Global Pittsburgh Heinz Awards Do Credit to Our City

By Simpson, Dan | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), April 9, 2014 | Go to article overview

Global Pittsburgh Heinz Awards Do Credit to Our City


Simpson, Dan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


An event last week at the Sen. John Heinz History Center recalled for me three phenomena that I think we all need to be reminded of repeatedly in the face of some of the nonsense that characterizes public life in America these days.

The event was the awarding of five annual Heinz awards for arts and humanities, environment, the human condition, public policy and technology, the economy and employment. In the spirit of the late Sen. John Heinz, the awards celebrate "the power and responsibility of the individual to change the world for the better."

The first lesson which I drew was that there was a time in the not too distant past when American public life - and particularly the Republican Party - included towering figures such as Sen. Heinz who thought big, who understood the necessity of America's international role and who was willing to put his money behind his beliefs.

The second lesson came from the fact that the work of all five honorees, from very different walks of life, all had critical international components to what they do. The word "globalization" does not even need to be pronounced anymore: Really important work by its nature is international in character.

The third lesson was that Pittsburghers do not need to be especially prompted to participate in such celebrations of American and international achievement. The afternoon was rainy, Downtown traffic was unspeakable, but the city's and county's business and political leadership were all there, meeting the honorees and applauding them vigorously, truly admiring and appreciative of what they had done to receive the awards.

The Heinz family themselves are very international. Sen. Heinz's son, Andre, who presented the awards, is an environmentalist who spends a fair amount of time in Europe. Sen. Heinz's widow, Teresa Heinz Kerry, for whom Andre Heinz stood in, is Portuguese and born in what is now Mozambique in East Africa. Her present husband is Secretary of State John Kerry, who is turning himself inside out trying to produce agreements in the Middle East between the Israelis and Palestinians, the Iranians and the rest of the world and even, a real stretch, an accord that could end the Syrian civil war.

The five honorees were the gold standard of international achievers.

Abraham Verghese, now at Stanford University, is a doctor, author and teacher who has worked and trained other medical personnel in Africa and India as well as in North America. …

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