Speaker Pelosi Remarks Upon Accepting the RFK Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award
New York – Speaker Pelosi delivered an acceptance speech after receiving the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award for her commitment to social change and humanitarian advocacy. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you so much, Kerry, for being you. More about that, first about the ‘Ripple of Hope.’
More than fifty years after Bobby Kennedy spoke those immortal words, they remain our inspiration still.
For Bobby Kennedy, ‘hope’ was a weighty word.
His hope was an irrepressible insistence on the possibilities of the future; a firm faith that the ‘numberless diverse acts of courage’ – standing up for an ideal, improving the lot of others, striking out against injustice – we can forge a more perfect, equal and good world.
It is a great honor to receive this Ripple of Hope Award: such a wonderful tribute, this whole occasion, to Senator Robert Kennedy and his belief in the power of hope.
And it is a joy to join you for this beautiful celebration of Robert Kennedy Human Rights, which has turned into Bobby’s – which has turned Bobby’s ‘ripple of hope’ into a tsunami for the world, a tsunami of hope for the world.
Thank you, Kerry. Thank you, Kerry, for your outstanding leadership in carrying on your father’s work to promote and defend human rights around the world – including farmworkers, as you mentioned tonight, which has long been a value for your family – your father and mother marched with Cesar Chavez.
And this week, the House was proud to pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, respecting the dignity and rights of farmworkers.
And tonight, several of my colleagues are here. If you’re still here, please stand, so we can thank you, Members of the House.
And Adam Schiff has joined us. See him?
It is an honor to be speaking here on the program with so many Kennedys, including my friend Ted Kennedy, Jr. He didn’t say anything about sailing and the time I said, ‘Don’t turn on the engine. We’re just sailing through. Ted Kennedy would – Ted Kennedy would want us to do it that way.’
So, again this is the personal, for me. Ineffably satisfying for me.
What a joy to be introduced by Congressman Joe Kennedy. Joe, how proud your grandfather would be to see you carry on his dogged defense of the downtrodden. Wasn’t he wonderful? Wasn’t he beautiful? Words by George Henry Williams.
I thank the entire Kennedy family for their friendship, and express the Pelosi family love that we have for Ethel. This is to Ethel’s blessed memory. Thank you, Ethel, for being you and for inspiring each of us.
I am overjoyed to share this moment with my family, who are here; my source of hope: my husband Paul; three of my children, Nancy Corinne, Christine and Alexandra; and three of my grandchildren, Paul, Thomas and Octavio.
It is a pleasure to share – you can give them applause.
My college roommate and classmates are here, Rita Meyer, Cecelia Haggerty and Mary Beyda; and also we have our friends: Paul Tagliabue and Chan. Thank you all for being with us.
It’s a pleasure to share this celebration with so many members, not only of my official family, but in the House of Representatives.
And let me express my congratulations to tonight’s awardees – now, let me just say this. I violate one of my standing principles, tonight. I have told my staff over the years, ‘Make sure I’m never on the program following a writer.’
Wasn’t she wonderful? Isn’t she wonderful? J.K. Rowling, Glen Tullman and my dear friend, Wendy Abrams. They have something in common, the three of them. They’re all magicians.
J.K. Rowling, you taught – you encouraged many, many, many children – more than you could imagine to read. When I saw all those Kennedys on the stage, I was thinking of all the kids when we took our grandchildren late at night to be the first, at twelve minutes, twelve – one minute after midnight to be able to buy Harry Potter books, all over California and the country. A magician you are, in so many ways. Turning your compassion into improving the lives of so many children.
And Glen, oh my goodness, wasn’t he wonderful? A magician. Turning his technological, entrepreneurial spirit into improving the health of the American people. And, by the way, Glen, I think Sam is the future Robert Kennedy in your life — no, really.
And Wendy Abrams, she’s just spectacular. She’s a magician, as well. Turned her passion, her commitment, her persistence – it’s true of her – into making a difference in our world, just as Robert Kennedy said, we have to make a difference.
She not only makes a difference, she makes great chocolate chip cookies.
Oh, everyone loves Wendy. Thank you, Wendy, for your leadership.
So, personally and officially, I am very honored to receive this Ripple of Hope Award – which, for decades, has celebrated men and women around the world who embody Bobby’s belief that: ’One person can make a difference and each of us should try,’ he said.
To receive this award means very much to me, especially personally.
In the D’Alesandro family, I was raised with dear — I was raised, as dear Joe mentioned, in Baltimore with that same Kennedy conviction: that public service was a noble cause, and that we all had a responsibility to help those in need.
And we carried reverence that we’re all God’s children, and we were brought up to believe that there is a spark of divinity in every person in this world and everyone must respect that spark of divinity and be good stewards of every one of God’s children. And not only that, we must respect the spark of divinity in ourselves and the responsibility that goes with it.
For my siblings and, indeed, for our generation, the name ‘Bobby Kennedy’ was a source of great excitement: symbolizing his irrepressible youth, the future and, of course, hope.
Now I say that, just another connection, my brother told me — he was at the time the mayor of Baltimore — and he said, ‘Well, Nancy, I am a big fan of that Bobby Kennedy, a big supporter of his in the presidential election.’ Just continued — we all continued to be inspired by him, Bobby, all these later.
Bobby knew that America’s story is a story of hope: from the hopeful vision of our Founders to declare independence and establish a new nation based on the ideal: all are created equal; to the hopeful dreams of pioneers and immigrants — and aren’t we proud of our immigrants in America — who crossed continents and oceans to seek a better future.
To the hopeful courage of generations of suffragists and activists, and of our men and women in uniform, who sacrificed to build a better future for our America.
In 1964 — this is one of my favorite stories — as Attorney General, Bobby spoke to the World Assembly of Youth about his hopes for the future, saying, and I quote — Glen, I thought of this when you were speaking — ‘Modern industry gives us the capacity for great wealth – but do we have the capacity to make that wealth meaningful to the poor of the world?’
In that speech, he quoted the historian Arnold Toynbee, who called this, ‘the first age since the dawn of history in which mankind has dared to believe it practicable to make the benefits of civilization available to the human race.’
Now my colleagues used to always be quoting Toynbee, so that meant so much to me to be reading that Bobby had written that speech. I didn‘t know he did, but then he referred back to it.
Because, think of what Toynbee did in his work, ‘A Study of History,’ Toynbee wrote about the role that hope could play in shaping the future of a nation and its future.
At the beginning of a hopeful country, he said, the political leadership formed a ‘creative minority’ that inspired and led the flowering of a civilization.
But in some nations, leaders became a ‘dominant minority’ of ‘exploiters,’ focused on their own wealth and power. Those competing mindsets – hopeful, exploitive – those competing mindsets and motivations create ‘schisms in the body social’ and ‘schisms in the soul’ of the body politic.
Does that sound familiar?
Sometimes people ask me, ‘Where is hope?’ I say: hope is where it always has been, sitting right between faith and charity.
Think of Bobby’s words, which I was honored to read at Arlington National Cemetery last year, at the memorial marking 50 years since his death. What an honor that was for me – for many of us who read, I was included among them.
Bobby spoke of: ‘A nation united not on every issue, but in the enduring faith that we are to be free; that we are to have the chance for a decent life; that the natural condition of humanity is not degradation, but dignity.
‘This is the faith that binds us together as Americans. It is this faith that shaped this nation: it is this faith that shall preserve us.’
As Bobby knew, it is that faith in freedom and goodness of others that gives us hope.
And we need hope, in the face of all the challenges of our time – whether its the assault on our Constitution – and thank you Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler and Eliot Engel –
– who is here tonight, and my dear colleague.
Or whether the climate crisis, a great challenge to this generation, or the crisis of income disparity.
Looking around this room, I see faith and human goodness.
I see it in the work of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, which for decades has made extraordinary progress to, in Bobby’s words, ‘tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.’
And I see it the courage of America’s young people – including Diontre Jones. Are you still here Diontre? First of all, wasn’t he great?
Who are marching for equality, for Dreamers, for women’s freedoms, for climate action and sadly, in the case of gun violence, for their lives.
Thank you, Kerry and thank you to the Kennedy family, for your leadership.
Thank you for the honor of this Ripple of Hope Award, which I will display with great pride in the Speaker’s Office in the Capitol of the United States.
God bless you. God bless America.