A former federal prosecutor and the founder of a local foundation working to underwrite a cultural, educational, and commercial renaissance in the city are the recipients of the 2018 Bob Edgar Public Service Achievement Awards from Common Cause Pennsylvania.
Zane Memeger, who served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania from 2010-16, and Ajay Raju of the Pamela and Ajay Raju Foundation, were honored at Common Cause’s annual Building A Better Democracy Awards Reception on June 12 at the Pyramid Club. The event attracted democracy activists from across southeastern Pennsylvania.
Accepting his award, Memeger sounded a warning about current attempts to undermine the independence of the Department of Justice. “I do know that if we as a nation allow DOJ to succumb to political pressure, it is only a matter of time before our Constitution will become a meaningless piece of paper as the ‘Rule of Law’ no longer matters,“ he said.
Ajay Raju, the principal partner of Dilworth Paxson, LLP in addition to his work for the foundation that bears his name, was recognized for his and the foundation’s support of projects benefitting strong, independent media and the development of young leaders. The foundation’s initiatives include the Philadelphia Citizen, an online publication that explores major problems facing the city and spotlights solutions, and the Germination Project, which focuses on identifying and nurturing students who will be the city’s future leaders.
Raju’s award was presented by the fellows of the Germination Project. One of them, Monica Volodarsky, told the gathering that “while we are here to honor Ajay, I am standing before you – just as Ajay or any of my colleagues could be – to represent the pursuit of an idea; the idea that Philadelphia may once again be a global center of policy, commerce, and culture.
“The realization of this idea cannot be achieved with the efforts of one person, nor can it be completed in the course of a single lifetime,” she added. “It is a vision of and for the future, a future in which all Philadelphians are compelled to recommit to our shared civic fortune.”
The Bob Edgar Awards are named for former Common Cause President Bob Edgar, who led the organization from 2007 until his death in 2013. Edgar represented Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District in Washington from 1974-86; he also was a former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ.
The annual awards reception “was an important evening for Common Cause Pennsylvania, as we continue to galvanize people from all backgrounds and backdrops together to see that democracy is something that every citizen of Pennsylvania should embrace,” said Micah Sims, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania.
“I look forward to helping excite, encourage and engage these attendees, award winners and others in our daily pursuit to hold power accountable and realize that democracy is our common fight, it is our common cause and it is for our commonwealth,” Sims added.