Auburn’s Lives Of Commitment Honors Women With Moral Courage
When Lyla June Johnston, a poet and musician of Navajo and Cheyenne lineages uploaded a spiritual rap song in support of the Standing Rock protests, she never imagined it would be viewed by nearly a half a million people and provide inspiration for the spirit centered, peaceful activism at Standing Rock.
Eileen Fisher, the founder of the clothing brand known for its simple shapes and beautiful fabrics, led her company to be certified as a socially conscious and environmentally sustainable fashion company with a deep commitment to supporting the leadership of girls and women.
Johnston and Fisher offer two very different examples of impactful and inspiring women’s leadership — and they are just two of the five women Auburn will honor at the prestigious Lives of Commitment Awards on April 27th at Cipriani on 42nd Street.
Why women? Why now?
The Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, the president of Auburn and the author of “God’s Troublemakers: How Women of Faith are Changing the World”, draws attention to the healing and repairing of the world done by women.
“This year is particularly important. We are seeing deep hunger for people to come together for the vision for our country and the world. Women are taking a lead in this call to live a life beyond ourselves.”
Quoting Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous words, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny,” Henderson believes that these honorees are weaving the future of America as champions of great social movements today.
“In this time when we feel the fabric of our nation fraying, these women are bringing us back together with a powerful message that abundance is to be shared and differences are to be celebrated.”
The Lives of Commitment Awards strives to reinforce for all attendees that we live side by side; that we are all “in this together.” For Henderson, the event is one of the highlights of the year because it brings together such a wide-ranging community.
“Lives of Commitment is an opportunity to taste the inherent power within each and every one of us, and leave empowered to work toward an inclusive and inspiring future.”
The other 2017 Lives of Commitment Award winners are also leading justice movements in morally courageous ways with different areas of expertise.
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum has been a pioneer and a change-maker confronting many prejudices for nearly a quarter of a century in the faith community and beyond. Her congregation, Beit Simchat Torah in New York City has been a powerful space for the LGBT community throughout these years. She worked relentlessly at critical times — from the AIDS crisis in the ‘90s to the fight for refugees and solidarity with Muslims today.
As the president of Grace Farms Foundation in New Canaan, Connecticut, Sharon Prince brings purpose, culture, and community together. Grace Farms offers an open space to engage with nature, the arts, justice, community, and faith.
Yale Divinity School Assistant Professor Rev. Dr. Eboni Marshall Turman is the millennial voice in the Lives of Commitment 2017 cohort, offering moral perspective on issues facing the Black community. She is also the author of two books including “Toward a Womanist Ethic of Incarnation: Black Bodies, the Black Church and the Council of Chalcedon.”
For more than 20 years, Auburn has awarded courageous women (and one man), working to stop gun violence, sex trafficking, refugee crisis, and xenophobia, as well as fighting for justice, LGBTQ issues, civil rights, and women’s reproductive rights, and more.
All of these awardees show truly selfless commitment and don’t necessarily try to be in the spotlight. “Our audience doesn’t usually know [the honorees]; they learn about their causes that morning,” says Britta Faust-Burak, senior director at Auburn Seminary in charge of the benefit breakfast and other philanthropic events.
The Lives of Commitment event will also be the launchpad of Auburn’s new “Moral Courage” initiative, “which will help ignite an authentic sense of agency around each individual’s capacity to change the world using whatever resources and gifts they have,” concludes Rev. Henderson.
Picasso once said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Lives of Commitment honorees are living proofs of this.