“You’ve Got to Use Your Life to Make a Difference.”: Congressional Award Foundation Hosts Race Relations & Social Justice Panel for Gold Medalists


Bethie Woodall, Director of Events & Strategic Communications


October 7, 2020

Washington, DC

Last Saturday, The Congressional Award Foundation hosted an interactive “Race Relations & Social Justice” Panel as part of the first-ever virtual Gold Medal Ceremony, which honored 478 incredible young leaders with the highest recognition bestowed by Congress.

The panel was moderated by David Osman, Clinical Quality Program Administrator at Anthem, who led a thoughtful discussion with experienced government and industry leaders, including:

  • Jodie Geddes, Coming to the Table
  • Courtney Christian, PhRMA
  • Councilmember Will Jawando, Montgomery County Council
  • Dr. Hakim J. Lukas, Virginia Union University

Race issues and intersectionality were highlights of the discussion. Attendees were also given the opportunity to ask their own questions related to leadership.

Panelists shared with youth how they can empower one another and influence real change. Dr. Hakim J. Lukas, who serves as the president of HBCU Virginia Union University, gave this advice, “You’ve got to use your life to make a difference.  We need to use our lives in a way that we don’t have to die for change anymore, but we can live for it.”

“A lot of times, people think policy changes can only come from an elected office, but no, policy is happening every day in the rooms that you’re in and the spaces that you occupy… you have the opportunity to influence policy” shared Councilmember Will Jawando, in a powerful statement. He encouraged the Gold Medalists to broaden their perception of what policy is and how we can all influence social, economic, and racial changes in our communities.

What kind of discrimination are we dealing with today? “We are at an inflection point right now, where every industry is trying to figure out how to be better and show up better for black and brown communities… Systemic racism is as real as any disease, and our industry is not immune.” shared Courtney Christian, Senior Director of Policy and Research at PhRMA, a trade group representing companies in the pharmaceutical industry.

“We can dismantle systems and structures, and there is healing work that needs to be done in our bodies, our communities, and with our land” said Jodie Geddes, who serves as Vice President of the Board of Managers of Coming to the Table, a program that provides leadership, resources, and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery.

The virtual Gold Medal Ceremony, usually held in person at The Capitol Visitor Center, is one of several steps taken by The Congressional Award Foundation to support and celebrate America’s youth during the pandemic. To learn more about some of the other ways The Congressional Award has responded to the pandemic and upcoming programs and updates, visit us at our website.

For reporters working on national stories and/or members of TV, radio, new media broadcasting:

Bethie Woodall, Director of Events & Strategic Communications


Erica Heyse, National Director


For reporters working on local stories, partner organization/congressional staff inquiries, or general information:

Matt Tick, Program Director