We mourn the loss of our friend and hero Harris Wofford. And yet we rejoice in being a part of his large life of adventure, action and impact.
Harris was a champion for the dignity of every person, and especially devoted to seeing the possibility in every young person. He never wavered in his devotion to those ideals.
As he wrote in the Summit Declaration that founded America’s Promise Alliance, America was founded on the proposition that just as all people are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, citizenship entails undeniable responsibilities. As each of us has the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, each of us has an obligation to give something back to country and community. Harris Wofford made these words come to life as an organizer, collaborator, and moral force in many of the major justice movements in our era – civil rights, health care, education, and national service.
And he was also a tremendous support to other important leaders ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr. to John F. Kennedy to Sargent Shriver. Just as important, Harris was a friend and tireless supporter to hundreds of less well-known but no less important leaders in organizations and communities across the world. And he was an icon who opened worlds of possibility and contribution to the millions of Americans who have served in the national service programs – Peace Corps and AmeriCorps – that he helped to create.
We at America’s Promise are especially fortunate. Harris was one of the original instigators of the idea of the Presidents’ Summit on America’s Future, the event that gave rise to America’s Promise, and a key author of Summit Declaration which was signed by every living president on the steps of Independence Hall. He was an ardent and devoted enthusiast for America’s Promise as a founder, a board member, and longtime friend to the organization. We will miss him, and it is our privilege that our daily work honors his highest beliefs and aspirations.