Remarks from Wendy Young

Kids in Need of Defense President Wendy Young introduced Microsoft Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith, recipient of PBI’s 2014 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award, at the 2014 PBI Annual Conference. See her remarks below.

It is my privilege this evening to introduce Brad Smith, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Microsoft—but that’s all I am going to say about his day job, because tonight Brad is receiving the prestigious Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award. The Zelon Award is bestowed each year to an individual or organization that has provided exemplary pro bono service. And indeed exemplary is exactly what Brad’s pro bono service has been.
It is hard to find one word that captures what Brad brings to his other job, which is advancing social justice and human rights in the United States and around the world. Inspiring is one word, visionary another. But neither really do justice to the unique combination of humanitarianism and pragmatism that Brad brings to his pro bono work. He personifies corporate social responsibility by combining a profound sense of compassion with a laser beam-like focus on results. For Brad, it isn’t enough to do good, he challenges us to do good well.

Several years ago, Brad identified a critical legal services gap, which is the lack of appointed counsel for immigrant children who arrive alone each year in search of protection and are placed in deportation proceedings where they must raise a defense against removal from the United States. I have seen toddlers appear alone before an immigration judge, with the surreal expectation that the child can understand the complexities of US immigration laws and convince the government to let her stay. This is truly a traffic court-like tribunal with life or death consequences for some of the most vulnerable children in the world.

Brad decided to do something about it and joined with UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie to launch and co-chair KIND in 2009. Working with 200 law firms, corporations, and law schools—many of which are represented here this evening—Brad articulated a vision that no child—ever—should appear in immigration court unrepresented. More than 6,000 trained volunteer lawyers and $50 million in pro bono contributions are the result of Brad’s vision and strategic planning. And most of all, thousands of children have had a fair shot at gaining protection through a process that is grounded in due process and fundamental fairness simply because a pro bono attorney is by their side in the court room.

Even as Brad helps lead one of the largest and most prestigious corporations in the world, he is never too busy to help me lead KIND. He has led his team at Microsoft who have contributed countless pro bono hours to KIND. He is always ready to raise the public visibility of our work before Congress, the Administration, and in the media. He has tirelessly reached out to our law firm, corporate and law school partners and asked them to dedicate their time, expertise, and resources to the cause. He has provided invaluable guidance on how best to build a strong NGO, always challenging me to make KIND the best and most effective organization that it can be. I have learned constantly from Brad about how best to lead people, to inspire others, and to manage an organization while motivating creativity and innovation.

KIND is not the only humanitarian effort to benefit from Brad’s commitment to giving back. He has played a leadership role on many other fronts, including Microsoft YouthSpark, a global initiative to create opportunities for 300 million youth over three years. Brad has also chaired the Washington State Higher Education Funding Task Force and the Washington Opportunity Scholarship Program, the nation’s first private-public endowment to enable more students to attend college. Brad and his wife, Kathy have co-chaired the annual campaign for the United Way of King County, the country’s largest United Way campaign. And I wasn’t kidding when I said he actually does have a day job.

In 2013 Brad was named by the National Law Journal as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the United States. For the thousands of children who are now able to have their voices heard and their rights protected, who have been able to fulfill their potential and lead productive lives, that influence has literally restored justice, given hope, and saved lives. Thank you, Brad, for your extraordinary leadership and commitment, and on a personal front, for being my mentor. You are a model for us all.