The Government Accountability Project (GAP) 40th-anniversary celebration at the DuPont Circle Hotel in DC November 15th stands out for me as the highlight of this year.
At the celebration, Robert Shetterly, the renowned portrait painter behind Americans Who Tell the Truth– Models of Courageous Citizenship, unveiled five portraits of people honored as whistleblowers by GAP. Myself, Bank Whistleblower United colleague, Michael Winston, who witnessed fraud and corruption at Countrywide and Bank of America, Jon Osberg, student loan corruption whistleblower, and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who blew the whistle on lead in the Flint water system were honored. Louis Clark, GAP’s Executive Director, was honored in recognition of the thousands of whistleblowers he has helped with unwavering faith, commitment, and an incredible sense of honesty and fairness.
It’s thanks to GAP and advocates like Robert Shetterly that whistleblowers are now perceived somewhat differently. GAP began 40 years ago as an effort to change the culture of the United States surrounding the topic of whistleblowing. They say in their history, ”we saw whistleblowers as courageous heroes and patriots while the nation’s culture was mired in the notion that they were merely “finks,” “tattletales” and “snitches.” We have certainly succeeded in changing the culture, but more importantly, we have helped to transform society and how it deals with corruption, abuse of power, environmental and public health threats, illegality and gross mismanagement.”
While they used to “speak of whistleblowing as an example of one person standing up to powerful forces and, thereby, changing society as if once confronted with “The Truth,” major institutions would immediately and automatically take corrective action and reform themselves. We now know that whistleblowers are the catalysts – the sparks – that will either get snuffed out or will transform many aspects of our lives impacted by the revelations.”
And at the event itself several whistleblowers and I had the opportunity to say heartfelt thank you’s to GAP for their support and to speak up for truth.
Robert Shetterly began Americans Who Tell the Truth in the early 2000’s. He says,” the portraits have given him an opportunity to speak with children and adults throughout the United States about” the necessity of dissent in a democracy, the obligations of citizenship, sustainability , U.S. history and how democracy cannot function if politicians don’t tell the truth, if the media don’t report it, and if the people don’t demand it.”
Shetterly’s full “Americans Who Tell the Truth” series highlights seventeen whistleblowers and another 220 citizens in many other categories who courageously address issues of social, environmental and economic fairness. His list of whistleblowers includes Daniel Ellsberg, Frank Serpico, Edward Snowden, dozens more and me! You can click on each portrait to get a description of what they are being honored for. I am humbled by being in this gallery. Still, it will be fun to “brag” about to my grandchildren someday…
Thank you GAP and Robert Shetterly for honoring us for overcoming the almost insurmountable obstacles and hoops we had to jump through to see justice achieved as best we could. We all hope that our telling the truth will encourage others to do the same.
A “democracy” cannot function if greed, corruption and fraud are allowed to be the culture that governs it. As Mr. Shetterly says, “democracy cannot function if politicians don’t tell the truth, if the media don’t report it and if the people don’t demand it.”
Telling the truth, yes, well worth it.