Reach the World founder, Heather Halstead, introduced Farrow, saying that he was reluctant at first to accept the award, feeling that he wasn’t worthy of it considering the prestigious career of journalist Walter Cronkite, who served as a mentor to Halstead.
She managed to convince Farrow to accept, citing his career as a lawyer and U.S. government adviser and policymaker as some of the reasons for honoring him. Farrow entered college as an undergraduate at the age of 11 and began Yale Law School at 16. He has served as a UNICEF Spokesperson for Youth, acting as an advocate for the women and children of Darfur.
He was also a Special Adviser for Humanitarian and NGO Affairs in the Obama Administration’s Office of the Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, but it was his role as Director of the State Department’s Office of Global Youth Issues under Secretary of State Hilary Clinton that most compelled Reach the World to name Farrow as the award recipient.
According to Halstead, the Office of Global Youth Issues made “recommendations about how to formally include global youth voices in the work of the State Department at the highest level of government policymaking.”
“I understand from speaking with him [Farrow],” she said, “that it was not necessarily an easy process to found that office, of which he later became its first director. Ronan is a young person himself, and he’s had, in my opinion, an incredibly transformational impact upon getting policymakers at the very highest level of government to focus on the role of global youth voices in the international debate…. I would still argue that his work as a policymaker and diplomat has been one of the strongest voices in recent times for including youth in that global dialogue.”
When Farrow took the podium, he said that the burden of the name behind the award was heavy. “Walter Cronkite? I can’t live up to that,” he said.
“While I may not yet be worthy of the Cronkite name, and I may spend a lifetime living up to that, I do think that the work that this organization does and the fight for an education for everyone is something in which the spirit of Cronkite lives on. And I respect each and every one of you in this room who take a stand in that fight,” he said.
He also mentioned what he observed while traveling as a diplomat. “In a lot of places, [young people] are the architects of progress, and in other places, they’re the source of the instability and violence. Very often, in my experience, the difference between those two categories is an education. It’s the key to participating in economies, to building not just their own futures, but all of our economic futures. So, this is something that’s worth standing up for.”
Reach the World connects classrooms to volunteer world travelers who are studying or exploring around the globe. The organization trains the travelers, manages web-based journalistic content posted weekly, and delivers training and support to the schools in its programs. Founded by Halstead and Marc Gustafson in 1998, the organization has since served 16,000 students and 800 teachers at school, afterschool, and summer school sites in under-served communities.
Reach the World’s website also hosts GeoGames, a set of interactive games that teach core geographic literacy. The award-winning GeoGames, which is co-hosted by National Geographic Education, is based on a multi-year geography research study by Reach the World and researchers at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Farrow, who is the son of actress Mia Farrow and filmmaker Woody Allen, launched his own television news program on MSNBC on February 24, 2014 called “Ronan Farrow Daily.”