Elders Win $100,000 Purpose Prizes

Article excerpt

"My son Daniel was a dialogue maker who earned respect on both sides of the East-West divide and who had an unshaken belief in the power of communication to change people's minds and hearts," said Judea Pearl, president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation. The foundation is named after Pearl's son, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was murdered in Pakistan in 2002 by Islamic extremists. In a chapter about Daniel for the book After Terror: Prompting Dialogue Among Civilizations (Washington, D.C.: Polity Press/American University, 2005) the elder Pearl emphasizes, "In his spirit, and for the sake of my grandson's generation, we must see this dialogue continued."

To carry out this commitment to reason and healing, Pearl, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Los Angeles, partnered with Akbar Ahmed, a professor of Islamic studies at American University, Washington, D.C., and a former Pakistani government official. The two speak widely in an effort to stimulate greater Jewish-Islamic dialogue. In September, the pair was chosen to share one of five Purpose Prizes, each worth $100,000, presented to social innovators age 60 or older.

Among the other winners of the Purpose Prize, presented by Civic Ventures, a San Francisco-based nonprofit think tank, are a former Florida secretary for aging and adult services, who has helped 40 public housing projects in 12 states bring assisted living services to their residents, and a past mayor of Philadelphia, who heads an organization helping youth whose parents are entangled in the criminal justice system.


"These inspiring men and women illustrate an emerging trend in our society, as millions of aging Americans turn their experience and passion for change into meaningful work in the second half of life," stated Marc Freedman, founder and president of Civic Ventures. Purpose Prize nominees launched their social-progress endeavors after they turned age 50 to tackle such issues as homelessness, human rights, violence, poverty, health, education and the environment. Two foundations, The Atlantic Philanthropies and John Templeton Foundation, are funding the Purpose Prize program for its first three years.

Initially, Civic Ventures gleaned 70 social innovators from 1,200 applicants for the award. Then, the organization named 15 finalists. The five Purpose Prize winners and 10 finalists, who won $10,000 each, can also apply for support of their work from Civic Ventures' new milliondollar Fund for Innovation. All 70 of the semifinalists were invited to the Purpose Prize Innovation Summit at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., in September. The event, cosponsored by Civic Ventures and the Stanford Graduate School of Business' Center on Social Innovation, was intended to build a network among those honored and enable them to discuss ideas with potential supporters.

The winners were selected by a jury of 21 leaders in business, politics, journalism, the arts and the nonprofit sector. Following are recipients of the first Purpose Prizes. To learn more about the Purpose Prize winners and the finalists, visit the website at www.leadwithexperience.org.

Judea Pearl and Akbar Ahmed (ages 69 and 63, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.) travel together widely to speak and lead dialogues on religious tolerance, Unking their stories to a call for reconciliation and providing a rare forum for moderate Muslims in the United States. Ahmed also has contributed to the discussion as a writer and an editor, as well as speaking for dialogue-at some personal risk-in Arab countries. Purpose Prize judges noted that he and Pearl make a virtue of their age and experience, setting themselves outside politics, focusing on long term solutions and the world their grandchildren will inherit.

Dialogue is central to the work of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, which sponsors fellowships for journalists and an Internet news service for high school journalists, advocates freedom of the press, and organizes world music days to bring diverse people together. …