IFES Celebrates Democracy with 2018 Charles T. Manatt Democracy Awards

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Publication Date: 
25 Sep 2018

News Type:

On September 24, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) held its Ninth Annual Charles T. Manatt Democracy Awards in Washington, D.C. This year’s awardees included former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, United States Agency for International Development Administrator Ambassador Mark Green (R), Senator Christopher Coons (D-Del.), and IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney. Caraway Group President and CEO Yolanda Caraway emceed the ceremony, which was co-chaired by IFES Board Chairman Ambassador Ken Blackwell and Smith-Free Group Senior Vice President Alicia Smith.

Opening the ceremony, Caraway honored the leadership and legacies of the ceremony’s namesake, Charles T. Manatt, and IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney. She also reflected on the impact of IFES’ work, noting that “it is through the ballot that sustainable democracy and governance are established, and it is through the work of IFES that stable societies are formed.”

Sweeney followed Caraway on stage and acknowledged IFES’ Board Directors, the ceremony co-chairs, members of the diplomatic community, current and former members of Congress, representatives from IFES’ partners in the Consortium for Elections and Political Processes Strengthening – the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute – and the Manatt family.

Smith then told the audience about the IFES Innovation Fund, which provides support for original projects that address important and challenging issues in democracy and governance. Noting that proceeds from the Democracy Awards benefit the Innovation Fund, Smith thanked sponsors for their generous support. She announced that, using funds from the 2017 Democracy Awards, the IFES team has developed a tool that outlines strategies for election management bodies to strengthen their technology and procedures to resist vulnerabilities, aspects of which will be field tested in Ukraine in 2019.

Ambassador Blackwell acknowledged the special nature of the evening’s dinner, as Sweeney will soon step down after nine years of service on the IFES Board and another nine years as president and CEO. After screening video messages from Sweeney’s colleagues, friends and family, IFES Board Director Bill Hybl presented Sweeney with a special Legacy Award, noting that “he guided the IFES team through many transitions with integrity and honesty” and has “gained the trust and admiration of election officials around the globe.” 

Ambassador Blackwell then introduced Republican honoree and longtime friend of IFES, Ambassador Green. He noted that Ambassador Green “understands the challenges faced by election management bodies worldwide and has been an important advocate for continued assistance for democracy and human rights.” After reflecting on current threats to democracy, Ambassador Green said, “We should celebrate tonight because there are people like the great team at IFES who work tirelessly to ensure that citizens have a chance to shape their own future. We should celebrate tonight not because democracy is flourishing in every corner of the world, but because it remains the highest and best hope for people everywhere.”

IFES Co-Chairman Don Sweitzer introduced Democratic honoree Senator Coons and highlighted the impact of his leadership and public service on the United States, its allies and democratic institutions around the world. “As co-founder of the Senate Human Rights Caucus, he recognizes the role of U.S. leadership and assistance in promoting peace, democracy and human rights,” said Sweitzer.

Following the conclusion of Coons’ remarks, Johnson Sirleaf walked to the stage to join him in an embrace. Sweeney then introduced Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state and the world’s first elected black female president, and introduced a video produced by IFES’ media partner, Voice of America, about her accomplishments. Johnson Sirleaf said, “Democracy is never given on a silver platter. It must be earned, defended, and nurtured every day, everywhere – in Africa, in Europe, in the United States. There is no alternative to having the freedom we want unless we are prepared to work and sacrifice for it.” In closing, she thanked the IFES team and everyone engaged in the promotion of democracy.

IFES’ annual celebration of democracy, the Charles T. Manatt Democracy Awards, recognizes the exceptional work of individuals who demonstrate an unwavering commitment to freedom and democracy. IFES presents the awards annually to three individuals – one Republican, one Democrat and one member of the international community – who embody the character and spirit of former U.S. Ambassador and IFES Board of Directors Chairman Charles T. Manatt and work tirelessly to help ensure that citizens around the world have a voice in the way they are governed.

To view a photo gallery from the ceremony, please click here or the photo below.

IFES 2018 Charles T. Manatt Democracy Awards

To view a recording of the ceremony, watch the video below.

(0:05) Welcome remarks by Master of Ceremonies Yolanda Caraway
(9:10) Welcome remarks by IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney
(15:27) Democracy Awards Co-Chair Alicia Smith introduces Innovation Fund and thanks sponsors
(17:36) IFES Board Chairman Ken Blackwell reflects on Sweeney's tenure and introduces Board Director Bill Hybl
(21:43) Hybl introduces Sweeney
(24:41) Tribute video to Sweeney
(31:48) Acceptance remarks by Sweeney
(42:02) Blackwell introduces USAID Administrator Ambassador Mark Green
(45:12) Acceptance remarks by Ambassador Green
(56:27) IFES Co-Chairman Don Sweitzer introduces Senator Chris Coons
(1:01:01) Acceptance remarks by Senator Coons
(1:21:40) Sweeney introduces H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
(1:23:46) Voice of America-produced tribute video to Johnson Sirleaf
(1:27:37) Acceptance remarks by Johnson Sirleaf
(1:43:51) Closing remarks by Caraway

To learn more about Johnson Sirleaf's accomplishments, watch the video below.

To hear messages from Sweeney's colleagues, friends and family, watch the video produced by IFES’ media partner, Voice of America, below.