World Leaders, Celebrities Gather for Star-Studded Gala

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton poses for a picture with Starkey Hearing Foundation founders Bill and Tani Austin at the Starkey Hearing Foundation’s “So the World May Hear” Awards Gala on Sunday, July 20, 2014 in St. Paul, Minn. The foundation is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and gives away more than 100,000 hearing aids in the U.S. and around the world annually. (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for Starkey Hearing Foundation/AP Images)

“The gift of hearing opens up a whole new world of opportunity. It connects individuals to each other and empowers them to reach their full potential,” said Austin. “The question you should always ask is, ‘Who can I reflect caring to today?’ Because that simple kindness, that act of lifting someone up, gets reflected forward to others.”

Highlights of the evening included speeches from former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Archbishop Desmond Tutu; an emotional reflection from Super Bowl champion Derrick Coleman, the first legally deaf offensive player in the NFL; a soulful performance from Jessica Sanchez and acoustic performances by GRAMMY Award winners Rob Thomas and John Legend; and a grand finale with fellow GRAMMY Award winner Sammy Hagar.

Sec. Clinton spoke to the strong relationship the Clinton family has with Starkey Hearing Foundation. “It’s been three years since Starkey committed to donating one million hearing aids this decade through the Clinton Global Initiative. The foundation is well ahead of schedule, and I want all of us to join together in this effort,” said Clinton. “Starkey creates opportunities for communication and connection in a world that sorely needs it. This work is an act of love. An act of devotion and caring and concern.”

Super Bowl champion Derrick Coleman of the Seattle Seahawks spoke to his personal experience with hearing loss. Said Coleman, “My family raised me to never use my hearing loss as an excuse. They taught me that I could do anything I put my mind to. This mentality and approach to life is what got me to the NFL and to later become a Super Bowl Champion.” Coleman added, “Over the past 50 years, Bill Austin has revolutionized the hearing industry with life-changing products to help someone like me live my dreams.”

Forest Whitaker was recognized for his work with the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative. He recalled his first Starkey Hearing Foundation mission in Uganda and spoke to his passion for giving back and improving the lives of others. “I’ve seen the reaction of someone who has heard for the first time, and it’s overpowering,” said Whitaker. “Starkey is doing amazing work, bringing hearing to people who don’t have the opportunity to be included in the universal sound that all of us are.” Whitaker believes in the power of education to promote peace, and is dedicated to teaching and healing the young victims of Uganda’s civil war through his work with Hope North.