Rotary praises U.S. leaders for effort to end polio
Top: Senator Mark Begich (left) receives the Polio Eradication Champion Award from RI President-elect Ray Klinginsmith. Middle: Representative Phil Roe (left) shares a laugh with Klinginsmith at the award ceremony 5 May in Washington, D.C. Bottom: Senator Ron Wyden (right) receives the award from Past RI President James L. Lacy. Photos by Larry Glenn/Photo-op Inc.
In recognition of their ongoing support of a polio-free world, four members of the U.S. Congress and one government official received Rotary's Polio Eradication Champion Award on 5 May in Washington, D.C.
The award, presented by RI President-elect Ray Klinginsmith and Past RI President James L. Lacy, chair of the Polio Eradication Advocacy Task Force for the United States, was established in 1995 to recognize governments and world leaders who have made outstanding contributions toward the goal of eradicating polio.
The 2010 recipients include Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs; Senators Mark Begich, of Alaska, and Ron Wyden, of Oregon; and Representatives Phil Roe, of Tennessee, and Henry Waxman, of California.
Lacy acknowledged the continued work of the U.S. government in securing critically needed funds for polio eradication.
"The leadership of these individuals has been crucial to ensuring that every child is protected," he said. "Together we can make sure no child anywhere will ever again suffer the crippling effects of polio."
Since the mid-1980s, the government has contributed $1.7 billion to the cause. President Barack Obama also announced a global push for polio eradication in conjunction with the Organization of the Islamic Conference during a 2009 speech in Cairo. The location was chosen for its symbolism: Ancient Egyptian artwork features the earliest known depictions of people disabled by the disease.
In addition to the 2010 honorees, Lacy acknowledged the ongoing leadership of the more than 40 other members of Congress whom Rotary has previously recognized.
"The progress made toward polio eradication is seen through the collective achievement of the current and past congressional recipients of the Polio Eradication Champion Award," he said. "When Congress began its support of this effort, nearly 60 countries had polio. Today there are only four countries. We must maintain this level of dedication to end polio forever."
Klinginsmith honored volunteers of the Stop Transmission of Polio program who have been killed during eradication efforts in hostile regions, calling them "heroes."
Other global leaders who have received the Polio Eradication Champion Award include President Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d'Ivoire, former President Mamadou Tandja of Niger, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Learn more about Rotary's effort to eradicate polio: