Remarks by Abraham H. Foxman
National Director, Anti-Defamation League
Presentation of the Anti-Defamation League Americanism Award
to Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker,
Founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®
February 4, 2010, Palm Beach, FL
Over the years I have had the good fortune to meet and work with extraordinary individuals -- people as committed as we at ADL to promoting and protecting America’s democratic values, to speaking out against prejudice and bigotry, to supporting the State of Israel, and striving to make the world a better, safer and healthier place for all. Some have focused on one area or another and made important contributions.
However, to work on behalf of all these issues and to succeed is an extraordinary accomplishment. That is exactly why we honor Ambassador Nancy Brinker with ADL’s Americanism Award tonight.
Nancy is the dynamic and energetic founder and CEO of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Regarded and respected as the leader of the global breast cancer movement, she founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure® in 1982, fulfilling a promise to her dying sister that she would do everything possible to end the shame, pain, fear and hopelessness caused by the disease. In one generation, the organization that bears Susan’s name has changed the world, especially in raising awareness and funds for scientific research and patient support.
Nancy Brinker broke the silence around breast cancer, and Komen for the Cure is now the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Her creativity in raising awareness led to programs that at the time were revolutionary: In 1983, she founded the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure®, which is now the world’s largest and most successful education and fundraising event for breast cancer and emulated by others. She also pioneered cause-related marketing, allowing millions to participate in the fight through businesses that share Komen’s commitment to end the disease forever. To date, virtually every major advance in breast cancer research has benefited from hundreds of millions of dollars in Komen for the Cure funding.
Since its beginning, Susan G. Komen for the Cure has funded $2 million to research and support programs in Israel. Its very first international research grant went to an Israeli institution in 1994, and it has for many years supported the work of organizations such as Beit Natan, the Weizmann Institute of Science, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and Hadassah. And this year, Komen will hold its first Race for the Cure in Jerusalem.
As to the question of the Foundation’s role in the incident in which Israeli doctors were barred from attending a breast cancer conference in Egypt in October, I must tell you under Nancy’s leadership the Komen Foundation did the right thing. It took the initiative to make sure two Israeli doctors were invited, something not to be taken for granted considering Egypt’s track record. Then, after the Egyptian government suddenly denied visas to the Israeli doctors, the Foundation made representations to Egyptian officials which eventually led to invitations being reissued to the Israelis. For me, for ADL, it is very clear -- the villain in this story was Egypt, not the Susan B. Komen Foundation.
Nancy’s determination to create a world without breast cancer is matched by her passion for enlisting every segment of society – from heads of states to citizens – to participate in the battle. In 2009, President Barack Obama honored her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The same year, she was named Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control for the United Nations’ World Health Organization, where she continues her mission to put cancer control at the top of the world health agenda. Time magazine named her to its 2008 list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Nancy has a long and distinguished history of service to our nation and to the Jewish community.
As Ambassador to Hungary from 2001-2003, she enhanced our bilateral economic ties and, as will come as no surprise, our cooperation in health care, with a program known as the Bridge of Health Alliance. The program was inaugurated with a march over Budapest’s famous Chain Bridge, illuminated in pink, to raise awareness of breast cancer.
Less well known, however, may be her contribution to the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Nancy negotiated the agreement for Hungary to host, and for the U.S. military to train, expat Iraqis, who went into Iraq alongside the coalition forces as civilian advisors. Known as the Free Iraqi Forces, this group played an important role in assisting American soldiers to interact with the Iraqi people. For all her achievements in improving U.S.-Hungarian ties, Nancy was decorated with the Order of Merit by Hungary’s president.
As U.S. Chief of Protocol from 2007-2009, she was responsible for overseeing all protocol matters for visiting heads of state and presidential travel abroad. In 2008, President George W. Bush appointed her to The Kennedy Center Board of Trustees.
Nancy is a woman to be admired and emulated. When she sets her sights on an issue her determination, creativity, expertise and leadership come into play. Problems get solved. Success is achieved.
Nancy, in recognition of your extraordinary accomplishments and for who you are, I am proud to present you with the Anti-Defamation League’s Americanism Award.