Truth-Telling Prize Recipient, 2018

Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the 2018 recipient of the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling.

When Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September 2017, Yulín made frequent appearances on national and international television. She pleaded for help, criticized Federal aid efforts, and accused Donald Trump and his administration of “killing us with inefficiency.”

In response, on Twitter, Trump accused Yulín of poor leadership and suggested that Democrats had told her to badmouth him.

In the wake of the storm, Yulín took to the streets to aid her neighbors, assess their needs, and assist in the cleanup. When acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke called the federal response “a good news story,” Yulín had harsh words.

“Dammit, this is not a good news story,” Yulín said. “This is a ‘people are dying’ story. It’s a life or death story.”

Since then, Yulín has remained an outspoken critic who has helped to keep focus on Puerto Rico, where hundreds of thousands of people still lack power. When questioned about her motivations to speak out, she says: “This is not about politics; it is about saving lives.”

Yulín, who was born and raised in San Juan, moved to the United States to complete her Bachelor’s degree at Boston University and her Master’s at Carnegie Mellon. She worked as a human resources director at several companies and at the U.S. Treasury Department.

She returned to Puerto Rico and entered politics in 1992, becoming an advisor to Sila María Calderón, a San Juan Mayor who later became Puerto Rico’s only female governor. Yulín became involved in the Popular Democratic Party in 2003, and was elected president of its women’s organization.

In 2008, Yulín won a seat in Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives. Four years later she was elected Mayor of San Juan after a short, seven month-long campaign, defeating a three-term incumbent by relying on a coalition of students, unions, feminists, immigrants, and LGBT voters.

With Yulín as Mayor, San Juan has become the first and only municipality in Puerto Rico where employees have the right to collective bargaining, and it has taken steps toward a municipal version of universal health care. Under her administration, San Juan is now the only municipality with a transgender health clinic and also with an aquatic therapy clinic.

Yulín firmly believes that community empowerment strengthens the democratic process, and that embracing difference can enrich our lives.

As a result of her tireless commitment to the people of San Juan and Puerto Rico in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, Yulín has received various recognitions and awards including the Martin Luther King Center’s Humanitarian Leadership Award in 2018, the Antonio Villaraigosa Leadership Award in 2018, and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Humanitarian Award in 2017. She was also nominated by People en Español as one of the 50 most Powerful Women in 2017, and Time magazine chose her as candidate for Person of the Year recognition in 2017.

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One Bold Move, Countless Lives: Empowering Humanity, Changing the World.