U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Susan Carmel Lehrman, founder of a Russian culture institute at American University, were honored by the Sustained Dialogue Institute Thursday night.
Justice Ginsburg, 83, received the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Lehrman was given the organization’s First Global Peacemaker Award.
Honorary Chair Ambassador Andrew Young and Gala Chair Judith F. Terra, in a joint statement, said:
“Justice Ginsburg has used her special talent during her lifetime to the best of her ability and in the process, she has made things a little better for all of us by helping repair the tears in society.”
The Sustained Dialogue Institute, based in Washington, D.C. and headed by The Rev. Mark Farr, is an international conflict organization whose mission is to create a world where people co-exist peacefully, justly and productively through dialogue across divides.
Lehrman’s award was “for her efforts towards greater cultural relations around the world, particularly Russia.” It was presented by Dr. James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress Emeritus.
Lehrman is founder and advisory committee chair of the Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History at American University in Washington DC. She is president of RSJ Properties in New York City.
The event brought 260 people together for the collegial dinner at the National Press Club.
In his remarks, Young, a civil rights leader and former Georgia congressman, said he grew up in a multi-cultural neighborhood flanked by Italians on one side, Irish on the other and a Nazi office nearby. So, he chuckled, he learned how to dialogue with others early in life.
In the not-so-distant past, Ginsburg said she feared for the nation should Donald J. Trump be elected president. After the election, she expressed regrets about voicing her distaste for Trump. Her political forays played out in the press like dramatic scenes from a Bizet opera, a medium that Ginsburg is especially fond of. Performing at the event was Lubana Al Quntar, who has the title of First Opera Singer in Syria.
Guests included University of the District of Columbia President Ronald Mason, film producer Avia Kempner, Dame Pamela Gordon Banks of Bermuda, Gallaudet President Dr. Roberta Cordano, DC Chamber of Commerce President Vincent Orange, HE Romain Hayes of Costa Rica and his wife Thais Gonzalez, founder of GALA Hispanic Rebecca Madonno, White House Interfaith's Dr. Barbara William Skinner, former DC City Council member Carole Schwartz, foreign policy expert Jon Utley and his wife Ana Utley of Georgetown, Barbara Hawthorn, Dr. Denise Mitchem, and Jacqueline Meers.
A young violinist who is a refugee from Aleppo, Syria, and three young women who work to make life better for others were spotlighted at the Points of Light 2016 gala at the German ambassador’s residence Thursday night on Foxhall Road.
The evening’s special guest entertainer was Mariela Shaker, 26, a virtuoso violinist who, to escape the civil war, fled her country carrying a violin case that was mistaken for a gun case at checkpoints.
At the residence, she expressed gratitude to both Germany and America for all they do to help the Syrian people.
“It is a great occasion to thank the German ambassador for the huge help and support of Germany in welcoming hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees” she said.
“Germany has given the world an example of humanity. There are not enough words to express our gratitude and appreciation.
“I feel powerless to change the current tragedy ongoing in my beloved country. However, I believe so much in the power of music to remove all barriers between people and nations. It is the bridge which has brought me to the U.S. I will keep performing to tell the story of my suffering people and country. May this music help healing the pain our world has felt and create a peace platform for everyone.”
Shaker started playing the violin at age 10 when she joined the Arabic Institute of Music in Aleppo. Her parents and brother remain in Aleppo. She has performed at a United Nations concert at the Kennedy Center and has been honored at the White House as a “champion of change” on refugee issues.
Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service, was inspired by President George H.W. Bush. It mobilizes millions of people worldwide to take action that is changing the world.
The event was under the patronage of Ambassador Peter Wittig, and Mrs. Huberta von Voss-Wittig.
One of the president's sons, Neil Bush, chairman of the Points of Light board of directors, presented awards to the following honorees:
Actor and dancer Eden Duncan-Smith. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Eden, 16, was honored for her efforts to promote universal equality and peace. Her many activities included organizing efforts in the Bring Back Our Girls initiative, when 276 girls were kidnapped from their school in Nigeria and forced into slavery by the Boko Haram. While still a pre-teen, she appeared in Tony Award-winning playwright August Wilson’s Fences and in the long-running The Lion King. Her godparents are R&B singer Lauryn Hill and Rohan Marley, son of Bob Marley, the reggae legend.
Kimberly Holder. She volunteers through New York Cares, a Points of Light affiliate, and the largest organization in New York City that mobilizes volunteers and serves more than 400,000 people in need. Over the last six years, Kimberly has worked on more than 145 projects serving a variety of residents in NYC – seniors at Lott Assisted Living; the homeless children at Clinton Family Inn. She is featured in the November issue of Good Housekeeping magazine in an article that celebrates inspiring women who volunteer.
Haley Kilpatrick. Founder and CEO of the national nonprofit organization Girl Talk Inc., which seeks to inspire all girls to develop the confidence to lead. She has been named one of Glamour Magazine’s “20 Young Women Changing the World Now,” and People Magazine’s “All-Star Among us.” She lives in Atlanta.
Points of Light was born in 1990 when President Bush beckoned for a new “organization outside of the government to call on all Americans to engage in service and for leaders of other organizations to mobilize their members to serve.”
The event host committee included David Abney, Charles E. Agee III, Michelle Bengue and Lawrence E. Bathgate II, Jean Becker, Katie and Phil Brady, Trisha and Jim Cicconi, Jacqueline and Tom Collamore, Debbie and Alan Dunn, Sandy and Wally Ganzi/Palm Restaurants, Edwina and Tom Johnson, Anita and Tim McBride/United Technologies Corporation, Pam Norley and Donn Randall, Julie and Gregg Petersmeyer, and John Schmitz/Prime Policy Group.
Applauded by an influential social and diplomat contingent celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, the Ambassador of Hungary to the United States, Dr. Réka Szemerkényi hosted a black-tie gala dinner to honor the bravery and the values of the young Hungarian freedom fighters of 1956.
The theme of the Sunday night event was underscored by “The October Storm of 1956,” a program of Csilla Szentpéteri, Hungarian concert pianist and composer. The concert was commissioned to commemorate the 60th anniversary. As the 10-member orchestra played onstage, large screens showed historical footage of Hungarians marching in the streets and in combat with the Russians.
“The revolution of 1956 was the expression of the Hungarian people’s desire for freedom and democracy,” said the Hungarian ambassador.
“It began and symbolized a movement in Eastern Europe, which eventually brought an end to Soviet occupation in this region and led to the fall of the Iron Curtain. Freedom and democracy are the central pillars of the U.S. and of the Hungarian-American relations rebuilt after 1990, which we deeply treasure.”
Among the 400 gala attendees were many who experienced the revolution up close or were decision-makers in the U.S. government during those times. Leaders included Washington’s governmental, diplomatic, corporate, and societal segments of the community, as well as prominent Hungarians who made an impact on American life.
Former New York State Governor George E. Pataki said that he remembers long ago watching the” heroes of the 1956” fight for freedom on a black and white television. “Today we honor you,” he said of the heroes.
The Hon. Dr. Emery Imre Tóth, who was a member of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution Government, and The Hon. Steven F. Udvar-Házy, a 1956 Hungarian Refugee, recalled the bloodshed of the students who had the bravery to stand up to the Russian military. As only a boy of 10, Udvar-Házy said all he could do was throw stones at the tanks. In America, he created a fortune through leasing aircraft. His $66 million gift made possible the Air and Space Museum's annex at Dulles Airport, named for him.
The gala, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, benefits the Hungarian American Cultural Association, which supports high-level Hungarian cultural events across the USA. To highlight the success of the revolution, a series of events also were held around Washington, including at the embassy, the Pentagon, National Defense University, the Capitol, and at a prominent plaza in downtown D.C.
Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security, noted the current dilemma of how to deal with the thousands of migrant refugees coming from the Middle East. In Hungary as well as in the United States, he said there must be a “balance between our security and our compassion.”
Master of ceremonies was Ari Fleischer, himself of Hungarian descent. As a young boy, Fleischer recalled with a chuckle that he would listen as his grandmother and mother spoke in Hungarian, and that sometimes the discussion was about his behavior.
As a light aside, Fleischer responded to Johnson’s earlier quip on how much he and Johnson physically look like twin brothers. “Where were you in every given day when I would have liked to send you in as press secretary,” joked Fleischer. Fleischer was press secretary for President George W. Bush.
Among those attending were Thomas Peterffy, inventor of online trading; Charles and Peter Gogolak of Washington Redskins and New York Giants place-kicking renown, respectively; and Adrienne Vittadini of her eponymous fashion empire.
Other notables included Hungarian Minister of National Development Dr. Miklós Seszták; Congressman Dennis Ross; Congresswoman Debbie Dingell; U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Colleen Bell; philanthropists Calvin Cafritz and Mary V. Mochary; songwriter Desmond Child; Chairman of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice Annette Lantos; The Hon. Aniko Gaal Schott and Nash Whitney Schott, Brigadier General (Ret.) Peter Zwack and the ambassadors of more than a dozen countries.