“This book is an eloquent and informative testament to Julia Taft, a heroic, indefatigable, and prodigiously effective champion of refugees and other victims of natural and man-made disasters. In capturing the essence, the scope, and the spirit of Julia’s lifework and legacy, Ann Blackman has brought to bear her prodigious reportorial and narrative skill, along with an intimate personal knowledge of Julia. The result is a labor of love and a fitting tribute to a remarkable individual and to the entire field of humanitarian activism.”-Strobe Talbott, President, Brookings Institution
“The story of Julia Taft should serve as an inspiration to us. This vibrant and funny woman never stood by daunted by the size of the world’s problems or the stubbornness of its politicians. Instead, she stepped up whenever she saw people in need—whether it be survivors of natural disasters, victims of atrocities, sufferers from famines and disease, refugees from wars —and found a way to help them. With admiration and amusement, Ann Blackman tells the story of her friend and extended family member who changed the way the United States responds to disasters, proving that one person truly can make a difference in thousands, if not millions, of lives. “
-Cokie Roberts, Senior news analyst, ABC News, National Public Radio and trustee of Save the Children
OFF TO SAVE THE WORLD: How Julia Taft Made a Difference
By Ann Blackman
For more than three decades, Julia Taft was one of the United States’ top humanitarian relief experts, friend and ally of the world’s most impoverished people. She was, simply put, a legend in her field.
In OFF TO SAVE THE WORLD: How Julia Taft Made a Difference (Maine Authors Publishing, November 1, 2011) veteran journalist and author Ann Blackman paints a mosaic of a witty, determined and idealistic woman who not only ran some of the most dramatic relief efforts of her generation, but also influenced the debate at home as the international spotlight moved from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to the collapse of the Soviet Union to ethnic conflicts in Africa and the former Yugoslavia.
“At a time when undeveloped countries are overwhelmed by refugee problems and people in the developed world are struggling with the consequences of immigration, Taft’s story deserves to be told,” Blackman said. Taft, who married into a famous Republican family, dedicated herself to restoring honor and dignity to those far less fortunate than herself. Starting in 1975 when she was 32 years old, Taft directed the task force that managed the resettlement of refugees from the Vietnam War. Over the years, she basically invented the way the United States government responds to natural and man-made disasters around the world. She also directed:
• The American relief effort during the Armenian earthquake.
• Operation Lifeline Sudan.
• Harrowing refugee relief missions during the siege of Sarajevo and the crisis in Kosovo.
• The United Nations task force that coordinated the recovery effort in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban government in 2001.
Blackman also describes Taft’s fascinating and enduring friendship with the Dalai Lama, whom she
met in 1999 when she was the State Department’s coordinator for Tibetan issues. His Holiness counseled Taft when she was battling cancer.
There are poignant stories and funny ones, heroic moments and terrifying ones, all woven into an emotional and adventurous life. There was no one like Julia Taft.
Ann Blackman is the author of Seasons of Her Life, a biography of Madeleine Korbel Albright (Scribner/Simon & Schuster, 1998) and co-author of The Spy Next Door The Extraordinary Secret Life of Robert Philip Hanssen, about the FBI agent who spied for the Russians, (Little Brown, 2002.) She is also the author of Wild Rose, a biography of Civil War spy Rose O’Neale Greenhow (Random House, 2005.)
Blackman worked at TIME magazine and The Associated Press, specializing in reporting about the life of the nation’s power brokers and their families. She has appeared on TV and radio shows including A&E Biography, Washington Week in Review, The Diane Rehm Show, Hardball with Chris Matthews, CNN, Fox Morning News, The Charlie Rose Show, Book Notes/CSPAN, The Hill, To the Best of Our Knowledge and The Jim Bohannon Show. She lives in Washington, DC, and on the coast of Maine.
OFF TO SAVE THE WORLD by Ann Blackman
On sale: November 1, 2011/ Hardcover $24.95, softcover $12.95
Also available as an eBook $4.99.
Advance Praise Includes:
"Julia was the real All-American. Leading humanitarian operations from the front, never taking no for an answer but then racing home to be mother and wife, Ann Blackman has captured a Julia that personified the very best of her country."
-Mark Malloch-Brown, former Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations.
“Julia Taft was one of a kind. Ann Blackman has captured this extraordinary woman with a passion that equals her passionate personality. She brought a voice, a commitment and tireless purpose to our cause, making US NGOs a force to be reckoned with in policy circles.”
-William S. Reese, President and CEO, International Youth Foundation
“Everyone who knows Julia Taft has a favorite “Julia story” and Off to Save the World is a treasure chest of stories about an incredible individual whose passion, wit, and charm empowered people impacted by disasters worldwide. I had the privilege to work with and learn from Julia and will be using the chapters detailing Julia’s involvement with Operation Lifeline Sudan, the Armenian Earthquake, the War in Bosnia, etc., as case studies that illuminate the qualities of leaders in the humanitarian field for our students in the Master of Science in Disaster Resilience Leadership program at Tulane University.”
-Ky Luu, Executive Director, Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy, Tulane University
“Julia Taft was a consummate humanitarian whose intelligence, openness, and deep caring for the world’s most vulnerable people will continue to be sorely missed. Ann Blackman has written a highly entertaining and very enlightening book about Julia’s unusually productive life. We need more books like this and more people like Julia Taft.”
-Ron Waldman, Founding Director, Program on Forced Migration and Health, Mailman School of Public Health Columbia University