On Thursday December 1st, USGLC hosted our annual Tribute Celebration on World AIDS Day. Over 750 guests gathered in-person for the first time in three-years for a memorable event. Here are some of our favorite moments from a night filled with cooperation and celebration:
In a bipartisan celebration, we marked 20 years of The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) with former President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush by honoring them with a Global Leadership Award. We also honored USAID Administrator Samantha Power for her global humanitarian leadership at the helm of the world’s premier development agency, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for his championing of America’s global leadership, and paid special tribute to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman, Appropriations Committee, with USGLC’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Strengthening U.S. global leadership through diplomacy and development is why we are all here. We are Republicans, Democrats, and Independents coming together for our common mission – and tonight is a moment in Washington where, at least for a few hours, partisanship is checked at the door!” Dr Leslie Mancuso, CEO of Jhpiego said it best in her opening remarks of the night. Bipartisanship was the name of the game on December 1st!
Former President George W. Bush says it takes a lot to get him back to Washington, D.C. But he did make the journey to USGLC’s Tribute Celebration to talk about the enduring legacy of PEPFAR. His succinct message to lawmakers on the importance of PEPFAR was adamant: “I’m here to say as loud and clear as I can. Congress must fund PEPFAR… It works.”
President Bush also talked about the generosity of the American people in a pushback against some of the isolationists winds saying, “People ask why, you know, why should I care? Shouldn’t we be doing other things for our people? And the answer is, what’s the role of a great country in the world? Is it to look inward? Is it to think about how to solve big problems? People here… we all decided to work together to solve big problems. And that’s uniquely American.”
Leader McConnell used his time on stage to lay out a resounding call for more U.S. international engagement both for Ukraine’s fight against Russia and resources for diplomacy and development that helps promote national security at home and abroad.
He succinctly summed up why this funding is so important saying, “History has proven over and over again that America does well when America does good. Here’s a shining example of it, 11 of our top 15 trading partners were once recipients of U.S. foreign assistance.” McConnell also channeled a former Secretary of Defense to further emphasize this point saying, “I like the way Jim Mattis put it: If Congress doesn’t want to fund smart diplomacy and foreign aid, we’d better get ready to spend the same money buying a whole lot more bullets later.”
USAID Administrator Samantha Power sat down with Dr. Raj Shah, President of the Rockefeller Foundation and former USAID Administrator, for a conversation on USAID’s role in an ever-changing international landscape. In interviewing Administrator Power, Rockefeller Foundation President Raj Shah recognized the importance of her being the first USAID Administrator to have a permanent seat on the principals committee of the National Security Council.
Power accepted the USGLC award on behalf of her whole team at USAID, serving across nearly 100 countries. Power herself has traveled to 24 countries since taking on the position. In describing her view of America in the world to Dr. Shah, Power says, “I hope I can say… this in polite company, we’re kick ass! … We do big things, right? We vaccinate the world. We bring solar… so that off grid communities can get access to energy… I mean, we’re America, we can do these things.”
Few have had as impactful a legacy when it comes to strengthening America’s development and diplomacy tools as Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Mayor Steve Benjamin and Senator Norm Coleman spoke about the Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree who served as the top Democrat on the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee for over 30 years. In a video Tribute, Leahy himself noted the vital role America plays abroad and accepted the award in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.
Our two Celebration Co-Chairs for the night, Johnson & Johnson and Jhpiego came together to host this year’s bipartisan event. From their welcome remarks to their award presentation, Dr. Martin Fitchet of Johnson & Johnson and Dr. Leslie Mancuso of Jhpiego showed us what can be accomplished when bipartisan groups work together to invest resources for diplomacy and development spending.
Dr. Fitchet was particularly passionate about working together to improve health and save lives saying, “We know that closing the gap between richer and poorer countries will take all of us and we are committed to pioneering the global health innovations that have a profound impact for patients in underserved communities.”
One of the most powerful moments of the evening came from a 24-year-old woman from Lesotho, PEPFAR DREAMS Ambassador, Pusaleto Mpeis. Mpeis joined Dr. John Nkengasong on stage to pay tribute to the PEPFAR program and share her inspiring story of how the DREAMS program enabled her to empower women and girls in Lesotho by promoting education on HIV/AIDS to transform their health, lives, and communities.
Dr. Nkengasong, PEPFAR’s Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Health Diplomacy, also joined Mpeisa on stage to help celebrate 20 years of monumental success for the bipartisan PEPFAR program. Dr. Nkengasong proudly touted the achievements of the PEPFAR program, announcing that “through PEPFAR, 25 million lives have been saved and 5.5 million babies have been born HIV-free.” A stunning accomplishment, and hopefully, just the beginning of the success we can expect to see for decades more to come.