Sarah Goody, 15, a climate change activist from Corte Madera, and Eshani Arumalla, 14, from San Jose, were among recipients, ages 9 to 25, from 35 countries who were feted for their outstanding achievements in activism and humanitarian causes.
“You are all doing such incredible work, and at a time of great uncertainty, you have found the power and inspiration inside of you to make a positive mark on the world,” the Duke of Sussex said, in a message likely recorded from his home in Los Angeles, where he is sheltering in place during the COVID-19 pandemic with his wife, Meghan Markle, and son, Archie.
“And I love that the Diana Award is able to help you do it,” Harry continued, explaining that his mother, Princess Diana, believed in the potential of young people to lead change. Harry also was speaking on behalf of his brother Prince William on what would have been Diana’s 59th birthday.
“Right now, we’re seeing situations around the world where division, isolation and anger are dominating as pain and trauma come to the surface,” Harry said. “But I see the greatest hope in people like you, and I’m confident about the world’s future and its ability to heal because it is in your hands.”
Harry also echoed his American-born wife’s recent praise of the Black Lives Matter movement, by addressing the “institutional racism” that is still “endemic” in societies around the world.
“Unconscious bias must be acknowledged without blame to create a better world for all of you,” the British royal said.
Other celebrities who congratulated the Diana Award recipients during the hour-long ceremony included One Direction singer Liam Payne and actress Emma Thompson. The Oscar winner, along with Tessy Ojo, the CEO of the Diana Awards, noted that the recipients are taking on some of “the world’s biggest issues.”
The causes include climate change, access to sanitation, food and education, gender rights, health care, cyber-bullying and racism, which Ojo said “has recently come to the surface, (and which) many of you have either experienced or have been fighting really hard against.”
Sarah woke at 5 a.m. to watch the ceremony from Hawaii where she is spending the summer working at an exotic animal sanctuary.
“It was really exciting hearing from Liam, Emma, and Prince Harry!” she said in an email. “I will always remember this day and knowing that these ‘icons’ support my work is an extra motivation to continue fighting for justice and equality.”
Sarah, who just finished her freshman year at Redwood High School, has become known in the Bay Area and featured in Teen Vogue, Forbes and publications for her Friday demonstrations at San Francisco’s City Hall and the Ferry Building.
Sarah founded Climate Now, a youth-run group dedicated to bringing awareness to the power of youth in the climate movement. Last summer, she met with both Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rouorke at the California Democratic Convention, which inspired her to think even more seriously about making activism a future profession. She further explained that the Diana Award offers yet more confirmation that she’s on the right path.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to reflect on my work and how far the youth-climate climate movement has come,” Sarah said, adding that she’s been inspired by other youth activists, notably Greta Thunberg and Alex Villasenor.
Given that Prince Harry also promotes mental health causes, he would probably appreciate how Sarah turned to environmental activism for personal healing and a sense of purpose.
For Teen Vogue, Sarah wrote about how she was diagnosed with depression in fifth grade and struggled a sense of loneliness, sadness and hopelessness. At one point, she said she even felt suicidal. While she already had been interested in social justice and LGBTQ rights, the spark for her activism came when her sixth-grade teacher introduced her to the idea of climate change.
“I learned that swimming in the ocean or going on hikes at my favorite trail on Mount Tamalpais could soon be things of the past,” she wrote. “And, the climate crisis could prevent my future children from experiencing the true beauty of nature as well.”
“For the first time, I felt as though I could do something radical with my life; I could inspire social change,” Sarah also wrote. “Rather than hopelessness, I felt a sense of purpose. So, I dove into activism.”
An important lesson Sarah likes to promote is that climate justice is linked to other causes that are promoted by her fellow Diana Award recipients. One cause is racial justice. Sarah explained that global warming most profoundly hurts lower-income people and people of color. “Climate justice is racial justice,” she said.