Since April 30, my husband and I have driven over 5,000 miles around the United States, working and vacationing, up and down the East Coast including the Shenandoah Mountains, Durham, Washington DC and New York City and from San Francisco through Portland, Oregon to Yellowstone and back via Trillium Asset Management’s branch in Boise, Idaho. Along the way I have thought of at least five compelling topics for this newsletter, including wetland preservation in Georgia, snowmobiles in Yellowstone (and the “Snowmobilers for Bush” campaign), or the cutting of huge, live “fireproof” trees as part of the outrageous “Healthy Forest” initiative. But nowhere was I as moved as I was walking through the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial.
Since we opened our Boise office in late 1999, I’ve received a quizzical look every time I say “we have four offices: Boston, San Francisco, Durham and Boise”. This livable, well-planned capital is like a microcosm of the best of the United States as it provides the transportation hub and watering hole for outdoor athletes, potato growers, cattlemen, and many others, as well as the artistic and culinary center for people living in the vast, breathtakingly beautiful land that surrounds the city. I’ve been there many times to visit Lisa and Debbie and talk to the warm, tight-knit community they’ve come to love. The fabled militia of Northern Idaho seem far away indeed.
This past week, against a backdrop of national headlines tracing culpability for the torture of Arab prisoners right to the top of the Pentagon, we found the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial nestled in part of the wonderful Boise Greenbelt. The Memorial features fifty-four quotations from Anne Frank’s diary and others throughout history, the complete text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a graceful statue of Anne Frank “peering from a window, with the narrow steps of Amsterdam behind her”, and amphitheater space for gatherings, readings and presentations on human rights.
Jesse and I walked slowly around the Memorial, reading the words of the famous and the not-so-famous. Confucius shared space with Chief Joseph, Eleanor Roosevelt, Moses, Helen Keller, Dick Gregory and the students from a fifth grade class in Zenica, Yugoslavia. The Declaration of Human Rights was the first stone exhibit, and it was there that tears began to stream down my face. The struggle to protect the rights of people all over the world is continuous and heartbreaking. The courage of those who have furthered the cause of justice under incredible adversity is awe-inspiring.
In the arcane but potent world of investments, there are few words that measure “performance” in terms of the furtherance of human rights, environmental protection, community building or fair and equal employment opportunities. The effort to create those metrics and that language is part of our struggle as socially responsible investors. In the world of human rights, though, diverse people from all parts of the globe and many ages in history have given us inspiration and hope with eloquence. Given the context, these words of Anne Frank are almost painful to read: “How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment, we can start now, start slowly changing the world!”