Guests were already sipping champagne at the French embassy when The Observer arrived last Thursday evening. Inside the circular foyer, a sizable crowd had gathered to support Humanity in Action, a non-profit educational group which organizes fellowships for college students to learn about international issues. Guests schmoozed and greeted one another, in both English and French, as the room filled.
Humanity in Action organized the event to honor three distinguished professionals, James Bennet, editor of The Atlantic, author Adam Hochschild, and John Rossant, the charirman of PublicsLive, a global events management group. After a brief introduction, guests gave attendant waiters their wine glasses and headed up the opulent marble staircase for dinner. Judith Goldstein, Humanity in Action’s executive director, had perched on the steps, jovially greeting guests as they walked upstairs.
Attendees took their seats in the dining room and the first course, a warm wild mushroom salad, was served. There was a distinctly collegiate feel to the room as each table had several tomes strategically arranged as centerpieces. The international crowd swapped globetrotting stories over wine before attention was called to the podium at the front of the room. Each of the honorees made a short speech, expressing gratitude for Humanity in Action’s recognition. Although hailing from different backgrounds, each explained their own distinct commitment to global discourse and the importance of upholding human rights in today’s world. The audience listened intently, appreciatively applauding each of the honorees after their remarks.
The Observer caught up with honoree John Rossant later in the evening. “You know, we’re living in a very globalized world,” Mr. Rossant explained. “Yesterday I was in Abu-Dhabi,” he offered, “And some of the concerns they have there are similar to the concerns we have here. How do you make sure that, you know, the least advantaged members of society have full rights— it’s not obvious,” he said. Praising Humanity in Action’s mission to educate promising young people about the importance of human rights, Mr. Rossant explained that the organization is particularly pertinent in today’s troubled economic climate. “Things get dicey quickly. We forget that,” he said.
As the event came to a close, guests processed back down the main staircase and out into the chilly fall evening.