Speeches and Commentary

Recent Speeches and Commentary: 

2010 "Global Food Assistance and the Fight Against Childhood Malnutrition" Panel at The Brookings Institute

  • On October 12, 2010, the Wolfensohn Center for Development at Brookings and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hosted a discussion of the challenges in global food assistance and how recent developments and initiatives can be expanded to effectively tackle the ongoing crisis of global child malnutrition. HKI's Senior Vice President for programs, Victoria Quinn, was among the panelists.  The full discussion can be found here.

2010 ARVO/Champalimaud Award Lecture

  • On May 5, 2010 Kathy Spahn, president and CEO of Helen Keller International, was invited to present the Champalimaud lecture at the annual meeting of The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. She spoke about HKI’s vitamin A programs as well as our pilot programs to address diabetic retinopathy, the vision loss caused by diabetes, which is increasingly becoming a problem in the developing world.  Click here for PDF of full text.

2009 Champalimaud Award Acceptance Speech

  • Kathy Spahn, President and CEO of HKI, delivered a speech on September 4, 2009 accepting the prestigious 2009 António Champalimaud Vision Award for HKI’s outstanding achievements in preventing blindness in the developing world. In particular the award recognized HKI’s decades-long leadership in the global control of vitamin A deficiency – the leading cause of childhood blindness and a significant contributor to childhood mortality. The €1 million award is the largest monetary prize in the field of vision and among the largest scientific and humanitarian prizes in the world. Spahn spoke about HKI’s work around the world to combat blindness and reduce malnutrition and the importance of Vitamin A supplementation. In accepting the award, Spahn said that it “ will help us to deepen our services and broaden our reach … We will also use these funds to enhance our ability to innovate and find cost-effective and sustainable solutions.” Click here for PDF of full text.

2008 AGFUND Prize Ceremony Acceptance Speech

  • Shawn K. Baker, Regional Director for Africa, delivered a speech on October 13, 2009 accepting the AGFUND (Arab Gulf Program for United Nations Development Organizations) Award on behalf of Helen Keller International. The prize is awarded annually to international organizations that support the national policies and programs of developing countries in their efforts to control the main diseases of visual impairment. HKI received the award for its “Sustainable Control of Onchocerciasis” program, implemented in 10 African countries. In his remarks, Baker spoke about the break-through discovery of Mectizan® in treating river blindness, or onchocerciasis, and recognized Merck & Co. for donating the drug. He also emphasized the need for continued efforts to combat “other diseases that haunt the poor and that have been largely ignored… These “Neglected Tropical Diseases” – as they are now called - are increasingly being tackled together – and community directed distribution is the roadmap for their elimination.” Click here for PDF of full text.

2009 Spirit of Helen Keller Gala

  • Kathy Spahn, President and CEO of HKI, spoke about the extreme poverty she saw on a visit to Sierra Leone and the need for good nutrition and blindness prevention programs in West Africa. She specifically cited vitamin A deficiency as the leading cause of blindness in children today and that “because of HKI’s work over the past few years, what I have seen will not be the case in the future….And it gets even better, because vitamin A not only saves sight, it also saves lives.” Spahn also spoke about the devastating and blinding affliction, onchocerciasis, and HKI’s work to train Community Directed Distributors (CDDs) to distribute ivermectin. In her words, “oncho is now getting under control and on its way to being conquered.” Click here for PDF of full text.
  • David Green was the recipient of 2009 Spirit of Helen Keller Award. He is a MacArthur Fellow, an Ashoka Fellow, and a leading social entrepreneur. Green spoke eloquently about how past Spirit of Helen Keller awardees inspired him to create affordable, sustainable and equitable eye-care in developing countries. His quest to make health care products and services available and affordable to the poor helped create eye hospitals, and he played a critical role in developing the first non-profit manufacturing facility of IOLs in a developing country, Aurolab (India). Click here for PDF of full text.
  • Christopher Burge accepted The Helen Keller Legacy Award on behalf of Christie’s Inc., in recognition of its generosity and support of HKI for over a decade. Burge, Honorary Chairman of Christie’s, and a former HKI board trustee, remarked on the seemingly anomalous connection between the eye and the arts, and spoke eloquently about how those who are privileged to “collect works of art, and who enjoy these visual feasts, [should] give every year to HKI to help those millions around the world for whom a visual feast would be simply anything.” Click here for PDF of full text.