December 1, 2018 – Transcript of remarks from Scott Beale, Atlas Corps Founder and CEO, during Atlas Corps Empower Women Globally Gala
Thank you to our sponsors. Philip Morris International, The John Evans Foundation, Turkish Airlines, IBM, American Express and all of you in attendance whose financial contributions are so critical to investing in these international leaders. (Aaron Sherinian)
Thank you to Senator Harris Wofford. Harris has been an inspiration and a supporter for so many years. His life demonstrates the difference we can make when we are young and the difference we can make decade after decade if we keep working hard.
Thank you to my family. My parents and grand parents were all teachers, my wife, Courtney is a diplomat and my boys are stand up comedians. I have learned so much from all of them and they are all so supportive of me and share my love and passion for Atlas Corps.
And thank you to Abby, Kelly and the entire Atlas Corps team. Abby and Kelly have contributed a combined 14 years to Atlas Corps and we have a diverse, committed, strong team that cares deeply about the Fellows and works very hard to achieve our mission.
I am so proud of this team, this growing movement we have created at Atlas Corps. I am proud how we have fought hard to create a diverse, inclusive global community of the world’s best social change leaders. What started as a simple idea twelve years that has grown to a fellowship of over 700 leaders from 89 different countries. And in addition to the fact we have provided a transformative, life-changing training opportunity for these Fellows, we have also provided super-talented, diverse professionals to advance the missions of many of the world’s best organizations in the U.S.
Developing leaders and strengthening organizations. This is our mission and we should be proud how we have been relentlessly pursuing it.
Twelve years ago, I left my job at State Department to pursue a simple idea. What I saw living in India, Bosnia and so many other countries was that everywhere you go in the world, talent is universally distributed. Small towns and big cities you can find talented, passionate people who want to make the world a better place. Talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not. As a white male born with U.S. citizenship I can go to 160 countries and not even need a visa. I recognize the privilege that I was born into by the lottery of my birth. When I was 21-years-old, I was able to drop out of school and volunteer in Bosnia after the Balkans war, but the opportunity for a Syrian to volunteer here, or a Mexican or a Pakistani leader to volunteer in the U.S. is just not the same. Talent is universally distributed, but opportunity is not.
So we set out with an audacious plan, to give the world’s best social change leaders the opportunity to serve here, to develop their skills and return home to strengthen their communities. But we are not just a training program. Our goal is also by bringing diverse leaders to the U.S. we can learn from their perspectives and grow from that diversity.
This is what we have done for 12-years despite the fact we live in a city, a country a world that fears diversity, that is resisting global engagement. We are in an age of isolationism and yet you are here supporting a movement dedicated towards embracing leaders from other countries. We live in a period of walls and bubbles and tonight you are participating in a dance party with a beautiful diversity of music.
I am particularly excited that this year’s dance party, and really our theme for the entire year is about Empowering Women Globally. And while I recognize this dissonance of a white male advocating for a more diverse world and more empowered women, frankly I think this is a cause that we all be fighting for. I was raised a feminist at an early age in an primarily female up-bringing with my sister, mother and grandmother. I am trying to raise feminist sons. And I am proud to be part of a primarily-female led team dedicated to this issue.
We know that while talent is universally distributed, opportunity is not – we know that this is particularly true for women and girls around the world and countless studies show that when you empower girls and women, you strengthen entire communities. I am proud that 60% of our Fellows are women – and this year nearly two thirds of our Fellows are female – despite the fact more men than women apply for our program.
So we have much to be proud of, but we have so much more work to do.
I have spoken to so many people who feel overwhelmed, even powerless against the forces of change in the world. Unsure how they can make a difference in the refugee crisis is the Middle East or Venezuela, clueless where to begin in fighting climate change, paralyzed by the enormity of the challenges and the limits of our individual capacity to effect change.
I understand this paralysis, and yet if there is one thing that Atlas Corps Fellows have taught me, is that there is no challenge an empowered, networked community of diverse leaders cannot tackle when working together. If you are unsure where to turn in the time of crisis, I encourage you to turn to the heroes in this room, to the Fellows at your table. I encourage you to invest in Atlas Corps Fellows. Our Fellows may not look like the white male in a cape that our popular cultural portrays as heroes, but maybe we have been looking to the wrong people to come save the day.
While I don’t believe any one Atlas Corps Fellow will swoop in to save the world, I do believe that investing in these Atlas Corps Fellows is the best invest of my time and money to build a diverse, inclusive, prosperous and safe world for my kids.
We don’t the future, but I hope you will join me building this vision of a world together. A world that looks much different than the one we live in today, but a future that looks much like the leaders we have in this room tonight.
If this is your first event, or your 12th year coming to Atlas Corps events, I invite you to get more involved. To counter despair and cynicism with activism and hope. I invite you to become an even more active and critical member of this diverse and beautiful community.
Thank you for your support. Thank you for believing in Atlas Corps.
P.S. If I forgot your name in this post, please forgive me! There are so many people to thank!
P.P.S. If you read that whole speech and are inspired by our work, but not yet part of our community of supporters, please consider a $12 donation in our 12th year and support these amazing leaders: http://donate.atlascorps.org