Sullivan receives '99 ND award
By HELENA RAYAM
Last night in the College of Business Administration's Jordan Auditorium, Reverend Leon Sullivan, recipient of the esteemed Notre Dame Award, announced, "I'm preaching now — like a black Baptist preacher."
Immediately Sullivan received applause and several chuckles. The subject of Sullivan's "sermon" included the need for businesses to conduct fair corporate practices and recognize the injustice that keeps many Americans from obtaining training for jobs.
"I am sounding an alarm to America," said Sullivan, "to restore training and jobs and assistance ... or there will be a troubled land."
Sullivan's active role in advocating job training is one of the reasons for which he was given the 1999 Notre Dame Award. The award is given to leaders in the world who practice good deeds because of their faith in God. Sullivan is a civil rights leader and the founder of Opportunities Industrialization Centers (OIC), which has become an international employment training program.
"Leon Sullivan's struggle against racial prejudice and economic injustice has been lifelong, exemplary and inspiring," said University President Father Edward Malloy in a Notre Dame press release.
Sullivan began his civic leadership in Philadelphia during the 1950s where he organized several boycotts against businesses that denied jobs to African-Americans. He continued to speak against discrimination and focused on the treatment of "the common man" by various companies. Motivated by the desire to change unethical business practices in 1977's apartheid system in South Africa, Sullivan wrote the Sullivan Principles. These were an early attempt to provide guidelines for corporate conduct, but were not readily accepted internationally.
Despite the lack of popularity with the Sullivan Principles, Sullivan has held fast to his belief that changes are necessary in the corporate world. Most recently, Sullivan finished the "Global Sullivan Principles for Corporate Responsibilities," which were announced at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York.
"Oh, it's not rosy in America," said Sullivan. "There is much that needs to be done."
Sullivan encouraged the audience to challenge unfair business practices and to fight for the disadvantaged workers, saying that problems will not disappear as people sit passively and ignore them.
"My faith is an active faith," he said. "Those of us who believe in God must match our prayer with action."
Sullivan warned that conditions for the poor could worsen in America if no steps are taken to reduce them. He referred to statistics of rising unemployment rates among African-Americans and Hispanics.
"All is not well," Sullivan stated repeatedly.
Sullivan made clear that he didn't think America's government system was the cause of all conflicts among people and business. He said that people are refusing to acknowledge any problems. Through Biblical examples and anecdotes about people who overcame obstacles, Sullivan encouraged the audience to become leaders.
"The best in us can be realized," said Sullivan.
Past recipients of the Notre Dame Award include Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn.
All News Stories for Thursday, November 4, 1999