Julia Mandeville–Chief Programs Officer of Harwood Art Center–was awarded Outstanding Young Nonprofit Professional for New Mexico, 2017 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals New Mexico Chapter and Young Nonprofit Professional Network of New Mexico. On National Philanthropy Day 2017, Julia accepted the award and gave a beautiful, inspiring speech for the occasion. Listen to the speech and read the transcript below.
This is overwhelming, and I am deeply grateful – to the volunteer boards of YNPN and AFP who so diligently steward this annual program, to the peers who so generously nominated and selected me for this honor, to the mentors, colleagues and collaborators – all of whom I count as family – who so lovingly inform, inspire and grow my being as much as our shared efforts (especially the 19 of you over there), to the community members who so centrally spark, shape and sustain our work, and to everyone in this room for the vision, change and impact you generate in every moment of every day for the benefit of your fellow humans.
Collectively, you are a wellspring of hope. And, after contemplating a million different possible trajectories, this will be my guiding principle for the next three minutes. Though it does mean starting with antithesis.
We exist in a hierarchy that touts independence, individuality and mobility, but conditions us to be silent, to be small, and to be satisfied with what we have – even and especially when that is defined by what we have not. At every turn, we bear the realities of patriarchy, prejudice, bigotry, poverty and violence, of political, social, economic, educational and judicial systems that are structured to oppress, disenfranchise and disempower us – and disproportionately so, those who are most in need of being lifted up. Our nation is divisive by design of those in power; when we are fragmented into ‘others,’ we have neither the connectedness nor the capacity to advocate for our whole. And we are ultimately further marginalized, crying out for equity, equality and justice in static and passing echo chambers to those who share our wounds, while those in positions of authority turn blind eyes, passively sanction or actively advocate for the continued terrorization that calls for the presence of the It Gets Betters and the Black Lives Matters and the Me Toos.
Still and yet, the fortunate among us are blessed by people bell hooks describes in All About Love (a must read) as “enlightened witnesses,” those who see us for who we are, what we might become, where we are most vulnerable, and through their care and camaraderie, teach us what it means to love, to experience and to nurture mutual spiritual growth.
This gorgeousness, this healing, this discovery of potential – this is what happens in community. This is what’s happened to me in New Mexico, and how I found my true and inherent purpose, and why I am now standing here. I suspect that the same is resonant with all of you, which is why you are working in, with and for nonprofit, philanthropic and organizing spheres. Because underscoring all of your efforts and above anything else, you embody the recognition that we must cultivate and bloom humanity. And that we do this by not only meeting people’s basic needs, but by honoring, celebrating and illuminating souls. And that when we are successful, we activate citizens who can both envision and enact changing the world into one that is reflective, representative and protective of all of their fellow beings. To making a world, together, that is exactly what we want it to be.
For anybody thinking, hmmmmmm, Julia, you are naively idealistic and overly ambitious… I assure you, I am not. And to clarify why, I’d like us all to consider probability for a moment. It’s always struck me as miraculous that, given everything existence requires, any of us is able to get out of bed every day, let alone to go into the world and make beauty, whatever that beauty is for each of us. This awe was elevated when I saw the work of Dr. Ali Binazir, who calculated the likelihood of us each existing, to the parents of whom we were born, in the era we came to life; the odds are essentially zero – and exactly 1 in 10^2.685 million zeroes. Now please consider all of the decisions you’ve made over the course of your however many years on the earth – and how they led you to be precisely where you are. Think about how many relationships you have, how many organizations and projects you represent, how many cooperative efforts you’re involved with at any given time. Look around and hold the truth that every one of us has that same magnifying and multiplying ecosystem of our own. We being at all, but especially in and among communion with so many others – these are absolute miracles.
But none of this is by accident. We are all here, now, together, for a reason. This is already a movement. In this very room, we illustrate the makings of a peaceful, evolved revolution. And we have an extraordinary opportunity in New Mexico. We are an allegory for everywhere. We face the most poignant and excruciating problems, but we also possess – you are my evidence – the most creative, collaborative, genuine, generous and loving people, vigilantly striving towards meaningful solutions, lasting outcomes and a more perfect shared future. And if we can figure it out here, which I believe with every fiber in my being we are on the path towards, we will absolutely change the universe. Our whole entire universe.
My aunt, Alexandra Munroe, offered us the words of Yoko Ono, an artist and activist she collaborates with, to close: “A dream you dream alone is just a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”
Thank you for giving me this clarity, thank you for giving me this tenacious hope, and thank you for giving me this very moving recognition. I will spend my life giving it back and forward.