Good evening, my name is Jennifer Cast. I first joined Amazon in 1996 as the 25th employee — back when we were just an online bookstore. I left Amazon in 2001 to join the public sector and in 2012 worked with HRC’s Board members Lacey All and Ben Waldman on Ref 74, the successful marriage equality campaign in Washington State.
I re-joined Amazon in 2014. Happily, the company I returned to – though bigger and more sophisticated – was still familiar: fast-paced, customer obsessed, a place where builders love to build and people are appreciated for who they are. That’s the tone that Jeff Bezos has always set at Amazon, which makes it a wonderful place to work.
Jeff Bezos is one of the world’s most highly respected leaders. He is known as a great entrepreneur, a passionate inventor, and a customer-obsessed builder. At Amazon, we know him as all of that — and much more.
He is our trusted CEO who guides and challenges us with his remarkable intellect and curiosity; he is the model for using Amazon leadership principles in our daily work; he is a warm and witty conversationalist who loves to laugh. He is a bold, strategic thinker who drives to maximize impact.
Jeff and MacKenzie’s donation of two and a half million dollars to Washington’s marriage equality campaign exemplified how to have meaningful, far-reaching impact.
Their gift was 25 times more than the amount I requested. It was a staggeringly generous gift, and it was a beautifully strategic amount. It allowed us to make big, early advertising commitments and get discounted rates. It also enabled us to quickly build a field team and to talk face to face with over a hundred thousand people.
It was a lot of money, but not too much — our campaign team had to work hard to capitalize on their generosity and leverage its effects to raise the rest of the money we needed to fund our campaign and to engage Washington voters.
The money was critical for us. But just as critical as the money was Jeff’s offer to let us publicly acknowledge their gift. He and MacKenzie could have donated anonymously. They are private, humble people, and Jeff doesn’t seek the limelight.
By allowing us to take their donation public, the world quickly knew that Jeff Bezos supported marriage equality. Their donation supercharged our fundraising, and we raised $10 million dollars — $2 million more than our initial goal.
Jeff and MacKenzie’s donation to marriage equality accelerated the acceptance of marriage equality in our country, and the effects of their donation contributed strongly to not only Washington’s victory but also the marriage equality wins in Maine and Maryland. Those three electoral victories in 2012 reversed the tide of 14 years of losses and helped set the stage for our ultimate Supreme Court victory.
I’ve been with the love of my life for 27 years. I am so happy to be legally married, and to share this right with every LGBTQ American.
I have never thanked Jeff publicly for his generosity and the role he played in our country’s marriage equality victory. I am honored to be able to do that tonight.
Thank you, Jeff, for your commitment to equal rights.
Please join me in welcoming 2017 Equality Award recipient, Jeff Bezos.