Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Promise Kept

Honoring the Promise

by contributor Donna Shor
Photos courtesy of Susan G. Komen Foundation
Videos by Janet Donovan

Any gala that begins with mezzo soprano Denyce Graves-Montgomery singing the
dramatic “Habanera” from “Carmen,” a role she has made her own, and ends with
Howard University’s Afro Blue Jazz Chorus harmonizing to a hot jazz beat has to be a hit, and it was.

The Honoring the Promise Gala raised $2 million for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Foundation in its struggle to fight breast cancer.

Amb. Nancy Brinker  Hoda Kotb
Entertainers and Washington personalities took the stage to award—or receive―awards for their endeavors, emceed by NBC’s Hoda Kotb whose warm humor was pitch-perfect during a program that had some tearful moments.  

Grammy-winner Natasha Bedingfield sang from her album “Unwritten,” which sold 2.3 million copies, and Grammy-winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari played her own composition.

Betty Ford, our always outspoken former First Lady, was honored posthumously with the Lifetime Achievement Distinction Award.  Her daughter Susan Ford Bales spoke emotionally of her mother’s courage during her illness, and her 36 years as a breast cancer survivor. 

Andrea Mitchell
Presenters were NBC’s Andrea Mitchell and the Komen group’s founder Nancy Brinker, who emphasized the impact of Betty Ford’s honesty about her illness, shattering the stigma of breast cancer, a formerly taboo topic. This openness has aided the disclosure and treatment of the scourge for millions around the world.

"In September, 1974, a wife and mother confronted four words that had shattered women’s lives for decades:  “I have breast cancer.”  That woman was my mom;  That woman was First Lady of the United States;  That woman was Betty Ford.
But Mom then chose to do something that was unheard of for any woman with breast cancer, particularly the First Lady.  Where once there had been secrecy and shame, she shined a light of openness and candor.  Where once there had been darkness and fear, she shined a light of strength and hope.  And on that day, Betty Ford changed women’s health -- forever.
Earlier this summer, we said goodbye to Mom at the age of 93 – a 37 year breast cancer survivor.  This honor tonight would have made her exceptionally proud because she always admired Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s own special light of hope and candor. Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of Mom, thank you from the bottom of my heart."  Susan Ford Bales


Philanthropist Nancy Brinker, our former ambassador to Hungary, promised her sister Susan G. Komen who was dying of breast cancer, that she would dedicate herself to helping pursue a cure for the scourge.  

Since then she has organized chapters and aided fundraising events here and abroad to keep that promise.  She is leaving shortly for China to spread her work there.

David Rubenstein, founder of the gala, citing the now-estimated two years before a cure is found, credited the work to raise needed funds to Nancy Brinker and the
dedicated breast cancer survivors and volunteers who have helped.

Wolfe Blitzer  Amb. Nancy Brinker  David Rubenstein

Denyce Graves

Awardees and presenters included local philanthropist Annie Totah and for the FedEx Global Leadership Award, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Gina Adams, the pretty FedEx VP who leads in so many “good cause” around town.  Medical stars honored were Sandra Swain M.D., Charles Perou M.D. and Ellen Segal, Ph.D, founder of Friends of Cancer Research, honored respectively for Community Distinction and by the Danaher Corporation for Scientific and Medical Distinction and Advocacy.
Opening the show were Susan Sonley, Roberta Carlin and Ambassador Mun Figueres.  Film and TV stars included Vanessa Bell Calloway, Jeniffer Beals, Donald Faison, Kerry Washington and Amanda Topaz, the aerial artist who dangled on silks above the crowd.

The Red Carpet

The Gala