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Michael Johnston Named Visionary by Charter Oak

Charter Oak Honorees photo by Alex Syphers











Charter Oak Cultural Center honored Michael Johnston, President and CEO at the Foundation, with Tony Award Nominee Anika Noni Rose (center) and Senator Beth Bye (left), at the 2014 Annual Vision Awards on May 12. It was a wonderful evening of magical music and dance performances, and uplifting and inspiring words shared by and about each honoree.

In accepting his honor, Michael highlighted two guiding forces in his work and our work as a Foundation. Here is an excerpt from his speech:

“When he accepted the Nobel Peace prize Elie Wiesel said the following:

There is so much to be done, there is so much that can be done. One person …of integrity can make a difference, a difference of life and death. As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours....

I believe his comments contain a two-fold call to action. The first is a call for social justice that begins with each of us individually. It is an idea embedded deeply in the heritage of the Jewish people. Our texts tell us that while we may not be individually responsible for completing the work of repairing our world, we are not at liberty to desist from that work.

The second call to action begins with one simple word – we. It’s a call for community - specifically the kind of community that acknowledges that no-one can get there unless we all get there. Communities can help us, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, “rise above the narrow confines of our individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” Communities build root systems that intertwine in ways that allow us to stand together against even the fiercest winds. At their very best, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says, communities give rise to 'networks of support often breathtaking in their strength and moral beauty…' In an age of extraordinary challenges, we stand together or we fall – that is what community means to me."

And it wouldn’t be a gala without lots of fun and friends! Enjoy the pictures from Alex Syphers shooting for the Hartford Courant.

Housed in Connecticut’s first synagogue, Charter Oak Cultural Center provides completely free out-of-school time youth arts offerings, social justice offerings and also presents multi-cultural performances and exhibits that we make accessible to our community for free or at a very low cost. We are very proud to partner with them in many ways, including the Aim Chai Endowment Campaign.


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