SPEECH: George McDonald at the 2016 Doe Fund Gala

On June 6, our president and founder George McDonald gave the closing remarks at the 2016 Doe Fund Gala at Cipriani. 

Thank you, everyone, for being part of such a special night. I’d especially like to thank our guest of honor, Arthur Brooks. And a very special thank you to our former Chairman, Richard Schaps. For over a decade, Richard’s guidance and leadership helped us and the men we serve in countless ways. We are so grateful for you, sir.

 

Thank you to our newly-elected Board Chair, Craig Lucas, and the entire board of directors for their tireless work. Our corporate partners and supporters who have joined us tonight along with our partners in government, thank you. The phenomenal, dedicated staff of The Doe Fund. And of course, my family. I don’t want to distract from the important work we heard about this evening. The incredible stories of Michael and Angel. The wisdom of our dear friend, Arthur.

 

But it’s impossible to ignore how close we are to a pivotal moment in our country’s history.

 

Now, the outcome doesn’t worry me.  The patriotic choice is obvious. And if there’s one thing I’m certain of about our nation, it’s that those who love our country, who care about it and the values that sustain it, outnumber those who don’t.

 

I do think we’ve learned something important though. That our values…those timeless, fundamental values that make us who we are—equality, freedom, hard work—they aren’t just attributes or ideas.  To truly exist, they must be demonstrated. We learned, through a painful political cycle that has exposed some of the darkest sides of our nature, that these values can’t be simply enshrined and left in the custody of our leaders and would-be leaders.

 

They can’t always be found, there, at “the top.”  But you do find these values if you look in a different direction. Not up there. But here, all around us, and among the men we serve. They are here in a man’s decision not just to return from prison, but to leave it behind…for good. Here in a hard day’s work, pushing a bucket. And a long night studying and going to class to learn and to advance.

 

And of course there is no better demonstration of our values, of the incredible potential of every American to restore his life, than what happens here…

 

When a man like Michael becomes a father to his children, lifts up their beautiful young lives, and breaks the terrible cycle—that most UN-American experience of total deprivation—with his own two hands.

 

I tell you, my friends, the best of our country is here. They are in our program. They are Ready, Willing & Able.

 

And the people who have made that possible, the stewards of these most essential American values, are in this room tonight. That is why our focus on incarceration and reentry is so important today. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will be released from prison next year. Two thousand of them will return to New York City, homeless. After lifetimes of poverty, drugs, and crime, those values are the only things they’ll have to stand on when they leave prison.

 

Will they be enough? Will they be strong enough to change the course of a man’s life— and the lives of his children, and grandchildren? Are they powerful enough to ensure that a free man stays free? To bring him home to his family? Are they profound enough to change an entire city? To make it safer and fairer for every single one of us? Well, over twenty-five years, we have proved—conclusively and absolutely, twenty-two thousand times and counting—YES THEY ARE.

 

And so, with an election just a few days away, I’d like us all to remember something. If we’re saddened, or ashamed, or simply cannot see the best of ourselves when we look upward, to power…then maybe we’re looking in the wrong direction. Because, I assure you, it is abundant in the halls of our facilities and in the daily lives of our graduates.

 

Your support has made the true power of our values visible. It’s lit a path home for thousands of men. And for their families, it will shine for generations. Thank you for your support and your friendship. And thank you for all you’ve done tonight for the “men in blue.”

 

Good night.

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