This year’s Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards, the fourth annual, carry more relevance and poignancy than ever as the world still mourns the great Muhammad Ali, who passed away on June 3 of this year. Ali co-founded the awards that would represent his humanitarian efforts and was the most distinguished presence at the event each previous year. The awards on September 17 will serve as a tribute to his spirit and legacy as well as recognize and reward the efforts he inspired in others. Ali, who famously and emotionally lit the Olympic torch at the Opening Ceremonies, made it a priority to “pass the torch” to a new generation of humanitarians through these awards. The recipients are evidence that his flame continues to burn ever so brightly.
The charitable event of celebration will honor individuals around the world who have made significant contributions toward the attainment of peace, social justice, human rights and/or social capital in their communities and on a global basis. Past awardees have included President Jimmy Carter, Geena Davis, Jim Brown, Christina Aguilera, Susan Sarandon and Michael Bolton. In addition, six young people, 30 years or younger, are honored with an award for each of Ali’s six core principles: confidence, conviction, dedication, giving and spirituality. The event is the premier annual fundraiser for the Muhammad Ali Center, co-founded by Ali and his wife, Lonnie, right here in their hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Much like the awards, the Center’s newest initiative, Generation Ali, fosters a new generation of leaders who will contribute positively to their communities and make the world a better place.
This year’s Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Lifetime Achievement will be awarded to Cindy Hensley McCain, who has dedicated her life to improving the lives of those less fortunate both in the United States and around the world. She serves as co-chair of the Arizona Governor’s Council on human trafficking and on the McCain Institute’s Human Trafficking Advisory Council. McCain also served on the board of directors for Operation Smile, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to repair cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities for children around the world. She was a member of the HALO Trust Board, as well as a founding member of the Eastern Congo Initiative, where she was committed to raising awareness of the travesties facing women and children in the Congo. She also sits on the advisory boards of Too Small To Fail and Warriors and Quiet Waters. McCain holds an undergraduate degree in education and a master’s degree in special education from the University of Southern California and is a member of the USC Rossier School of Education Board of Councilors. She is chair of her family’s business, Hensley Beverage Company, which is one of the largest Anheuser-Busch distributors in the nation. She resides in Phoenix with her husband, U.S. Senator John McCain. They have four children.
Upon the announcement of her award as recipient of the 2016 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Lifetime Achievement Award, McCain shared exclusively with The Voice-Tribune: “As a fellow Arizonian of the Ali family, this award is especially meaningful, and I am humbled to be recognized for the service for which I have committed decades. While the world lost a beloved icon just a few months ago, I am happy that the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards are in existence to inspire others to do good in the world and to help carry on Muhammad’s legacy. The Greatest may be gone, but not the greatest gift we can all give to the world by using Muhammad as a motivator to do our own part in making the world a better and more humane place.”
McCain went on to note the importance of recognizing the work of young adults around the world, explaining that it is only through innovation and dedication to the next generation that we can hope to bring change to real world problems. She continued, “Who better to use as an example of how one person can make a dramatic difference in the world than Muhammad Ali? If I can be a role model for people – especially young people – it makes this award even more meaningful. If I can be a conduit to inspire change and compassion and action in the world, I could not be happier.”
An impressive list rounds out other awardees who will be recognized at the Louisville Marriott Downtown on September 17. Academy Award-winning actor and humanitarian Louis Gossett Jr. will be honored with the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Education. Tony Award-winning actress, singer and activist Sheryl Lee Ralph will receive the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Global Citizenship. Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter and humanitarian Jon Secada will be honored with the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year Award. John Rosenberg from Prestonburg, an attorney and founding director of the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, will be presented the Muhammad Ali Kentucky Humanitarian Award.
Josh Nesbit, age 29, Waterford, Virginia, will receive the Confidence Award. He is the co-founder and CEO of Medic Mobile, a nonprofit organization that builds mobile and web tools for community health workers, clinic staff and families in the hardest-to-reach communities. These tools now help over 12,000 health workers provide care for 10 million people in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Medic Mobile focuses on ensuring safe pregnancies, increasing coverage for childhood immunization, delivering lifesaving child health treatments, monitoring stock levels for essential medicines, and tracking disease outbreaks faster. Raised in Virginia, Josh studied global health and bioethics at Stanford University. He has received numerous fellowships and awards, including being name by Forbes as one of the world’s 30 top social entrepreneurs.
Shawana Shah, age 23, Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, will receive the Conviction Award. Shawana established Da Hawwa Lur, a nonprofit aimed at ending gender-based violence, providing free legal and psychological support to victims of gender-based violence, enhancing women leadership and promoting peace. She also established the Working Women Union in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Pakistan, which now provides 300 women, home-based and domestic workers, a platform to fight for their rights. Shawana is a member of IHEYO, Child Rights Movement KP and AWID International.
Curt Bowen, age 29, Boise, Idaho, will receive the Dedication Award for his environmental work and rural development in Guatemala. He is the executive director and co-founder of Semilla Nueva, a nonprofit that develops locally-led farmer education programs that increase the income, rebuild the soils and improve the food security of Guatemala’s rural poor. Curt was raised on a small organic farm in Idaho. He is the recipient of the Ignite Good Millennial Impact Challenge, Ashoka Emerging Innovators award and Forbes’ 2015 30 Under 30.
Jakob Schillinger, age 26, Tuebingen, Germany, will receive the Giving Award. Jakob co-founded OneDollarGlasses with the vision to bring affordable eyewear to over 150 million people in need. The social venture uses new manual technology to locally produce high-quality prescription eyeglasses for a cost of less than one dollar per pair. Today, the company employs around 80 people in Burkina Faso, Brazil, Bolivia, Benin, Malawi and Mexico, and has produced and sold more than 30,000 glasses. This year, Jakob was put on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for Social Entrepreneurs in Europe.
Tina Hovsepian, age 29, Los Angeles, California, will receive the Respect Award. She is the founder and executive director of Cardborigami, a nonprofit that supports those who have lost their homes due to poverty, natural disasters or other crises. Based in Los Angeles, her local work also includes a job creation program called #YOUTHPLOYMENT that hires homeless youth as paid interns to build shelters. To date, Tina has helped rebuild roads, schools, libraries and homes, positively impacting over 470 students and their families. Toyota recently titled her “Mother of Invention.”
Navonel Glick (Voni), age 29, Tel Aviv, Israel, will be honored for Spirituality Award for his work as chief operating officer of IsraAID. Prior to his current role, Voni served as IsraAID’s programs director, leading disaster-response missions across the world, including the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, Sierra Leone after the Ebola outbreak and Northern Iraq since the emergence of the Islamic State. An Israeli/Canadian citizen, Voni completed an International Baccalaureate in France in 2004 before attending McGill University in Montreal.
This year’s Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards will be hosted by NBC News’ TODAY correspondent and MSNBC anchor Craig Melvin. Tickets to the awards can be purchased through the Ali Center’s website or by contacting Kelly Watson at 502.992.5338. For more information, visit alicenter.org/awards.