The Four Honorees
Cherie with Alissa
Addressing the Audience
The 2011 Common Wealth honorees have produced work of substantial influence and enduring relevance
On April 29th 2011 Cherie was honoured to be the recipient of the Common Wealth Award for Public Service in Wilmington Delaware USA. The awards recognise and encourage outstanding achievement worldwide in designated fields of human endeavor. Cherie was one of four honorees at this the 32nd annual Common Wealth Awards of Distinguished Service. The other recipients were:
• Bill Richardson, 30th Governor of New Mexico, former U.S. Energy Secretary, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Congressman, for Government;
• George Will, America's foremost political commentator and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist;
• Russell Banks, internationally acclaimed novelist, poet and short story writer, for Literature.
• Cherie's citation read: Cherie Blair, noted human rights lawyer and campaigner for women's equality, for Public Service;
Connie Bond Stuart, regional president of PNC Bank for Delaware opened the ceremony with the following words:
"Through their professional and personal endeavors, the 2011 Common Wealth honorees have produced work of substantial influence and enduring relevance," said "In the spirit of the Common Wealth Awards, we encourage these leaders to keep their beacons of achievement burning brightly so that new generations may follow their example."
The Common Wealth Awards of Distinguished Service were first presented in 1979 and are funded by The Ralph Hayes Common Wealth Trust. PNC is trustee and administrator of the trust, which was created under the will of the late Ralph Hayes, an influential business executive and philanthropist.
In recent years the preparations for the Awards have incorporated a writing competition for Delaware High School students. Participants are asked to explain which honoree they most want to meet and why. Alissa Jacques of St. Andrew's School won the competition to meet Cherie with this lovely piece:
Every Life Has Equal Value. Bill Gates
"It is a simple phrase by which agents of change live. Yes, we are all different. Yes, we all come from different backgrounds -- some poorer than others, some less advantaged than others -- but no, that does not mean one life should be more valued than another. It is the dogma that binds all humanitarians together. Every life has an equal value, despite what sets them apart, and every life should be honoured as such.
If every life has an equal value, however, then why are women still seen as inferiors to men? Why is it, in a time of innovation, progress, and equality, countries exist where women's rights are so heavily restricted it makes us wonder if anything can be done to shrink the gap between a woman with the most privileges and a woman without even the right to free speech? This is why I strongly admire the mission of Cherie Blair. Her efforts and tireless pursuit for equal rights of women never cease to amaze me. She is a constant reminder that yes, every life truly does have an equal value and no, we have not forgotten about the women who need help; the women who would like to have the chance to step out of their stereotypical roles to create something for themselves; a chance to discover what they can do. The mission of Mrs. Blair's foundation to have "equal access [to] the tools and support needed to establish and grow successful businesses" proves that women are truly an opportunity worth investment. Teaching women how to create their own businesses goes far beyond the future status, the money, and the title. It follows into the mindset that women, masters of multi-tasking, intuition and planning for the long-term, knowing how to run their own business, will turn around and help others build brighter futures.
Cherie Blair is a constant reminder that agents of change work above and beyond what is expected to ensure equal opportunities. This is why I want the chance to meet Mrs. Blair. She inspires others to move from beyond their worlds in order to help others. Each of us can make an impact in the lives of another. No matter how big or how small, an impact is an impact and I would like to follow in Mrs. Blair's footsteps to help empower women. We all have the ability to do something great. It is what we do, however, with that ability that makes us great."
Cherie was delighted to meet Alissa and her family and to share this very special occasion with them.