The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng, Stanley Ann Dunham’s daughter and President Barack Obama’s sister.
There was also a surprise speaker. That morning the office of Governor Jay Inslee contacted us, and asked whether he could join the speakers. The answer was easy: YES! Before the ceremony Governor Inslee and Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng sat down with many of the applicants, giving them advice as to their college years and beyond.
Governor Inslee opened the ceremony by proudly congratulating Mercer Island for its high school’s distinguished alumna, Stanley Ann Dunham. “Because of her life” he said, “700,000 people in our state have health care today.” He was referring to the number of people who have been able to acquire health care under President Obama’s new health care laws.
Our guest speaker, Dr. Maya Soeteoro-Ng, shares her brother’s dedication to public service and their mother’s passion for global citizenship and social justice. A professor of peace education and conflict resolution at the University of Hawaii, Dr. Soetoro-Ng speaks worldwide about her peace initiatives.
Dr. Soetoro-Ng feels a strong connection with Mercer Island. She spoke about how her mother’s years growing up on Mercer Island influenced her: “It gave her enough of a sense of community, spirituality and grounded-ness that she was brave enough to go off to Indonesia,” she said.
Dr. Soetoro-Ng candidly shared her own experiences as a mother of two young girls. She especially moved the audience when she spoke about her adopted daughter. Her speech was followed by a Q and A, where we learned more about her teaching and childhood in Indonesia. Although Dr. Soetoro-Ng’s speech was geared towards the teen applicants to the Scholarship, she inspired everyone in the room.
Finally the big moment arrived: it was time to announce the winners of the Scholarship. Board members Susie Rosenstein and Maxine Box recognized the accomplishments of each of the five finalists, who have volunteered to improve living conditions and opportunities in the areas of education, gender equality, homelessness and public health. The five finalists were the finalists were Eliana Grosoff, Megan Lee, Piper Casey, and this year’s scholars, Holly Waggoner and Rose Guttman.
For the second consecutive year, the Fund presented an award to the winner of an essay contest held by the University of Washington Anthropology Department. The winner, senior Sumaya Mohamed, plans to pursue work with vulnerable populations in global public health.
It was a spectacular, inspiring afternoon.