Evelyn and Walter Haas had a commitment to, and belief in, the power of people to drive positive change. Since its founding in 1953, the Haas, Jr. Fund has been inspired by their vision. 70 years later, we are carrying forward their legacy in our mission to advance justice, hope, and equality, and in our values of inclusion, respect, collaboration, and courage.
Featured Inspirational Leaders
Founding Director of the AAPIs for Civic Empowerment (AAPI FORCE)
I believe justice is only possible if we build multi-racial, multi-sector alliances. The systems we’re trying to dismantle have been built against us for centuries, and the only way we can move forward is if we build power together. Justice is a process. If one community thrives, all our communities thrive because our issues are so connected.
Raised in a family of ethnic Chinese refugees, Timmy Lu has dedicated his young career to achieving justice for all communities harmed by racism and discrimination. In his work with AAPI FORCE and other AAPI-serving groups, he regularly works to build partnerships with Black and Latino organizations and networks to achieve the vision of a bigger we.
President of the Campaign for College Opportunity
For me, hope is about believing we can support all students in California to have the opportunity I had as a first-generation college student. California is an amazingly diverse state, but we still see huge inequality in who goes to college and who graduates based on race. We can reverse those trends, but it’s going to take lawmakers and college leaders and students and parents all working together. I am hopeful we can make it happen.
Michele’s personal journey as a first-generation Latina gives hope to so many to follow their own college dreams. She believes in the power of college to change lives and is relentless in building a more just and equitable California where every student—regardless of their zip code, race/ethnicity, or income—can find an affordable path to higher education.
Founder of Freedom to Marry
In the push for marriage equality, we wrestled with whether to emphasize freedom or equality as our goal. To me, these bedrock values are a double helix, and ultimately the Supreme Court marriage victory entwined, embodied, and advanced both. We want freedom and equality—and the pursuit of happiness, too. We want, and deserve, and can win it all, for all.
Evan Wolfson is widely viewed as the architect of the campaign that won marriage equality for same-sex couples nationwide. Not content to rest on his laurels, he is currently working to advance the cause of LGBT equality around the world based on the model that made Freedom to Marry a historic success.
President and CEO of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
National parks in urban spaces provide extraordinary opportunities for inclusion. In the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, we’ve increasingly made access a priority, starting with establishing a sense of welcome through community engagement, multilingual communications and inclusive programming. That’s how Crissy Field has become a welcoming place for all, and the Crissy Field Center is a place where the next generation of bold youth leaders can thrive.
Throughout a distinguished career with the National Park Service, Chris Lehnertz was known for prioritizing outreach to Native Indigenous communities and other populations whose stories and voices were historically excluded from the National Parks. Today, she brings her passion for inclusion to her work ensuring that some of the Bay Area’s most iconic places truly become “parks for all.”
Founder and Executive Director of the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA)
As someone who was resettled in San Diego as a child, I grew up witnessing firsthand how systems and service providers engage with refugee families in ways that strip them of their agency and power. Respect for refugees means authentic inclusion and compassionate leadership. This is how we work together toward a society where refugees and asylum seekers achieve true belonging.
Ramla Sahid and her family arrived in the U.S. after fleeing civil war in Somalia. After growing up in San Diego’s diverse City Heights neighborhood, she dedicated her life and career to bringing respect and voice to all refugees—New Americans—so they can participate fully in their communities and society.
Founder and President of California Calls
Collaboration is a central part of my organization’s work because the power needed to achieve transformative change is immense—and no one organization or community can build that level of power alone. If we want to build a world that reflects cooperation, diversity, and inclusion, collaboration is essential.
Anthony Thigpenn is a brilliant strategist who played an instrumental role in creating powerful networks for change that unite communities across the state as well as the California Black Freedom Fund with us and other partners. He identifies common denominators that bring diverse partners to the table across race, issue, and geographic lines and helps them see the power and potential of collaborating for change.
Executive Director of United We Dream
Our United We Dream rallying cry is ‘undocumented. unafraid.’ As a network of young, immigrant people of color, we accept that there are times when we are afraid, but we make the decision not to cower in fear. Rather, we use our fear as fuel to carry on. We want to lead with truth, with intention, and with a discipline of hope to create the world we deserve.
Since arriving in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant at an early age, Greisa Martinez has become the face and voice of a powerful movement for dignity and respect. Despite recent setbacks for DACA, she continues to lead the effort to secure lasting protections for immigrant youth—with courage, tenacity and love.