Jim Ross
Fridays for Future: Ambassadors of Conscience

Jim Ross writes: ‘I used a Panasonic Lumix camera (an entry-level SLR) from a fifth-row aisle seat, right next to the scrummage of reporters, who piled on top of each other in the aisle to take this photo. The event took place on 16 December 2019 in the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University in Washington DC. It was sponsored by Amnesty International to honour the 2019 Ambassadors of Conscience, Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future Movement.
      The Ambassador of Conscience award is Amnesty’s highest honour. Its purpose is to “celebrate individuals and groups who have furthered the cause of human rights by acting on their conscience, confronting injustice and using their talents to inspire others.” Given annually, it has honoured individuals such as Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte, and Alicia Keyes. Occasionally, it has honoured movements, such as the Indigenous rights movement in Canada.

Jim Ross, Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award Presentation 2019, photograph, 2019

      Amnesty’s initial intent was to give the 2019 award to Thunberg as the founder of Fridays for Future. However, at her insistence, Amnesty agreed to give the award to Fridays for Future at a more grassroots level. These awards were given simultaneously to Fridays for Future in cities around the globe as Thunberg received her award in Washington DC. Five other American students and one Canadian student received the award on stage alongside Thunberg. Pictured here are Kallan Benson, who was greatly involved in coordinating Fridays for Future in the United States, Thunberg, and Kumi Naidoo, then Secretary-General of Amnesty International.
      Upon receiving the award, Thunberg said: “This award is for all of those millions of people, young people, around the world who together make up the movement called Fridays for Future. All these fearless youth are fighting for their future, a future they should be able to take for granted. But as it looks now, they cannot.”
      My reporting of this event led to a major article, accompanied by 15 photos, in the December 2019 issue of Friends Journal and another in the March 2020 issue of UU World.’   AQ