I’m one of the few people not named Kennedy or who happens to be receiving the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award who looks forward to the list of honorees for the utterly meaningless accolade being announced every summer. That’s because there are two types of people — and only two — who tend to win the award.
First, there are left-wing eminences who’re getting it not so much because of a lifetime of accumulated political, social or professional achievements. That’s not to say they don’t have those, although that’s pretty darn questionable when it comes to this year’s headliner.
Rather, it’s because they’re making a very on-the-nose point at a crucial time. Rest assured, if there was some sort of pressing social issue that involved the right to marry your long-term girlfriend’s adopted daughter without stigma, Woody Allen would be given the award that year.
Second, there are corporate executives who happen to be mildly woke.
These people haven’t done anything particularly fantastic; perhaps they’re a little more left-leaning than other people who’ll be offshoring every last bit of their wealth if a Bernie Sanders acolyte ever takes over the White House, but none of these people are particularly distinguished in their dedication to human rights.
Why, then, are they being given the award by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization, a nonprofit group that doubtlessly networks with many other nonprofit groups that could always use access to capital and the hallways of corporate power? The mind boggles.
The award, according to this year’s media release, “celebrates outstanding leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to social change, recognizing individuals across government, business, advocacy, and entertainment who have utilized their platform for the public good.”
“Past Ripple of Hope laureates include Barack Obama, Tim Cook, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Robert F. Smith, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Belafonte, John Lewis, Hillary Clinton, Bono, and Joe Biden.”
Anyhow, the two marquee winners this year are an activist athlete who doesn’t like anything President Donald Trump stands for and an epidemiologist Trump doesn’t like. That may seem reductive, but if you take that out of the equation, it’s kind of unclear why Colin Kaepernick and Dr. Anthony Fauci won the Ripple of Hope Award this year.
“Our country is yearning for leadership, for moral fortitude, for common decency and kindness, and this year’s Ripple of Hope laureates give us great hope for the future,” said Kerry Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter and president of the eponymous foundation.
“Their work for equal justice touches every corner of society, sometimes at great personal cost. We are deeply honored to celebrate these changemakers, who have set forth countless ripples of hope at a time when our world is in such need of inspiration.”
You begin to see the problem with this formulation, however, when you look at Kaepernick’s biographical blurb in the news release. He’s described, at the very beginning, as “a professional athlete and human rights activist, known for protesting police violence and racialized systemic oppression by taking a knee rather than standing during the playing of the national anthem while he was the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.”
When the award is presented this December, he will have last played for the 49ers four years ago. Between then and now, there were two other Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award ceremonies at which Kaepernick could have been honored for doing this.
The blurb goes on to mention some of the activism work he’s done — although it doesn’t mention a whole heck of a lot of it, and it spends just as much verbiage talking about the awards he’s won, which mostly come from the notoriety he received for kneeling during the national anthem during his final season with the San Francisco 49ers.
Colin Kaepernick, in short, didn’t do anything to justify the award between last summer and this summer.
He didn’t move society. Society, rather, moved toward him — particularly after the tragic death of George Floyd, which provided an opportunity for otherwise material-starved sports pundits to rave and rant about how Kaepernick had been blackballed from the league and how this proved he’d been right all along.
If the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization wanted to take a position that required actual courage, it could have given Kaepernick the award before this. Instead, the organization gave him the award because he’s now a stand-in to make a point about institutional racism.
Meanwhile, in a year dominated by the novel coronavirus, the Ripple of Hope award could have been given, collectively, to those fighting the disease on the front lines of medicine. If they still wanted to give the award to individuals, meanwhile, they could have given several awards to people who’ve worked on fighting it. (Trust me, there’s some dead weight further down the list.)
Instead, of course, they gave it to Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Fauci doesn’t give a statement and his bio blurb is very just-the-facts:
“Dr. Anthony Fauci was appointed director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in 1984. He oversees an extensive portfolio of basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat established infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis, and malaria, emerging diseases such as Ebola and Zika, and the current outbreak of COVID-19. Dr. Fauci has advised six presidents on HIV/AIDS and many other domestic and global health issues and was one of the principal architects of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a program that has saved millions of lives throughout the developing world. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2008.”
That’s fantastic, and nobody’s questioning his bona fides. What does this have to do with human rights?
The answer is nothing. It has everything to do with the fact that Dr. Fauci’s public policy suggestions, which usually have to do with saving lives at any cost, are often at odds with those of an administration that has to make tradeoffs in order to prevent a depression on top of a pandemic. The people who run the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization don’t like the administration. Ergo, Fauci wins the award.
The other winners are significantly lower-wattage. Dolores Huerta is a labor organizer who co-founded the United Farm Workers union with Cesar Chavez; agricultural and food-processing workers are seen as an at-risk group for COVID-19 and left-wing groups have called on Congress to change labor and immigration laws on their behalf.
And then we get to the deep-pocketed dead weight.
The first sentence of the bio for Dan Schulman, president and CEO of PayPal, says that he “is focused on democratizing and transforming financial services and e-commerce to improve the financial health of billions of people and businesses around the world.”
While it mentions that he’s improving people’s “financial health” and has won some awards, there aren’t actually any reasons why he won the award and the blurb feels like an advertisement for PayPal more than anything else.
Almost the same thing could be said for Dan Springer, “the CEO of DocuSign, the company that pioneered e-signature and now helps organizations to automate their entire agreement process.” He’s apparently helped preserve the world’s forests and donated some money to the “Boys & Girls Club of San Francisco.”
Just as in previous years, this is all about agenda setting and mollifying very rich liberals.
In 2019, Nancy Pelosi won the award mostly because the Democrats retook the House of Representatives. Her Ripple of Hope apparently involves not being a Republican, as per her blurb:
“As Speaker, Pelosi is working to lower the cost of health care, increase workers’ pay, and clean up corruption. For more than three decades, Pelosi has used her position to effect positive change, helping a record number of women get elected to national office, speaking truth to power, and remaining steadfast in her commitment to democratic values and the rights we cherish so deeply: freedom of expression, assembly, and religion; respect for the rule of law; and freedom from political persecution.”
That empurpled prose sounds a bit worse when you realize that, to be honored for those things, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization would have to believe those values were in opposition to those she took power from.
Also honored, back when we thought tight borders were a bad thing, was an author whose organization “tackles the causes of family separation such as trafficking, poverty, and discrimination and speaks up on behalf of the eight million children trapped in institutions to transform their care, so every child can thrive in families and communities.”
That author? J.K. Rowling. Whoops!
In 2018, meanwhile, health care was the big agenda item, with three of the four individuals receiving the awards — including Barack Obama and Humana CEO Bruce D. Broussard — having their dedication to health care (in the Obamacare mold, of course) being mentioned prominently in their bios.
And, of course, there were no fewer than five major corporate executives out of the 13 honorees in those three years. Apparently, the deeper your pockets, the bigger the ripple you make when you jump into the pond of hope.
The great irony here is that, for the Ripple of Hope award, we’re awarding two people who aren’t exactly beacons of hopefulness. Colin Kaepernick is winning the award for rhetoric like this tweet on July 4:
Black ppl have been dehumanized, brutalized, criminalized + terrorized by America for centuries, & are expected to join your commemoration of “independence”, while you enslaved our ancestors. We reject your celebration of white supremacy & look forward to liberation for all. ✊? pic.twitter.com/YCD2SYlgv4
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) July 4, 2020
Dr. Fauci, meanwhile, is the guy who’s said maybe we should never go back to shaking hands.
Not that this has been a particularly hopeful year, but you would think they could have done better than this — if, of course, this was ever actually about hope.
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