(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

This Ain't Burundi

Two days after my dinner with Jean Kennedy Smith we had our big gala event at the Waldorf Astoria. This year I was able to bring Priya to enjoy the festivities. It’s usually a grand affair with some celebrities, good food and entertainment. It's always a shock to my system coming from one of the poorest countries on earth. It's a hard not to think about the endless contrasts. Nonetheless, the evening raises a lot of money and we couldn't do what we do in the field without them, many of whom are very engaged, advocate on our behalf and visit the countries where we work.

Scott Pelley at the Waldorf
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg kicked off the evening saying a few nice words about our organization and also the evening’s honoree, John C. Whitehead. This was followed by a video tribute to Whitehead, a former Deputy Secretary of State, businessman, philanthropist, etc,. from all six living former U.S. Secretaries of State. One of the former secretaries, Henry Kissinger, took the stage to thank Whitehead for his work on behalf of refugees, noting that he himself had come to the U.S. as a young refugee.
Mayor Bloomberg, nonetheless found time to come during a busy week dealing with the hurricane
 Other speakers included actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, who described her visit to Haiti with our organization; Sahar Adish, an Afghan refugee who returned to Afghanistan to help build an emergency department at a Kabul maternity hospital; Scott Pelley, CBS Evening News anchor and co-chair of the IRC Overseers and Chef David Burke, a celebrity chef that I've never heard of but apparently he's well known in the US, who talked about his work with one of our US programs.  In a surprise appearance that pleased particularly the older members of the audience of over 400, actress, director, and one of our board leadership, Liv Ullmann, paid tribute to George Rupp, who is stepping down as IRC president next summer. For those who are not familiar with Ms. Ullmann, at 73 she's been in dozens of movies since the 1960's.
Henry Kissinger, man knows how to give a good speech
The evening was brought to a conclusion with a performance by award-winning singer, actor and Telemundo sensation Jencarlos Canela, who has joined with other young artists to raise awareness about the work of our organization.
the real guest of honor
Prior to the evening our challenge had been what to do with Kiran during the evening. One of my colleagues at HQ offered to babysit her at our hotel room while we were at the dinner. We don't have much of a history of leaving Kiran in other peoples' care so it was a new-ish step for us. It was SO nice of her and it all worked out well. When we returned to the hotel she was asleep sprawled out on the bed, halo intact.

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