Vanguard Award

A few years ago, when Russell Simmons met then-Sen. Barack Obama at the Hip-Hop Summit, the hard-charging philanthropist and the pol had a face-to-face and, needless to say, they covered a lot of ground. Fast.

“We talked about dialogue with our neighbors,” Simmons says. “We talked about promotion of world peace. We talked a lot about the environment. We talked a lot about lifting people out of poverty and giving people opportunity in education. We talked a lot about small things like prison reform. We talked about the arts in schools.”

The two obviously clicked.

Later, Simmons had another meeting with the future president as he embarked on his campaign. Now that Obama is in the White House, Simmons looks to the future: “I hope that Obama can create a climate so that some of the ideas that I have will work. It’s critical to do more dialogue … the Muslim/Jewish dialogue that I worked so hard on. I work with imams and rabbis around the country. Maybe that’s a seed that will give Obama inspiration to do something much bigger.”

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