WASHINGTON, D.C. – The McCain Institute at Arizona State University (ASU) and World Central Kitchen hosted an event at the U.S. Capitol with Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Jim Risch and a bipartisan group of five other U.S. Senators, focused on the grassroots defense of democracy and human rights in Ukraine following another Russian invasion.
Speakers included Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova. Following these remarks, a panel conversation was moderated by McCain Institute Executive Director Dr. Evelyn Farkas and featured a dialogue with World Central Kitchen CEO Nate Mook, 2022 Ukrainian McCain Global Leader Dr. Mariia Levchenko, World Central Kitchen’s operations lead in Kyiv, Ukraine Kate Serdiuk, and First Secretary at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Kateryna Smagliy, who is also an alumna of the McCain Institute’s leadership programs.
“What we’re going to do today … is to talk about the untold and sometimes overlooked stories of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who, as citizens, have answered a call to defend their home country and the sanctity of democracy, not through the military… but today they’re doing it through grassroots efforts across the entire Ukrainian community,” said McCain Institute Executive Director Dr. Evelyn Farkas. “The work of these citizens should be an inspiration to all of us, Americans and truly everyone, as they not only fight for their country, but they fight for democracy for the surrounding region and really for the international community.”
Through the McCain Institute’s McCain Global Leaders Program and World Central Kitchen’s on-the-ground partnerships in Ukraine and in Poland to provide meals for displaced Ukrainians, both organizations are working to directly assist humanitarian efforts and support democracy in the region.
“Senator McCain was such a true friend to Ukraine, he was there every time we needed him there,” said Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova. “We still feel that through the Institute he is with us, and he is helping us through all of the excellent work that you are doing.”
“Supporting Ukraine is not just with the missiles and the bullets, it’s also with food. We need to ease the burden on the Ukrainian government, we need to stabilize the liberated cities and towns, and we have to make sure that we meet the humanitarian needs of these communities,” said World Central Kitchen CEO Nate Mook. “Russia right now is trying to expand its influence through hard power. We the United States need to expand our influence through soft power, and humanitarian aid is America’s most effective form of soft power. But it’s hard work and takes a lot of commitment. Winning hearts and minds comes from caring for people in their darkest hour.”
To close the event, First Secretary at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Kateryna Smagliy reminded the audience of one of Senator McCain’s favorite historical speeches: “Man in the Arena” by President Theodore Roosevelt.
“I believe that the words of President Roosevelt in his famous speech to be in the arena are so important today and resonate so strongly with what is happening today and what the challenges of the day require from us.”
Click HERE to view the full event.
Excerpts from Senators remarks:
Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.)
“I think of Senator McCain frequently. He was my hero in regards to human rights; he was my partner in regards to the passage of the Magnitsky sanctions law. The two of us hold the distinction of being the very first two on the prohibitive list by the Russian Federation to visit Russia. His efforts to help in the passage of the Magnitsky sanctions is one of the key tools to go after those who are helping finance the Russian atrocity machine.”
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
“If John were still with us, he wouldn’t be here he would be in the Donbas…he would be all in defending our friends in Ukraine…There was $5 billion in the last aid package to help people who depend on grain and corn coming out of Ukraine, 40 nations in the world get 50% of their grain supply from Ukraine. They are in a world of hurt. I think that in and of itself is a war crime. You’re affecting nations outside of the battle zone and you’re doing it deliberately.”
Senator Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.)
“There was no greater supporter of Ukrainian independence than Senator John McCain. So it’s quite fitting that the McCain Institute has gathered and rallied grassroots leaders from around the region to shed light on the heroic and life-saving efforts supporting Ukraine and its neighbors. In these last few months, we have seen proof that America is at its best when we rally the world around shared values and lead the fight against evil.”
Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho)
“Groups like World Central Kitchen have risen to the challenge and have provided hundreds of thousands of fresh meals and food kits to Ukrainians both inside and outside the country each day. For that we are very grateful…Sadly, the shortages created by Russia’s brutal and unjustified war extend far beyond Ukraine. Putin is quite literally using food as a weapon blocking exports to countries in need.”
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)
“If there’s one thing that’s clear right now, it’s that the frontier of freedom on the planet runs through the Donbas, and we need to make sure that we win the battle along that frontier.”
Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.)
“Even as Putin has made the starvation of Ukraine a priority, this is a national security priority of Vladimir Putin. He’s been starving people, targeting crop land and targeting food storage facilities. He has unleashed his war machine on the peoples and cities of Ukraine. We’ve seen in the midst of all this a groundswell of support for those with no greater hope than to see families not starve and for justice to prevail. We in Congress can shine a better light on the challenge that these individuals face and we can be a voice for those who have experienced food insecurity due to aggression conflict and violence.”
About the McCain Institute at Arizona State University
Inspired by Senator John McCain and his family’s legacy, the McCain Institute at Arizona State University is non-partisan and fights to secure democracy and alliances, defend human rights, protect the vulnerable and advance character-driven leadership in all communities around the world.
About Arizona State University
Arizona State University has developed a new model for the American research university, creating an institution that is committed to access, excellence and impact. ASU measures itself by those it includes, not by those it excludes. As the prototype for a New American University, ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good, and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.