On Sunday, October 9, the 2011 FDR Distinguished Public Service Award was presented to Dharma Master Cheng Yen, founder of the Tzu Chi Foundation, by Roosevelt Institute chairman Anna E. Roosevelt, in Hualien, Taiwan. It was the first time the award was bestowed outside of the United States.
The award ceremony was held in the Jing Si Hall in Hualien, Taiwan. The Roosevelt Institute is located in New York; Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, granddaughter of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Andrew Rich, the Institute's President and CEO; and David Hsu, a member of the board of directors, traveled thousands miles to present the award.
In Ms. Roosevelt's speech, she mentioned "leadership that not only inspired hope, but was born of hope; leadership based on the belief -- as Franklin Roosevelt believed -- that devotion to the public good, unselfish service, [and] never-ending consideration of human need are in themselves conquering forces." Those values and beliefs expressed by Franklin Roosevelt are shared by Master Cheng Yen.
Ms. Roosevelt praised Master Cheng Yen for leading Tzu Chi volunteers around the world to overcome obstacles of distance, politics, and culture. "Tzu Chi has established a remarkable record of achievement: building hospitals for the sick; homes for the homeless, and bringing hope and relief to hundreds of thousands in the wake of the 2004 and 2011 tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan; after the devastation of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans; and in the terrible hours and days following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti."
Dharma Master Cheng Yen received the award in person, and thanked the Roosevelt Institute for recognizing the Tzu Chi Foundation. In her letter of acceptance, she mentioned that "tens of thousands of Tzu Chi volunteers humbly and silently work for environmental protection in their communities; they are the ones who deserve the most outstanding public service award. Tzu Chi members are not afraid of difficulties; they enter areas of calamity to give relief and to comfort the victims, while our medical doctors provide free clinics and free medicines not only to alleviate the suffering of patients, but also to comfort them mentally. They are a paradigm of human conscience and deserve the most distinguished public service award."
The Roosevelt Institute was founded in 1987. The FDR Distinguished Public Service Award, first presented in 2008, recognizes those who demonstrate a lifetime commitment to outstanding public service. The award celebrates leaders from all areas of civil society, including political leaders or leaders in humanitarian relief, and heralds the value of their contributions to the well-being of humanity.
As Roosevelt summed up, "the Tzu Chi Foundation has dedicated itself to these simple yet profound principles. Thanks to its adherence to these ideas, and to the compassionate vision of its founder, Dharma Master Cheng Yen, millions of people around the world have been able to embrace the hope and promise of a better life."
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