15 quotes for 15 years of Virgin Unite

Richard Branson with Jean Oelwang and others
Image from Casey Kelbaugh
Headshot of Greg Rose
by Greg Rose
24 September 2019

Virgin Unite presented their inaugural Wonder Awards as they celebrated 15 years of never accepting the unacceptable with an event at Convene in New York.

During the celebration, hosted by Richard Branson and Virgin Unite President Jean Oelwang, Wonder Awards were presented to four extraordinary people who have committed their lives to tackling some of the world’s toughest challenges. 

The awards went to:

  • Nancy Lublin, CEO of DoSomething.org and founder of Crisis Text Line;

  • Human rights activist Abdalaziz Alhamza;

  • Jules Kortenhorst, CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute; and

  • Theresa Pham, an entrepreneur and former Virgin Management employee

Here are 15 quotes from some of the Virgin Unite family who spoke out about 15 years of the entrepreneurial foundation.

1. Jean Oelwang

“We are so blessed as a community that we have many North Stars. They tackle the unacceptable, they turn systems upside down. That’s who we want to celebrate and stand alongside, help them lift their impact and amplify their messages.”

Richard Branson celebrates 15th Anniversary of Virgin Unite.  He stands with 2 men and a woman.
Image from Casey Kelbaugh

2. Richard Branson

“Virgin Unite has always been a different kind of non-profit, committed to bringing together people and entrepreneurial ideas to create positive change for a better world.”

3. José María Figueres 

“Virgin Unite has entrepreneurship in its DNA. It tackles the big challenges others are not willing to take on. It does this in a way where it brings together terrific teams of amazing people.”

4. Van Jones

“Never accept the unacceptable. Never accept the unacceptable. Never accept the unacceptable. That is our charge.”

Richard Branson in white shirt and jeans next to three other people
Image from Casey Kelbaugh

5. Kathy Calvin (presenting to Jules Kortenhorst)

“A good head and a good heart are a formidable combination. Jules is such a creative entrepreneur, who challenges us all every day to do more for the planet.”

6. Amy Stirling (presenting to Theresa Pham)

“At the Virgin Group we passionately believe that our success is driven by our Virgin people. The Wonder of People Award is such a special one because it shows what can be achieved through the determination of the human spirit.”

7. Theresa Pham

“The reason Virgin will always have a special place in my heart is because of the human touch. Next time you think about employing someone who doesn’t have all the right credentials, have a little heart. Give someone a chance and you might change a life.”

Image of Richard Branson, Jean Oelwang, Amy Sterling and Theresa Pham at Virgin Unite's 15 Years of Wonder event
Image from Casey Kelbaugh

8. Jean Oelwang

“The world has been in a state of eclipses. But we’re starting to see some bright lights shining through the darkness.”

9. José María Figueres 

“Virgin Unite is an extraordinary incubator, from The Elders to the Carbon War Room, The B Team to Ocean Unite, The Branson Centre to the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator and many others. It does so in such a caring way that it is always there backing, supporting and inviting others to be part of those teams.”

10. Van Jones (presenting to Nancy Lublin)

“Because of Nancy Lublin people who would be dead are alive, people who would be homeless are housed, people who would be alone have community.”

11. Estelle

“I’ve been here since the start and I’m so proud to be here supporting Richard and Jean and all the Virgin Unite family.”

Estelle at a celebration for the 15th anniversary of Virgin Unite
Image from Casey Kelbaugh

12. Kumi Naidoo (presenting to Aziz Alhama)

“Too many leaders want recognition without effort and delivery. Aziz Alhama embodies humility, and that’s what all good wonders of humanity do.”

13. Josh Bayliss

“Listening to the range of action taken by the team at Unite and all of their partners around the world is so inspiring. The challenges we’ve faced haven’t got any easier over the past 15 years. We’re going to go again and redouble our efforts.”

14. José María Figueres 

“Virgin Unite is a huge battery. We all go out there and do battle to make this a better world. And then we need to come in to recharge our batteries and go do battle again. Virgin Unite, with Richard at the centre always willing to say what others are not willing to, charges our batteries.”

Richard Branson speaking at Virgin Unite's 15th anniversary celebration
Image from Casey Kelbaugh

15. Richard Branson

“A big thank you to all of the Virgin Unite community – change happens because of you.”