The Philadelphia branch of Peace Islands Institute (PII) held its Legacy Awards Ceremony on November 10, 2015 at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel. This is an annual flagship event, formerly called the Annual Friendship Dinner and Awards Ceremony, organized by PII to recognize individuals or groups whose accomplishments exemplifies the commitments PII advocates. The Legacy Award is given to those who by their actions have left a mark, which has had (and/or continues to have) a long lasting positive impact on the region and on society.

This year, PII was honored to present the Legacy Award to keynote speaker Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania Mike Stack. The Master of Ceremony was Mike Wallace, Swarthmore University Professor of Religion.

Mr. Wallace opened the ceremony by welcoming distinguished guests and introducing Peace Islands Institute. He gave attention to the importance PII places on education, diversity, and interfaith dialogue, to promote the message of peace, and how it has impacted locally, nationally, and internationally. He gave examples from his recent trip to Turkey, accompanied by his wife, where they saw democracy, human rights, and the belief in universal values being demonstrated in the institutions they visited there. Before dinner, guests watched a promotional video about Peace Islands Institute.

After dinner, the MC called Former Representative Babette Josephs to formally introduce Lt. Gov. Stack to deliver his keynote speech. Lt. Gov. Stack was humbled by receiving this prestigious award and thanked PII. The Lt. Governor talked about his trip to Turkey along with his wife and other members, including Former Representative Babette Josephs. He emphasized the many things he learned from the trip and how he tries to apply what he has learned to his daily life. He went on to say that PII has shown that we are common in many ways and that PII brings us together through our common values. He added that these common values should be nurtured and brought forth to future generations, which he believes is an investment toward peace and humanity, and said is what Peace Islands Institute is all about. He did not end before talking about the importance of a good education and the much work that continues to be done in the current administration. He said Pennsylvania should be number one in investing in good quality education, which all levels of society deserve. Senator John Sabatina, who took over Lt. Gov. Stack’s old position, presented him with the Legacy Award.

Richard Negrin, Managing Director and Deputy Mayor for Administration and Coordination, presented the Global Vision Award to John F. Smith, III, Board Chair of the Global Philadelphia Association. Mr. Smith had just returned from Peru, where he represented Philadelphia in being the first city in the U.S. to be a World Heritage City. In his acceptance speech, Mr. Smith was impressed with the name of PII being Peace Islands and how meaningful it was in seeing islands of peace in this world.

Hernan Guaracao, founder of AL DIA News, received the Success in Media Award, presented by Ms. Jennifer Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Mayor’s office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs. Ms. Rodriguez was personally moved by the story of how Mr. Guaracao grew this media organization with Hispanic roots from writing newsletters in his living room to what it is today, serving the city of Philadelphia and publishing in both Spanish and English.

Philadelphia Mayor’s Chief of Staff Mr. Everett Gillison returned to attend the event this year as well by presenting the Distinguished Service Award to Catie Wolfgang, Chief Service Office, SERVE Philadelphia. Mr. Gillison praised Ms. Wolfgang’s efforts to show what it truly means to serve, and her launch of PowercorpsPHL, a successful program which gives various job opportunities to ex-offenders.

The MC, Mr. Wallace, ended the event by thanking Peace Islands Institute for organizing this event and reminded all to consider a sponsored trip to Turkey.