Tributes to Anne Hastings
Last Thursday, I attended an event honoring and celebrating Anne Hastings’ 17 years of service in Haiti, as she recently transitioned into a volunteer and governance role. Of the hundreds present, 12 people invited to speak for three minutes each — some Haitians, some foreigners, some in Creole, some in English. Father Joseph, Julian Schroeder, Leigh Carter and Maryann Boord also spoke, sang and presented a nice slideshow and some gifts. I was one of those 12 speakers. Later, I wrote up my remarks based on my notes and my best recollection of what I said (and a few things I meant to say but in the moment, omitted). Anne did not encourage me to publish my remarks, even though she did ask me to write them up for her personal use and files. But when asked, she gave me her blessing to put them on this blog.
I have had the privilege of meeting and working with hundreds, and probably thousands, of people who have dedicated a major part of their lives to humanitarian causes and in particular, to the reduction and elimination of poverty. Many of them are in the room here tonight. Among all of these amazing people, two stand apart. They are a different breed, almost a different species.
One is Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus. The other is Anne Hastings. There have been many others on par with them throughout history, but these are the two I have gotten to know well, and observe up close. They are extraordinary individuals.
When writing about Anne a few years ago I came up with a term to describe people like her and Prof. Yunus. I call them “Humanitarian Giants.”
It may sound strange to call such a petit woman a “giant,” but I think the term is apt.
These are people who, by virtue of what they do, and how they do it, and above all what they accomplish, tower over the rest of us.
So, let me play amateur anthropologist and describe what characterizes this species.
They inspire awe, especially in those of us dedicated to humanitarian objectives.
But they don’t just inspire awe. They inspire each of us to do our personal best to advance the humanitarian agenda. Just by virtue of who they are, they “push” us to greater effort and better results for the poor.
Once they believe in something strongly, they are absolutely certain they can convince anyone to agree with them and get on board. If they don’t succeed in the first attempt to convince, they will try again, and again, and again. Usually they succeed.
Perhaps most of you have seen Anne in this convincing mode. Probably on occasion you have been the object of her attempt to convince you that this or that course was the best. As several people have said tonight, she is a force of nature!
Humanitarian Giants are not afraid to repeat the same story, over and over, and do it with equal passion each and every time. I get bored of telling that same story over and over. But they recognize that the basic story of an organization like Fonkoze works, and that it just needs retelling to as many people as possible, each time with a high level of passion. That’s what swells the ranks of those who are willing to share resources and effort to advance the cause.
These people are risk takers. In business and especially in philanthropy today, there is a lot of talk about the importance of risk-taking, and many people claim to be risk-takers, but in my experience precious few actually have the guts to take risks.
Humanitarian Giants are willing to take big risks. They realize, correctly in my view, that without taking the occasional big risk, great accomplishments and quantum leap advances are unlikely, and perhaps impossible.
When they take risks and they fail, they take full responsibility. When the risks turn out great, they share the credit generously with their team.
Humanitarian Giants know how meet people where they are. They treat everyone, no matter how rich or how poor, as their equal. Have you noticed that Anne never acts as if she is superior, or inferior, to anyone? Everyone she meets is a partner or a potential partner. To Humanitarian Giants, hierarchy among partners serves no constructive purpose.
These people live simply. They do not value or accumulate many material possessions. Their homes tend to be tastefully decorated but quite spartan.
Humanitarian Giants have the ability to, in one moment, demonstrate exceptional patience … and in the next moment, demonstrate exceptional impatience. I think you know what I mean!
They are tremendously courageous – physically, emotionally, spiritually.
They want their country, whether their native or adopted land, to shine and be seen as a star, rather than an object of sadness or pity. That is why I think Anne took the time to travel so much internationally and speak about Fonkoze, and serve in high level international working groups on Fonkoze’s behalf. She wanted people to know Haiti at its best, and what its true potential was, and is. It required a lot of time on planes, and a lot of wear and tear on her, but it was worth it.
Humanitarian Giants are relentless. They are persistent. They are, well, stubborn.
And finally, they have two qualities that are the most important of all. They demonstrate tremendous, almost unheard of, depths of empathy. When you hurt, Anne hurts almost as much, maybe more. When you experience joy, so does she. When you need something, Anne wants you to have it even more than you do.
Second, she is a fighter. She fights hard for what she thinks is right. She never gives up.
Probably most of you have seen her fight. You’ve been alongside her when she was doing battle for justice. Isn’t she something? Occasionally, some of us have been on the receiving end of her fighting spirit. It’s not easy!
But for Anne, she is never fighting against anything or anyone. She is fighting for an idea, and an ideal. Above all, for a result that advances the cause of justice.
Doesn’t Haiti need more deeply empathic fighters for justice? Doesn’t the world?
Going forward, we all may need to get in touch with our inner Anne Hastings, and explore the depths of our empathy for our fellow human beings, and our willingness to fight hard for humanitarian objectives.
A final reflection.
Money is important. Technology is important. Connections are important. But a wise friend told me that in cases of conflict, in the end, “The person who cares the most, wins.” I have come to believe it.
Nobody cares more than Anne. And when you look at what you have created here Anne, when you look around this room tonight, all I can say is, “You Won!”
Congratulations, Anne, and thank you.