ACLU Campaign to Change Civil Liberties Landscape Culminates in Party Honoring San Diego Leaders

February 9, 2011 12:00 am

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San Diegans Contributed $14 million to Bolster Civil Liberties Across the Country; Arthur & Molli Wagner and Kalpana & Jamie Rhodes Receive Bill of Rights Awards

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SAN DIEGO – San Diegans played a leading role in the largest fundraising campaign on behalf of civil rights and liberties in American history, the San Diego ACLU announced today at its concluding celebration. The national Leading Freedom Forward campaign, to which San Diegans contributed more than $14 million, is building the ACLU’s infrastructure in states that suffer the most egregious civil liberties violations.

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties is thanking key donors for their support and leadership at a gala luncheon today at a La Jolla restaurant. Arthur and Molli Wagner, long-time political activists, philanthropists, and leaders in the theater community, and Kalpana and Jamie Rhodes, a young La Jollan couple who have contributed time, talent, and treasure to the ACLU’s efforts, will receive the ACLU’s Bill of Rights awards recognizing their leadership in promoting civil liberties.

“Leading Freedom Forward will change the civil liberties landscape of this country,” said Kevin Keenan, executive director of the San Diego ACLU. “We are all humbled that so many San Diegans gave so generously to support the strengthening of the ACLU’s staffed presence in places like Mississippi, Montana, Florida, Texas and Arizona, where rights are being stripped away by federal, state and local governments.”

Nationally, the ACLU raised $407 million in outright and planned gifts over the three year campaign, far surpassing its original goal of $325 million. This accomplishment is even more astounding given the economic recession that coincided with the campaign. Local humanitarians Joan and Irwin Jacobs contributed $13 million to the national campaign. The ACLU’s fund to support its poorest affiliates has been named in their honor “The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Affiliate Impact Fund.” Other San Diego leaders contributed $4,100,000.

The Leading Freedom Forward campaign was designed to substantially increase the ACLU’s presence and effectiveness from coast to coast by significantly expanding the programmatic and institutional capacity of its state affiliates. The Strategic Affiliate Initiative, the centerpiece of the campaign, is a major financial investment in states where civil liberties are most under assault and where these threats outweigh the local resources. These states include Arizona, Eastern Missouri, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Tennessee and Texas. These smaller affiliates, located mainly in the South and heartland, were bolstered by increased resources from the campaign that enabled them to hire full-time attorneys, launch new advocacy programs, and expand communications and public education initiatives.

The Bill of Rights awardees Molli and Arthur Wagner have spent a lifetime promoting the arts, free expression, reproductive freedom, and civil rights. Each served on the board of an ACLU affiliate and have been active in San Diego in the many decades they have lived here. “Everything that is quintessential to our democracy is defended by the ACLU, almost always alone,” said Arthur Wagner.

Awardees Kalpana and Jamie Rhodes are a young couple who already boast a long history of giving back to their community. Kalpana and Jamie first became involved in the ACLU while in graduate school, when Executive Branch excesses and abuses of power targeted Arab and Muslim Americans after 9/11. “Giving to this campaign means helping others to exercise and maintain their rights,” said the Rhodes. “The ACLU has a critical role in enforcing the rights that we have, and making sure that the bedrock of democracy isn’t worn away but is strengthened over time. This campaign allows us to help the ACLU direct resources in a way that both addresses issues of today and systematically expands access to resources nationwide.”

In addition to the Jacobs, the Wagners and the Rhodes, the San Diego ACLU’s campaign was fortunate to have San Diego business leader Tawfiq Khoury and his wife Richel as its inaugural campaign co-chairs. The San Diego ACLU also achieved an unprecedented 100% participation in this campaign from both its board and staff.

The Campaign’s promise for the future was bolstered by a matching campaign for new gifts to the ACLU in donors’ estate plans. Nationally, the campaign raised more than $250 million in planned giving.

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