We at the Enough Project are proud that GQ has named our Co-founder John Prendergast as one of five distinguished finalists for the 2010 Better Men Better World Search. Each year, GQ accepts hundreds of nominations in its quest to honor men dedicated to the betterment of society through charitable work and public service. You may read their inspiring profiles and cast your vote now through September 30 by visiting www.TheGentlemensFund.com. The winner will be chosen by popular vote and officially announced at The Gentlemen’s Ball in New York City.
GQ’s official press release describes Prendergast: “Author, former Director of African Affairs for the National Security Council (NSC), and a human rights activist for more than 25 years, Prendergast has worked tirelessly to secure peace in Africa. His initiative, called The Enough Project, reflects his attitude towards the ongoing violence and strives to bring an end to genocide and crimes against humanity not only in Africa but throughout the world.”
Though it’s impossible to sum up the accomplishments of a 25-year career in a brief blog post, here’s a bit more context.
Human rights champion John Prendergast – affectionately known to students, activists, and colleagues as “JP” – inspires people to stand up, speak out, and organize to end mass atrocities. He co-founded the Enough Project in 2007 to build a permanent constituency to stand against genocide and crimes against humanity.
If Shakespeare’s correct that “All the world’s a stage,” then JP makes full use of it and transcends the many roles he plays. Prendergast is as heroic wearing a t-shirt while surrounded by Darfuri refugees as he is wearing a tux while conversing about Africa’s worst human rights crimes with President Obama at the 2010 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
He deftly navigates eastern Congo, showing veteran correspondent Scott Pelley of CBS’s “60 Minutes” how the global trade in conflict minerals used to make our cell phones and laptops also fuels the world’s deadliest conflict since WWII.
He grins and barely winces when British celebrity journalist and sometime “South Park” writer Jane Bussmann gushes in her ribald book, The Worst Date Ever: “I had to meet John Prendergast. He wasn’t just hot; he was wise. I wondered how wrong it would be to sit on his knee during an interview.” He even uses a joke on him to further the cause.
That’s because JP’s just the kind of “iron-jawed peacemaker” (Bussman’s words again), “his eyes red from saving the world” (really now) who could inspire her to hop on a plane to Uganda to interview him about the “mind-shredding evil” that lurked there in the form of internationally wanted war criminal Joseph Kony and his brutal Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA.
Kony can be dealt with, though. This year, the Enough Project played a key role in successfully advocating the passage of landmark legislation to “apprehend or otherwise remove from the battlefield” Kony and his commanders. The bill recommits the United States to helping bring about a conclusive end to the more than 20-year reign of terror by the LRA and to supporting northern Ugandans as they rebuild their communities. And in June, when the president signed the bill into law the White House invited Prendergast to be there.
Prendergast then immediately rolled up his sleeves and put his team to work outlining a strategy on how to implement the new law and finish the fight with the LRA.
The following month, the Enough Project celebrated the president’s signing of a second signal piece of legislation – the tough conflict minerals provision attached with bipartisan support to the historic Wall Street reform bill. The new law, a high point in a two-year legislative campaign by the Enough Project, will help curb the trade in conflict minerals that are fueling the ongoing conflict in eastern Congo, the deadliest in the world. And this new law is a first step on a longer road to achieving peace in eastern Congo, and a vital piece of a broader Congo policy.
So it’s fair to say that JP and the team are on a roll.
This may be that the only thing that breaks JP’s stride: Since the producers of Slumdog Millionaire have optioned Bussmann’s book, who would they cast to play him? Fellow eastern Congo activist Ben Affleck? How much fun could Ben have at his expense? A flicker passes Prendergast’s features: it could be a frisson or a smile.
Read all the Better Men Better World finalists’ profiles and cast your vote by September 30 at www.TheGentlemensFund.com. We applaud and congratulate them all.