Mary Wald

In 2000, Mary Wald had barely established a new web site,, as a portal for non-profits. CARE, Habitat for Humanity, and others were collaborating on projects on the site. She was raising sponsorships and computer software for the Dalai Lama’s community in Dharamsala, India, and sponsorships for girls to go to underground schools in Afghanistan.

One of the site’s partners, Peacejam, contacted her. José Ramos-Horta, the Foreign Minister of East Timor, and the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, needed help raising school supplies for his country, which had been devastated by militia. Using her 14 years experience in PR and her website, she teamed up with Peacejam. Together they raised 6 tons of school supplies.

Ramos-Horta came and met with some of the students who worked on the project. Mary drove him to the airport. That friendship has lasted 22 years. When the planes hit the towers in 2001, they were on the phone, involving the other Nobel laureates in a joint response.

This led to the Centennial of the Nobel in Oslo in 2001, the Rome Summit of Nobel Peace Prize laureates in Rome, and pretty much everything you see in past projects here.

In 2002 she took her second trip to East Timor, this time to witness the birth of a nation. After emerging from a brutal occupation and being devastated by militia violence, the small country had been administered by a UN Mission for two years. Now they were standing on their feet as the millennium’s newest democracy, raising their flag for the first time. Mary alternated between the media trailers, where she was webcasting the events with UN Foundation, and sitting in the sand with the Timorese as they sange their national anthem for the first time.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu became the site’s Human Rights Advisor and over 14 years was in touch nearly weekly on email. 28 Nobel laureates got involved in actions on the site.

You could never predict or plan for a road like this. It emerges in front of you. You just keep walking.

As the terrain in the US and other democracies has shifted since 2016, the entire conversation changed. For all of its sins, one would be hard pressed to find a Nobel Peace Prize laureate at that time who had not relied on the support on US Congressmen and women and other American leaders to support their scenarios for peace. There has been no stronger tool for resolving conflict, particularly civil conflict, than democracy and the bringing of all voices to the table. 

The unraveling of democracy would mean a headlong rush to war. 

It was time for a shift in focus, time to use the resources we have at hand now to support democracy across the globe. 

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