Watch: Steinem reflects on the urgency of realizing human rights for all.


In November, President Obama awarded the iconic feminist activist and writer Gloria Steinem with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States. Last night, friends, colleagues and compatriots gathered at foundation headquarters to celebrate Steinem’s profound achievements and lasting influence.

“This medal belongs to all of you. It is a medal for the movement,” Steinem told the crowd after an introduction by Ford Foundation President Darren Walker. “We are linked, not ranked....We’re on the cusp of something big, something that says we’re a circle, and not hierarchical.”

Steinem has been a leading figure in the women’s rights movement since the early 1970s, one of the most visible figures advocating for women’s ability to take control of and make decisions about their own lives. Her visionary leadership contributed to many of feminism’s triumphs, and helped build institutions that continue to advance freedom and justice for women.

“Very few people have had the staying power—and the adaptability—of Gloria Steinem,” said LaShawn Jefferson, Ford’s program officer for Protecting Women’s Rights. “She’s been able to show how women’s rights are applicable and relevant in all areas of life.”

For us at the Ford Foundation, Gloria Steinem is a continuing inspiration—and a valued partner in the ongoing work of social change.

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The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.