On Sept. 21, 2020, the United Nations International Day of Peace, the Muhammad Ali Center based in Louisville, Kentucky, announced the appointment of former Obama official Farah Pandith, an Indian-American, as its first-ever Muhammad Ali Global Peace Laureate. She will hold a three-year appointment.
Pandith was born in Kashmir and raised in Massachusetts, according to the biography on her website farahpandith.com.
A press release from the Center said the distinction accorded to Pandith would “amplify Ali’s message of peace, respect, and mutual understanding and that will magnify, on a larger stage, the mission of the Muhammad Ali Center.
Pandith’s role as the Muhammad Ali Peace Laureate will include engaging with civil society, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), corporations, philanthropists, and government in ways that build on Ali’s commitment to social justice and civility, the press release said. The objectives will occur in stages: first by storytelling, then building and connecting with local and global networks for change; and finally by seeding new projects to create actionable initiatives, including potential funding and partnership opportunities.
Pandith served in three American administrations starting as far back as that of President George H.W. Bush, the George W. Bush, and the Barack Obama years.
She served on the National Security Council, at the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the State Department. During the Obama administration, she was the first-ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities.
Pandith is a senior fellow at the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; and is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
She is also the author of How We Win: How Cutting-Edge Entrepreneurs, Political Visionaries, Enlightened Business Leaders, and Social Media Mavens Can Defeat the Extremism Threat.
“Charged with “sustainable civility” and increasing opportunities for communities to work together to be the best of humanity, the inaugural Muhammad Ali Global Peace Laureate is awarded to a woman who has spent her life working to engage with others, to seek common ground, and listen to voices that are not always heard,” said the Muhammad Ali Center in its press release.
“I am humbled and honored to be named the Muhammad Ali Global Peace Laureate,” said Farah Pandith. “I continue to be deeply moved by Muhammad’s example of service as a peacemaker, humanitarian and champion of dignity for all,” Pandith is quoted saying in the press release, adding, “Especially during this time of great change and promise, his life and example remind us of what is possible. Through this new role, I hope to ignite new possibilities for our shared future, in ways that Muhammad Ali always believed were possible.”
Donald Lassere, President and CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center, said, “It is rare to find a person of this stature and prominence who is so perfectly in sync with Muhammad’s principles and who also has the commitment to tackle the critical issues that are so central to all of us today. Farah Pandith is a trailblazer and pioneer in fighting the ideology of hate and extremism and a forceful advocate for diversity and equity. We are fortunate to have her as our first-ever Muhammad Ali Global Peace Laureate.”
To begin her efforts as the Muhammad Ali Global Peace Laureate, Pandith will spearhead two immediate initiatives in early 2021:
She will launch The Ali Center Commission on Civility and Compassion, a bipartisan entity “that aims to chart a bold vision for the future of U.S. leadership in civility and compassion at home (and abroad)” by creating a road for local, state, and federal levels and by identifying global relationships that mirror both the Muhammad Ali Center’s mission and his message of peace. The Commission will offer the opportunity to build a sensible, youth-oriented approach. Pandith will serve as a commissioner and advisor.
Pandith will also be overseeing the launch of the Muhammad Ali’s Spiritual Journey Podcast co-produced by America Abroad Media and the Ali Center, and with the partnership of National Public Radio (NPR). The podcast will also be distributed internationally and will be released during Black History Month in February 2021.