Mackenzie Baris' presentation to Max Toth and Jessica Champagne
It is a huge honor to be here introducing Champagne and Max Toth, two people who have touched every corner of activism in my life since I was 18, and who embody better than anyone else I know what it means to live your values.
Jess and I met our first day at college when we were assigned to be freshman year roommates, a decision I like to think the Yale administration regretted given all the trouble we caused them fighting to get sweatshop apparel off campus. Max and I seven years ago knocking doors together for the DC Living Wage campaign. In the years I’ve known them both, we’ve recruited each other to meetings and actions, hit each other up for money for causes we support, given each other both personal and professional advice, and introduced each other to new friends. It seems very appropriate to me that Jess is receiving this award on her birthday, since every event for them- from their own wedding to a casual potluck dinner – is infused with their commitment to justice.
It’s hard for me to fit all the admiration I have for them into just two minutes, but I think what I find most impressive about Max and Jess is that they have both the ability to lead and willingness to do whatever work is needed. And they are most definitely leaders. In the Jewish community, in the Transgender and LGBTQ community, and through the Diverse City Fund, where Jess has been investing both her organizing skills and personal network in strengthening community infrastructure.
And of course leaders in the labor movement. In their respective jobs- Jess at Workers’ Rights Consortium and Max at Working America, they are smart and strategic and respected, doing work that is vital to the national and global movements for worker justice.
But they are also ready to throw down in solidarity whenever asked, logging miles on picket lines and marches, and hours making phone calls and stuffing envelopes. Any given weekend may find them hosting a house party for paid sick days or biking 180 miles to raise money for the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, and still somehow doing all the reading for their study group.
If all that isn’t a tiring enough agenda, they are also community-builders and mentors who have supported and connected waves of student leaders, young activists and transplants to DC.
My life is so much richer for having them as friends, and I sleep easier at night knowing that they are contributing their time and talent to the city I love. Congratulations on receiving the 2012 Heschel Vision Award.