In Conversation With Rita Hauser

On October 2, 2012 Jonathan Fanton sat down with renowned international lawyer and philanthropist Rita Hauser for a discussion about her life and career.

A Conversation with Rita Hauser
October 2, 2012

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, the FDR Fellow and Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. This historic building, home to Eleanor and Franklin, and Franklin’s mother, Sara, is now the center of Hunter College’s Public Policy program. In addition to teaching and research, Roosevelt House sponsors programs that bring policy makers together with faculty, students, and the general public to discuss issues of the day.

Tonight’s program is a little different. I have long wanted to have a series of public conversations with the most interesting people I know personally, people I have met in my years as President of the New School and the MacArthur Foundation but also through civic activities such as Human Rights Watch.

My first guest was former Mayor Ed Koch. Our conversation, no surprise, focused on the local state and national political scene. Next was a conversation with Agnes Gund, former President of MoMA who is one of our country’s most articulate advocates for the arts and art education, a major collector and a builder of cultural institutions.  And last spring I sat down with Vartan Gregorian, historian, teacher, and writer, as well as a former president of the New York Public Library, Brown University and the new President of the Carnegie Foundation.

Tonight we welcome Rita Hauser, one of Hunter’s own who went on to earn a doctorate in political economy at the University of Strasbourg then studied law at Harvard and earned her law degrees at NYU and the University of Paris. But her higher education started as an undergraduate here and she remains deeply committed to Hunter and serves on the Roosevelt House board.

It would take the better part of our program for me to give her a full introduction so I will mention just a few highlights.

Rita was one of the first women partners of a major New York law firm and was a leader in building the international law department at Stroock, Stroock and Lavan.
There, she strengthened the department through her various foreign networks and contacts, advised and mentored a number of the firm’s female associates and pushed for an increase in the number of women partners in the firm.

She has always had an interest in international affairs. President Nixon, for whom she worked as a speech writer and campaign strategist, appointed her a US representative to the UN Commission on Human Rights 1969-72. While at the UN she advocated for Russian Jews to have the right to emigrate. As her network widened, she became deeply interested in conflict resolution in the Middle East. She was part of a group from the Center for Peace in the Middle East, invited by the Swedish foreign minister, that orchestrated discussions which led Yasir Arafat in 1988 to recognize the State of Israel and to renounce terrorism. These negotiations helped pave the way for the historic 1993 Oslo Accords, an agreement between Yitzhak Rabin, Yaseer Arafat, and Bill Clinton, in which the Israeli government and the Palestinian Liberation Organization agreed on territorial and self-governing matters and officially agreed to recognize each other.  Her public service continues through her membership on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

While pursuing an active legal practice and public service, Rita Hauser has somehow managed to be a leading member of many not-for-profit boards. To mention just a few: Chair of the International Peace Academy, Co-chair of the Advisory Board for the International Crisis Group, Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London), the Rand Corporation, the New American Foundation, the Visiting Committee at Harvard’s Kennedy School and the Advisory Board at the Harvard Law School not to mention the Boards at Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic Society. And this is just a sample.

Eleanor Roosevelt, smiling down on us, would be pleased that we are having this conversation tonight in her house. While she attended Hunter, Rita met Eleanor, a major influence in the creation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and helped her organize her papers up at Hyde Park one summer. Rita Hauser embodies many of the  qualities we so admire in Eleanor Roosevelt: path breaking, loyal, a blend of resilience and principle, courage to challenge conventional wisdom and speak truth to power, and ability to elicit trust from those who do not trust each other, a commitment to opening opportunity to those in need, a fierce opponent of discrimination of any kind, a determination to pursue a more just and peaceful world – and an underlying optimism that humankind’s best instincts will triumph.

Remarks At Southport Congregational Church

On September 23, 2012 Jonathan Fanton delivered an address to the Southport Congregational Church on the role of the United States and other international organizations in promoting human rights around the world.

Remarks at Southport Congregational Church

Jonathan F. Fanton

September 23, 2012

Paul said I need not prepare for this conversation but I always have a few notes. But after a few minutes of opening comments about the MacArthur Foundation and my human rights work, I am happy to talk about whatever is of interest to you.

My years at the MacArthur Foundation took me to many of the 60 countries where it works, especially Russia, Nigeria, India and Mexico where it has offices.

In the U.S. it works on urban revitalization , housing, juvenile justice and education, in particular how technology is changing the way young people learn. It also gives the well known MacArthur Genius Award to 25 talented people every year and supports public radio and television.

Overseas it works on population, conservation, disarmament and human rights and international justice. Human Rights is of particular interest to me.

I feel blessed to have had interesting and challenging jobs, but my deepest satisfaction has come from my 30-year involvement with Human Rights Watch, six as chair. I want to talk with you for a few minutes about Human Rights Watch, where I currently chair the Advisory Committee on Africa.

Human Rights Watch works in 70 countries, bringing to light human rights abuses from Rwanda and Sierra Leone to Iraq and Egypt; from North Korea and China to Columbia and Cuba.  It also attends to America’s own shortcomings: appalling prison conditions; indefinite detentions and abusive practices at U.S.-run facilities in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq and racial inequalities in the criminal justice system.

Human Rights Watch is emblematic of civil society’s growing importance over the past 50 years.  By civil society, I mean non-governmental groups that do careful research and monitoring to expose problems, propose specific remedies rooted in law and reality, and pioneer models of direct service.

Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, C.A.R.E., Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children – the honor roll is wide and deep.  These global groups support and draw strength from a burgeoning number of local civil society organizations such as the Moscow Helsinki Group, Mexico’s Sin Fronteras, and Nigeria’s Access to Justice.

All over the world, people like you and I are joining together to influence governments and confront problems, from the environment and hunger, to AIDS, to human rights violations, directly through the power of civil society.

These groups play an indispensable role in the policy process and at the same time advance the prospects of creating and sustaining healthy democracies around the world.  They give voice to ordinary citizens, check governmental excesses, fill in service gaps, and prod international agencies to establish norms that express humankind’s highest aspirations for justice and fairness.

Human Rights Watch is a good example. Its methodology is to document abuses, analyze how the abuses violate international law and treaties, and make recommendations to the U.N., regional bodies like the African Union or to the government of nations where the abuses take place on actions which will end the bad practices.

Our most recent reports include:

  •  “Curtailing Criticism: Intimidation and Obstruction of Civil Society in Uganda”
  • “Even a ‘Big Man’ Must Face Justice: Lessons from the Trial of Charles Taylor”
  • “Torture in the Name of Treatment: Human Rights Abuses in Vietnam, China, Cambodia, and Lao PDR”
  • “No Place for Children: Child Recruitment, Forced Marriage, and Attacks on Schools in Somalia”
  •  “I Had to Run Away: The Imprisonment of Women and Girls for ‘Moral Crimes’ in Afghanistan”
  • “Tightening the Grip: Concentration and Abuse of Power in Chavez’s Venezuela”
  • “Neither Rights Nor Security: Killings, Torture, and Disappearances in Mexico’s ‘War on Drugs’”

And that is just a sample of the 75 reports Human Rights Watch has released in the past year alone.

The architecture for the worldwide protection of human rights is pretty much in place: agreements like the universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture, The Convention Prohibiting Discrimination Against Women, and more give a basis for robust action.

The challenge ahead is enforcement of these rights and punishment for those who violate them.  A vibrant system of international justice is emerging, with the new International Criminal Court at its center.

The Court has jurisdiction over the worst human rights abuses: genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity – acts like torture, enslavement or forced disappearances committed on a massive scale causing great suffering. It is off to a good start and I had the pleasure of giving a reception for the new Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda of Gambia, at Roosevelt House on Friday.

It may surprise you that the United States has not ratified the Treaty of Rome, which created the International Criminal Court, and that it is not part of the ICC.  It opposes the Court for fear that United States citizens might be brought to trial under it – an unlikely possibility because the Treaty states that the Court will assume jurisdiction only when a country is unable or unwilling to conduct an investigation of its own.

But America’s refusal to join its allies like Britain, Canada, France and Germany, Poland, Spain, Japan and Mexico will not stop the Court from going forward.  This is the most important new international institution since the founding of the United Nations, not only because it may well deter future Pol Pots or Pinochets, Gaddafis or Assads, but because it is causing nations around the world to reform their own laws and bring them into compliance with international standards.

Because the United States has a functioning criminal justice system capable of addressing allegations of genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity, U.S. citizens, military personnel, and government officials have nothing to fear from the International Criminal Court.  Dictators, corrupt armies and armed groups in failing states do.

The United States should not undermine the ICC, which can bring justice to hundreds of thousands of victims and families who do not have the privilege of such recourse in their home countries.

A recent national poll by the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs reports that 69% of Americans support the ICC – a strong majority.  Why then is our government out of step with public opinion?  It may be that we as citizens have not raised the issue forcefully enough or made it a priority among other important issues we care about.

I urge you to educate yourself about the Court and to speak up in favor of American ratification of the Treaty of Rome.  The United States government should get in step with the American people, who understand that our failure to join the Court puts us on the wrong side of history.

You can tell that I feel passionately about human rights.  But there are other issues worthy of your attention, so I conclude with this simple observation.

Being engaged in community organizations, issue advocacy groups as well as religious and service institutions, will add value to your lives and contribute to our search for a more just and human world at peace.  And as you feel the difference you are making, you will take heart that the deadly forces of apathy, fatalism and despair can be turned back by the power of individuals coming together directly, unmediated by governments.

The most powerful force for good in our time is the worldwide mobilization of citizens to act directly: sometimes to supplement government action, sometimes to resist it; most often to bring compassion and competence, hope and determination, when formal mechanisms fail.


Fatou Bensouda Reception

 On September 21, 2012 Jonathan Fanton introduced Fatou Bensouda, the new Prosecutor of the ICC at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. 

Fatou Bensouda Reception

September 21, 2012

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to the historic home of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. This reception is in honor of Fatou Bensouda, the new Prosecutor of the ICC who has been meeting here with the Coalition for the ICC. We are pleased to co-host this reception with the Coalition and in a moment its convenor, Bill Pace, will introduce the Prosecutor for brief remarks.

We have many distinguished guests here this evening but let me call out just a few:

  • Louise Arbour, the  (handwriting) former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, now President and CEO of the International Crisis Group
  • Aryeh Neier, the founding Director of Human Rights Watch and long-time President of the Soros Foundation, who has done so much to strengthen the emerging system of International Justice
  • Christian Wenaweser, the Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein to the United Nations and
  • Bruno Stagno Ugarte, also a former president of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court, as well as the previous Minister of Foreign Relations of Costa Rica and the Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations.

It is appropriate that the Coalition for the ICC meets in the historic homes of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and Franklin’s mother, Sara. The committee that developed the Commission on Human Rights met at Hunter College in 1946. And its chair was Eleanor Roosevelt who led the process of drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She served as the first US representative for the new Commission. As Eleanor said in December 1948, “We stand today at the threshold of a great event in the life of the UN and in the life of mankind… the approval by the General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights … this declaration may well become the international Magna Carta….”

This is the place that Eleanor and Franklin lived from 1908 until they went to the White House. It was here that Eleanor deepened her social conscience, learned about people in poverty, came to understand that discrimination was real and pervasive and fired her passion for defending the human rights of people everywhere.

When Sara died in 1941 Franklin and Eleanor made a donation so Hunter could purchase the house. The houses were an interfaith student center until they closed in 1992 in disrepair. Under the leadership of President Jennifer Raab they were restored and opened in 2010 as the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. The Institute offers two undergraduate programs, one in public policy and the other in human rights and international justice. I am pleased that some of our students and faculty are here tonight. Because of the Roosevelts, we feel a deep connection to the UN and other international organizations and are pleased to offer a rich variety of public programs, for example, Ban Ki-moon, Kofi Annan, Louis Moreno OCampo, Lousie Arbour to mention just a few of our speakers in the last two years.

We are especially happy to work with Bill Pace who has been and extraordinary leader of the Coalition for the ICC. The Coalition has done so much to rally support in countries around the world to speed the ratification of the Rome Treaty, now ratified by 121 countries and signed by 139 nations.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Bill Pace.

Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele’s “The Betrayal of the American Dream”

On September 5, 2012 Jonathan Fanton delivered an address introducing Donald L. Barlett’s and James B. Steele’s The Betrayal of the American Dream, which discusses the fate of the American middle class over the course of the twentieth century. The talk was a part of Roosevelt House’s “Road to November: Exploring America’s Challenges On the Way to Election 2012” series.

Barlett & Steele – Betrayal of the American Dream

September 5, 2012

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. It is my pleasure to welcome you to a discussion of The Betrayal of the American Dream by Donald Barlett and James Steele, two of America’s most distinguished journalists. Our moderator, Richard Tofel, will introduce them in a moment.

I am also pleased to welcome you to the historic homes of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin’s mother, Sara. I say “homes” because Sara began to build two adjoining townhouses in 1907 and gave one to Eleanor and Franklin in 1908. The story of the Roosevelt family in these houses will be told through a documentary “Treasures of New York, Roosevelt House” to be aired on October 11 on Channel 13 at 8:30 pm and screened here at Roosevelt House on October 11.

The houses came to Hunter in 1942 when Sara died and Eleanor and Franklin helped Hunter purchase them from the estate to be used as an interfaith student center. After a vigorous life as a student center, the houses closed in disrepair in 1992 and were boarded up until Hunter President Jennifer Raab rescued them in 2008. After careful renovation they reopened in 2010 as the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, offering undergraduate programs in public policy and human rights. The Institute supports faculty research and offers programs for the general public.

In this election season, Roosevelt House is sponsoring a series called “The Road to November,” an in-depth look at issues that are – or should be – central to the campaign. The future of the American middle class is on the line in this election. The next administration will face hard choices about how to stimulate growth and address the deficit, including the future of Social Security and Medicare, so important to middle class America.

The Betrayal of the American Dream is a must read as we prepare to cast our votes this November. It examines inequities in the tax code, calls for investment in infrastructure that helps businesses and creates jobs, and focuses on what it will take to increase the growth in the manufacturing sector of our economy. “Who says that bipartisanship is dead in Washington?” the authors ask. “It’s worked to perfection in trade policy with devastating consequences.” I doubt trade policy will be a central issue in this election, but it should be. The Betrayal of the American Dream educated me about flaws and policies of both Republican and Democratic administrations.

When I began reading this book I literally could not put it down. It mixes heroic personal stories of middle class suffering with a well documented analysis of the forces which are assaulting the middle class.

It is poignant that we talk about The Betrayal of the American Dream under the watchful gaze of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. This is where Franklin Roosevelt assembled his administration and crafted the New Deal that advanced the American Dream. Upstairs in his study, he recruited Frances Perkins to be Secretary of Labor and made the commitment to Social Security. As Franklin himself noted in 1933: “I have said that we cannot attain [a lasting prosperity] in a nation half boom and half broke. If all of our people have work and fair wages and fair profits, they can buy the products of their neighbors and business is good. … It doesn’t help much if the fortunate half is very prosperous… The best way is for everybody to be reasonably prosperous.”

The Betrayal of the American Dream is a story of the assault on that vision.

To lead our conversation tonight, I am pleased to introduce Richard Tofel, the general manager of ProPublica. ProPublica is a non-profit organization founded in 2007 and headquartered here in New York that produces hard-hitting, independent investigative journalism on many of the important issues of the day. In 2010, ProPublica became the first online news source to win a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina at New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center. It has partnered with over 90 different news organizations including 60 Minutes, CNN and The New York Times. Before coming to ProPublica, Richard was the assistant publisher of The Wall Street Journal, president of the International Freedom Center, and Vice President and Legal Counsel for the Rockefeller Foundation. He holds a law degree and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard and is author of four books, most recently Reckless Genius: Barney Kilgore, The Wall Street Journal, and the Invention of Modern Journalism.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Richard Tofel, Donald Barlett and James Steele.



Book Talk: A Discussion of William Dobson’s The Dictator’s Learning Curve

On July 24, 2012, Jonathan Fanton sat down with William Dobson for a conversation about his recent book entitled, “The Dictator’s Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy.”

The Dictator’s Learning Curve

July 24, 2012

Good Evening, I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute located in the historic homes of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and Franklin’s mother, Sara. The Institute offers undergraduate programs in domestic public policy and international human rights, supports faculty research and sponsors programs for the public.

Tonight we welcome William Dobson for a discussion of his important new book The Dictator’s Learning Curve. He helps us understand how both authoritarian regimes and their opposition are using new technologies in the struggle to advance democracy.

Mr. Dobson notes in his introduction: “…Today’s dictators … are far more sophisticated, savvy, and nimble than they once were. Faced with growing pressures, the smartest among them neither hardened their regimes into police states nor closed themselves off from the world; instead, they learned and adapted. For dozens of authoritarian regimes, the challenge posed by democracy’s advance led to experimentation, creativity, and cunning. Modern authoritarians have successfully honed new techniques, methods, and formulas for preserving power, refashioning dictatorship for the modern age.”

But, as we will hear, this book is about much more that the Dictator’s Learning Curve. Mr. Dobson gives equal time to the learning curve of the opposition and the global conversation among dissidents about how to mount non-violent revolutions. And he helps us understand the importance of local opposition in eroding a regime’s legitimacy, puts in perspective the role of international actors like the US and the UN, and offers practical insights about the patient path to democratic change.

William J. Dobson is a distinguished journalist, scholar, and foreign policy commentator. He was a Truman Scholar, an award recognizing exceptional college students interested in public service, and holds both a law degree and a Masters in East Asian studies from Harvard University. In 2006, Mr. Dobson was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and from 2008 to 2009 he was a Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He has published articles and op-eds in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Boston Globe, among others. Most recently, he produced a series of online articles for the Washington Post that used the first recorded accounts of the Egyptian military’s human rights abuses of female prisoners to highlight the brutalities of modern authoritarianism. Prior to his current post as the Politics and Foreign Affairs editor for Slate, Mr. Dobson served as the Managing Editor for Foreign Policy magazine, Newsweek International’s Senior Editor for Asia and the Associate Editor for Foreign Affairs. He can be heard on major news outlets including ABC, CNN, CBS, MSNBC, and NPR.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome William J. Dobson.

Tisch Prize Award Ceremony

On June 18, 2012 Jonathan Fanton announced the recipients of the 2011 Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize. Awarded by the Hunter Foundation, the prize recognizes an individual or nonprofit organization in the New York metropolitan area for outstanding accomplishment in the field of urban public health.

Tisch Prize Award Ceremony
June 18, 2012

Good evening. As Chair of the Selection Committee of the Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize let me begin by saying what a pleasure and honor it has been to serve in this capacity again this year.

From my time at The MacArthur Foundation, I have a special appreciation for how awards can elevate the importance of a field by honoring outstanding people and organizations.  The field of Community Health deserves our recognition and respect.

Before I announce the recipients, let me tell you about the selection process and criteria.

The 10-member Selection Committee, most of whom are here this evening, was comprised of Hunter faculty from the Schools of Public Health, Social Work and Nursing, and the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning—Neal Cohen, Lynn Roberts, Judith Rosenberger, Judith Aponte and John Chin—as well as external health policy experts—Dennis Rivera, John McDonough, Georges Benjamin and Sue Kaplan. Both John and Georges are former Tisch Public Health Fellows. Again, thank you all for your service.

We received 40 outstanding nominations. Thank you to all of the nominators and references for introducing us to such worthy candidates. The quality and range of their work is breathtaking, representing all parts of our city and many approaches to improving urban public health.  For example, the nominees included: a health expert in East Harlem battling the environmental causes of asthma; a breast cancer screening program in Manhattan tailored specifically to women with physical disabilities; a Queens program to provide free care and screenings to the uninsured and new immigrants; and an organization providing housing, health and social services to mentally ill homeless populations throughout the city.

All of the nominees are working on health problems associated with poverty and reducing health inequities. And all are deserving. It was difficult to choose only one individual and one organization.

We used three main criteria in our review. The first was outstanding Achievement in the development of an urban health initiative. The second was Imagination in tackling a public health problem and the third was Impact—lasting improvement in health and well-being, and potential for replication.

Today’s recipients are emblematic of many heroic individuals and organizations who work to make New York a more just, humane and  healthier place to live. There will be more moving stories to recognize in future years.

I speak for all members of the Selection Committee when I say that this was a very uplifting assignment. Thank you President Raab for giving us the opportunity, and thanks to Joan Tisch for inspiring this award and to her children for honoring her in this way.

And now to announce the recipients of the second annual Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize—

The 2012 “organization” recipient is the LegalHealth unit of New York Legal Assistance Group. LegalHealth unites legal and health care professionals who work collaboratively to improve the lives of low-income people with serious health problems by: addressing the legal needs associated with poverty that undermine recovery; eliminating legal barriers to services; and educating health care professionals about their patients’ legal needs.

Nominator Joe Baker, President of the Medicare Rights Center, noted that LegalHealth has taken the medical-legal partnership model “to a new level, maximizing its impact while expanding new arenas for implementation.”  In fact LegalHealth is now the largest such partnership in the nation and has served over 17,000 clients and trained over 5,000 health care professionals. It further extends its mission through legislative advocacy. Last fall it was instrumental in getting state legislation passed and signed by Governor Cuomo to expand medical-legal partnerships throughout New York State.

Let me provide some examples of LegalHealth’s work. In representing an asthma patient, it might take action against a landlord to force repairs to housing conditions triggering the disease, such as mold and vermin. To help a cancer patient avoid additional stresses that might compromise her condition, LegalHealth makes plans for care of dependents, or resolves debt and credit issues. Another client service is helping patients apply for government benefits, like food stamps.

In his letter of reference, Dr. Howard Minkoff, Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center explained, “My fellow physicians and I are painfully aware that even when we can readily diagnose illness and when there are highly efficacious therapies, if patients cannot access their medication because of homelessness, problems with health insurance, or threat of deportation, our ability to treat them and manage their illnesses will remain illusory. It is the … staff at LegalHealth who translate “hypothetical” benefits into actual cures through their focus on the non-medical barriers to care.”

LegalHealth tells a broader story about community health—that health outcomes are often dependent on myriad “non-medical” factors that left unchecked lead to health inequities. LegalHealth inspires others to seek innovative ways to tackle these social determinants of health, making it eminently worthy of the second annual Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize.

The “individual” recipient is Mark Hannay, Executive Director of the Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign.  In the words of his nominator, Dr. Terry Mizrahi  [Miz-RAH-hee] of Hunter’s Social Work faculty, “Mark is a truly exceptional health advocate whose leadership as a coalition-builder, spokesperson and tireless organizer has galvanized New Yorkers to join successful community-based campaigns to expand access to health care, particularly for those with serious illnesses and disabilities, the uninsured and the voiceless.”

Mark has built Metro NY Health Care into a vibrant coalition of community, labor, professional and faith-based groups, to fight for fundamental reform leading to universal health care. Among the campaigns he has mobilized and helped lead are those:
enacting New York’s Managed Care Consumers’ Bill of Rights;
creating New York’s Family Health Plus program;
stopping harmful budget cuts to New York’s Medicaid program;
enacting financial aid programs to assist uninsured and underinsured patients in all New York hospitals;

And he has been on the front lines of advocacy for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Richard Gottfried, Chair of the New York State Assembly Health Committee, said of Mark: “[he] … is one of those rare advocates who is not only committed, but also thoughtful and understands the complexities of policy issues and political processes and the balance that often must be struck along the way.”

And Elisabeth Benjamin, Vice President at the Community Services Society, praised Mark’s “imagination, unwavering patience, and ability to build enthusiasm often seemingly from thin air.”

In addition to his advocacy work, Mark also educates thousands of New Yorkers on key health issues through a radio interview program and cable TV show.

For his principled passion and reasoned eloquence in the fight for health care as a basic human right, for his vision of a just society, and for the impact he has had on countless New Yorkers in need, Mark Hannay has earned the second annual Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize.

I now have the pleasure of introducing John McDonough who will moderate a conversation with Mark Hannay and Randye Retkin, Director of LegalHealth.

John is a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and director of its new Center for Public Health Leadership. In 2010, he was the inaugural Joan H. Tisch Distinguished Fellow in Public Health at Hunter College, and between 2008 and 2010 he served as Senior Advisor on National Health Reform to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Prior to that, he was Executive Director of Health Care For All, Massachusetts’ leading consumer health advocacy organization, where he played a key role in the 2006 Massachusetts health reform law. His book, Inside National Health Reform, is a compelling insider’s account of the passage of the landmark Affordable Care Act.

We are delighted that he has returned to Roosevelt House this evening to engage our two distinguished Tisch Prize recipients in a conversation about their important work.

A Tribute To George Langdon

On June 16, 2012, Jonathan Fanton memorialized the life and career of George Langdon. See his tribute to the former Colgate University President below.

Jonathan F. Fanton Remarks — Tribute to George Langdon, Jr.
June 16, 2012

I knew George Langdon for 45 years. He was my best friend, my mentor, a source of values and vision. We met at Yale when he was Deputy Provost and I Chief of Staff to President Kingman Brewster, a man we both admired deeply. I can recall convivial evenings by the fireplace at 459 Prospect Street, touch football with Campbell and George down the road at my house, lively conversations with Patty and then Agnes. In those days George and I played squash or tennis every week in New Haven and here in Little Compton. I was a regular visitor from the late 60’s on, meeting many of you and coming to know George’s father and mother. Our cocktail hours on the porch on Round Pond Road are memorable still.

This is surely the place George loved most in life, the constant in good and challenging times, the community where he had fun and was at his best, made his most enduring friendships. You will remember George loved to fish, from the rocks off Round Pond Road but more often from his beloved Boston Whaler. George taught me how to cast for Blues and also the best way to find them. He would time our departure from the harbor just behind Barnaby Keeny. After a decent interval we would follow him at a safe distance and when he found the fish we were there. And we did catch fish, lots of them.

George loved this part of the world. He wrote an important book on the history of New Plymouth Colony. It starts with a quote from Nathaniel Morton, Secretary and Magistrate of the Colony, who had written the first history of the Colony: “The consideration of the weight of Duty that lieth upon us to Commemorize to future Generations the memorable passages of God’s Providence to us and our Predecessors in the beginning of this Plantation hath wrought in me a restlessness of spirit…”

George shared that “restlessness of spirit” which he channeled into building and strengthening institutions. As Special Assistant to the President of Vassar, he was Vassar’s lead agent in exploring a merger with Yale. While the merger did not happen, Yale did acquire George, who became the best prepared Deputy Provost in Yale’s history. He was the go-to person for both the faculty and the administration, the man who could get things done. He took on the hard issues, spoke truth to power, but faithfully supported the President and Provost.

We know George as a man of tradition, a student of early American history, an exemplar of old fashioned values like fairness, integrity, loyalty, and love of family. But he was also a modernizer, a builder, a man unafraid of the future.

When he came to Colgate as its 12th President, he found a noble regional college but he left a university with national standing – with stronger faculty, better students and more self confidence. He made Colgate a more interesting place intellectually, and generations of junior faculty are in his debt for the special sabbatical program he created. A new library, a beautiful common dining facility, a science library, a field house, better and more varied housing options are lasting marks of George the builder.

And he was a leader in founding the Colonial — now Patriot – football league which promotes a healthy balance of athletics and academics.

After a successful 10 year run at Colgate, he became President of the American Museum of Natural History. There he set in motion the renovation of the Hall of Dinosaurs, the Museum’s premier attraction, the construction of a new Natural History library, and the creation of the Hall of Human Biology and Evolution, where research yields new insights about our place in nature.

George left every institution stronger than he found it. New buildings, innovative programs, financial integrity are common themes. But George also strengthened the bonds of community. He cared, he was loyal and inclusive, he had an ironic humor that made working with him fun.

And yet for all his accomplishments in the administration of Vassar and Yale and as President of Colgate, the American Museum and the United Nations Association, George was at heart a teacher.

He was a natural teacher and we have all benefited from his nurturing colleagueship. He always asked good questions, challenging but in a nice way. His respect for every individual encouraged people to do their best work, his capacity to listen – and hear – contributed to collective good judgment on complex issues. His decency elicited trust from people who did not always trust each other, making him a natural mediator. And finally, his flexibility on the margins preserved core principles, helping us adapt to a changing world while drawing strength from our faiths and traditions.

George was blessed with a wonderful partner in Agnes who expanded his world view, deepened his sensitivity to different cultures and extended his good works.
Her loving devotion during his long illness gave him extra years of good life and eased the slow but steady decline.

Over his lifetime George drew strength and joy from his family, distinguished parents, good wives, wonderful children in sons George and Campbell and stepdaughter Mary Charlotte, a devoted sister Mary Ann. No doubt they contributed to George’s successful career, peace of mind and a life well lived.