the UN’s work, adding, “We are lucky to have the UN Association as our friend and ally.”