Sister Simone Campbell. Lawyer, lobbyist, author, poet. Religious rock star on a national stage. Building hope, change, and community as the incomparable nun on the bus.
Catholicism seemed like magic at first, spiritual child though you were. But soon the sense of purpose that would define your life took hold, leading you through the door of the civil rights movement to your 1967 taking of vows. Henceforth, you dedicated your entire existence to what you knew as God’s vision for justice, to help the poor and marginalized and to champion the cause of peace.
And you have been steadfast from the start—as founder of the Community Law Center in Oakland, California; with your Sisters of Social Service working in the U.S., Mexico, Taiwan, and the Philippines; as part of a delegation to Iraq in 2002; and at the helm of NETWORK for the past dozen years, lobbying for immigration reform, economic justice, and health care for all. In 2010, you penned the now famous “nuns’ letter,” credited with helping to pass the Affordable Care Act into law.
But it is with the “Nuns on the Bus”, born in 2012, that you have truly spread the good and the word. Over the course of four cross-country tours, you have galvanized people who face hardship but lack an ally—folks from Wheeling to Topeka for whom budgetary cuts and general disregard have made times tough. You let their stories open your heart, promising to take their tales to Congress and lobby for the 100%—a living wage, voter turnout, compassionate public policy based on real-life needs. You ask, “How can I leave you out if I’ve heard your story?” And then poised at the intersection of faith and politics you lovingly bridge the divide.
Here today, Sister Simone, with colleagues and graduates before me, we pledge by your example—to walk towards trouble, walk willing, walk on with equal parts doubt and trust, talk about the important stuff, talk to each other, and opt to be spiritually and intellectually bold.
We thank you for helping to illuminate our paths, and are proud to honor you with the 2016 Barnard Medal of Distinction.