Accepting The City University of New York’s “Humanitarian Leadership Award,” Haitian First Lady Mildred Trouillot Aristide called upon all leaders of the world to eradicate poverty as the root cause of the worldwide AIDS epidemic.
Speaking at the conclusion of a three-day conference on the pandemic hosted by the United Nations, Mrs. Aristide, the wife of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and a graduate of City College/CUNY, declared, “the fight against AIDS must, both in theory and practice, be a fight against poverty.”
“If you live in poverty,” said Mrs. Aristide, who participated in the special United Nations session, “you are likely to be poorly educated, to be malnourished, to suffer gender inequality if you are a woman, to have less access to basic medicines and health care. And these are the conditions that facilitate the spread of HIV/AIDS.”
The University’s Humanitarian Leadership Award was conferred by Executive Vice Chancellor Louise Mirrer at a luncheon in Mrs. Aristide’s honor on June 27, 2001 at the University’s Robert Kibbee Room at 535 East 80th Street, Manhattan. The award cites Mrs. Aristide’s “exemplary leadership and outstanding advocacy on behalf of economically disadvantaged children of Haiti and New York City.” The award further notes her contributions to the education of “the children of the people, the whole people,” the words of Townsend Harris, the founder in 1947 of the Free Academy, the forerunner of today’s CUNY.
The luncheon also featured a roundtable on possible collaborations between CUNY and the government of Haiti. Suggestions on ways CUNY could help Haiti, including training health care workers, educating teachers and students, and modernizing police force training, were offered by participants including City College Interim President Stanford A. Roman, Medgar Evers College President Edison O. Jackson, York
College President Charles C. Kidd, Sr. and Provost Basil Wilson of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, as well as professors, students and representatives from CUNY campuses and the JFK Jr. Institute.
CUNY has 4,800 degree-credit students of Haitian descent, almost 58% of whom are women. Additionally, 75% of those students are freshmen and sophomores, and the numbers grow larger every year.
Mrs. Aristide graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Legal Studies in 1984 from City College, where she had been president of the Student Government and an active member of the Haitian Student Association. She earned a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1987 and was an associate with Robinson, Silverman, Pearce, Aronsohn & Berman in New York before setting up a private practice in Washington, D.C., and Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
She was adviser to President Aristide’s government in exile in 1993 and participated in negotiations with the U.S government and the United Nations for the restoration of democracy in Haiti. She married President Aristide in 1996.
Among other distinguished luncheon guests were Pierre Lelong, Ambassador from Haiti to the United Nations, Haitian Consul-General Marie-Therese Guilloteau, Haitian Minister of Health Henri-Claude Voltaire, Maxwell Kennedy, representing the John F. Kennedy Jr. Institute for Worker Education, which co-sponsored the luncheon, and Jeffrey Sachs, President of Reaching Up.