Awards of distinction given to four at the “Ripple Of Hope” gala, Dec. 8, 2015

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This week, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights awarded four leaders whose demonstrated commitment to social change exemplify Robert F. Kennedy’s passion for equality, justice, and basic human rights with its Ripple of Hope Award—Congressman John Lewis (D-GA); Apple CEO Tim Cook; Evercore co-founder Roger Altman; and UNESCO Ambassador Marianna Vardinoyannis. Over 700 guests attended the event at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City which raised over $3 million.

“There is no better way to celebrate my father’s legacy than to honor great leaders like Congressman Lewis, Tim Cook, Marianna Vardinoyannis, and Roger Altman,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “Each honoree certainly reflects his belief that we all must strive to ‘make gentle the life of this world.’”

The evening’s first honoree, Roger Altman, began his public service career with his involvement in Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign. He went on to serve in the Carter and Clinton Administrations before founding independent investment bank Evercore. In addition to his public service and finance work, Altman is committed to improving the quality of public education—an issue on behalf of which he noted “we can, and we must do better.”

As a global activist and philanthropist, Marianna Vardinoyannis is a tireless advocate for children’s and family rights. She focuses her work on issues including health, education, social welfare, and combating child abuse and exploitation. Vardinoyannis has worked on these issues in her native Greece and internationally as a UNESCO Ambassador. Last night Vardinoyannis dedicated her award to children suffering from cancer, noting that, “they have become a unique source of inspiration and determination to me through their unbelievable courage and strength.” She continued, “They become symbols of a world that we dream of, a world of equal chances for all and of the right to live in dignity.”

Tim Cook honored for LGBT equal workplace rights
Apple CEO Tim Cook is an outspoken advocate for sustainability and climate change. He has increased Apple’s charitable donations and been a strong voice for equality, including speaking out against his home state of Alabama’s attempts to pass anti-LGBT laws. Cook spoke about how the core beliefs that serve as a driving force at Apple, including that “business at its best serves the public good, empowers people around the world and binds us together like never before…that the concerns of one are truly the concerns of all. That in the products we make, the products that change lives, product that allows users to create and learn and explore…products that change the world.” Cook noted that Apple is doing the hard work to run on entirely renewable energy and encouraging other companies to do the same, and concluded by noting that like Senator Kennedy, he believes that “anything is possible as long as we get to work.”

Congressman John Lewis, who has represented Georgia’s Fifth District since 1986, has been a strong voice for social justice and equality in the U.S. House of Representatives. As an activist and Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Lewis was a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement and a leader in the 1963 March on Washington, Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the Selma to Montgomery march. As he accepted his award, Lewis encouraged guests to “keep getting in the way…keep getting in trouble…good trouble, necessary trouble…to help create the beloved community of a world at peace with itself.”

Guests in attendance at last night’s gala included: Ethel Kennedy, Phil Johnston, Marvin Rosen, Jeff Sachs, Robert Smith, Marc Spilker, Harry Belafonte, Tim Daly, Trevor Donovan, Louis Gossett, Jr., Dennis Haysbert, Catherine Keener, Tony Lo Bianco, Diane Neal, Kevin Nealon, Lena Olin, Sam Waterson, Alfre Woodard, and more.

The Annual Ripple of Hope Holiday Auction, which benefits Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ work of advancing human rights efforts around the world, features an online auction includes rare memorabilia, art, and one-in-a-lifetime experiences with notable figures in entertainment, politics, music and sports—ranging from a lunch with Kate Mulgrew and Taylor Schilling of the hit Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, an afternoon and boat ride at the Kennedy compound, a vacation in Capri, an outgoing voicemail message recorded by comedian Sarah Silverman, a meet and greet with Melissa Etheredge, one-of-a-kind works of art, a number of opportunities for set visits and VIP sports, and entertainment tickets and much more. The auction is open to bidders internationally through Thursday, December 17, 2015. For a full list of auction items and additional information, please visit:

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights was founded in 1968 by Robert Kennedy’s family and friends as a living memorial to carry forward his vision of a more just and peaceful world. RFK Partners for Human Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ litigation, advocacy, and capacity-building arm, builds multi-year partnerships with defenders and other human rights activists to advance social justice goals around the world. RFK Speak Truth To Power educates more than half a million students throughout the world each year with a human rights school curriculum offered from pre-school to law school. RFK Compass promotes corporate responsibility by ensuring that human rights concerns, fair labor practices, and environmental safeguards are reflected in global investment strategies. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ European partner organization, RFK Europe, provides human rights education programs to schools across the continent, and operates the RFK Europe Training Institute providing cutting edge training for human rights activists and grassroots organizations. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit charitable organization. To learn more, please visit, or follow us on Facebook ( and Twitter (@RFKHumanRights).


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