Disability Advocate Wins Acclaimed International Prize
An award that’s previously gone to the likes of the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa will this year honor a man who’s focused on making life better for people with developmental disabilities.
Jean Vanier will receive the 2015 Templeton Prize, officials with the John Templeton Foundation said Wednesday at a ceremony in London.
Vanier, 86, founded L’Arche, a network of communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together. Today, there are 147 such communities in 35 countries, including 18 in the United States.
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Valued at about $1.7 million, the Templeton Prize is one of the largest awards in the world handed out each year to an individual. It is given to a living person who has “made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery or practical works,” according to the John Templeton Foundation.
“By recognizing the importance of every individual, regardless of their station in life, Jean Vanier underscores how each of us has the ability not only to lift up others, but also ourselves,” said Jennifer Simpson, the granddaughter of Sir John Templeton who established the prize in 1972. “His powerful message and practice of love has the potential to change the world for the better, just as it has already changed the lives of countless individuals who have been touched by this extraordinary man.”
The idea for L’Arche began in 1964 when Vanier invited two men with intellectual disabilities who were living at an institution to move in with him in a small home in Trosly-Breuil, France.
“They have brought me so much over the past 50 years, and have taught me more than all those teachers and professors in schools and universities that I have attended,” Vanier said at the ceremony Wednesday of people with intellectual disabilities. “They have taught me about what it means to be human and about how our societies can be transformed to become more peaceful and unified.”
The Templeton Prize will be formally presented to Vanier at an event in London on May 18.