In Their Own Words: John Graham & Robin Sandenburgh

Hannah Graham, daughter of IFC Chief Environmental Specialist John Graham, was 18 years old when she was abducted and murdered by a stranger in September 2014. During the 2018 IFC Sustainability Exchange, John spoke with his friend and colleague Robin Sandenburgh about Hannah’s legacy. 

Transcript:

John Graham: We think about her all the time. We miss her terribly. She was a very sparky, dynamic, lively personality. And that enthusiasm and joie de vivre have really inspired others, including ourselves. She brought so much to our lives for the short period she was with us and we’re grateful we knew her.

Robin Sandenburgh: One thing we’ve spoken about is how that has translated into yours and Sue’s efforts to honor the very kind of vivid legacy she created.

John: When Sue my wife and I were in Charlottesville trying to understand what had happened to Hannah, we thought, what are the positive breadcrumbs we can pull from this? And the idea of the [University of Virginia] award was to try to give an opportunity for these young students to do the type of work that we feel Hannah would have wanted to do, had she lived.

John: I’m curious a little bit, Robin, how the events of that September were perceived in Washington. I was in Charlottesville with Sue, and we were in the middle of this strange situation that we never expected to be in, it was like crime drama on TV and there I was, right in the middle of it. What was it like from here?

Robin: There was an outpouring of ‘what can we do,’ there was that whole group that came down for the search party. It really made me think of IFC and the World Bank Group as a community with a deep sense of empathy for one of our own.

“I am very proud that the World Bank has been able to develop the Development Marketplace on Addressing Gender-Based Violence which is run every year in Hannah’s memory. This is work that is sorely needed.” – John Graham, Chief Environmental Specialist, IFC

John: The community has been remarkable within the World Bank Group. I am very proud that the World Bank has been able to develop the Development Marketplace on Addressing Gender-Based Violence which is run every year in Hannah’s memory. This is work that is sorely needed. And as you know, we are doing work on promoting women’s role in society, including keeping women safe in our IFC work program. And this is probably a catalyst for something that would have happened anyway. And it may have happened sooner and be better resourced than it would otherwise have been.

Robin: Maybe it would have happened, but it wouldn’t have been personal, which seems odd to say personal on the part of an institution. But when people see what the Development Marketplace has been doing, or see you at a gender-based violence event and kickoff, it’s more meaningful. Probably in the same way it would be if you had a friend who came forward in the Me Too movement. It takes it from something we care about as a social issue to something you feel a personal connection and commitment to.

John: I’m aware of that, and I am in this role now, which I never wanted, but I think I have a responsibility to embrace it and go forward, and I am very committed to advance women’s safety in the projects we finance and where we advise, our external business, if you like. I am very committed to maintaining the award that we have with UVA.

Robin: You said several times, ‘we are overwhelmed by this outpouring of support and generosity and people from all over the world.’

John: They’ve written supportive letters, said they’re praying for us, they send us gifts—just totally unsolicited acts of kindness from people we don’t know. It’s very encouraging, and I think we need a bit more kindness in the world, and in this country at the moment.