Last Monday evening there was a grand event to raise funds for the Clinton Foundation at the Italian Embassy. The Foundation, which has been in existence since 2004 after Bill Clinton left the White House, has amassed an amazing record of achievement in ten short years.
The program kicked off with an introduction by Terry McAuliffe, Governor of Virginia, and close personal friend of the Clintons. He spoke about some of the accomplishments of the Foundation on whose board he served prior to becoming Governor. Then he introduced the two stars of the evening, Bill and Hillary Clinton. They received a huge welcome from the crowd which wasn’t surprising since so many of the people there have long histories with the Clintons going back to their days in Arkansas and even before. Many were member of the Clinton Administration and many are currently working for the government or hoping to be part of the Hillary Clinton Administration. There was an excitement in the crowd knowing that they were in the same room as Hillary who may well be our next President.
Bill spoke first and talked about the work of the Foundation and thanked the Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero and his wife for their hospitality. He also made a special effort to thank Franco Nuschese of Café Milano who catered the event and in whose restaurant both Bill and Hillary have celebrated many birthdays and other family events. He has lost none of his charm or abilities since leaving the White House. He is a little older and a lot thinner but trying to keep up with his travels around the world would still tire men half his age. He talked about how excited he has been this past year and a half since Hillary and Chelsea both joined the Foundation now called the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. He spoke of the wide range of initiatives they are working on at the foundation including; climate change, economic development, global health, health and wellness and women and girls. He explained they are working around the world from Arica, to Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean as well as in the United States.
Bill then introduced the person who many saw as the star of the evening, Hillary. She spoke to issues close to her heart and those being two foundation initiatives; the No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project related to gaining full economic empowerment for women around the world; and a new initiative the foundation is calling Too Small to Fail. Having worked in education myself I understand the importance of this new initiative which aims to help parents and businesses take meaningful actions to improve the health and well-being of children ages zero to five, so that more of America’s children are prepared to succeed in the 21st century. Hillary said, “We are working to promote new research on the science of children’s brain development, early learning and early health, and we will help parents, businesses and communities identify specific actions, consistent with the new research, that they can take to improve the lives of young children.”
After again thanking everyone for being there both her and Bill walked off the stage into the crowd and mingled with old and new friends. It was a fun evening for a totally worthwhile cause with two of the most amazing people I have ever met.
One of D.C.s premier artists, Gary Fisher, has a new show of his latest work in Rehoboth Beach at the Philip Morton Gallery. Fisher is known for his incredible use of color and this new collection from his Abstract series is no exception. It includes oil on canvas and oil on wood panels.
Fisher, a long-time environmental enforcement attorney with the US Justice Department began painting almost 30 years ago. He currently works in both D.C. and Rehoboth Beach. It isn’t always easy to get one of his pieces as much of his work is now on a commission basis. Over the years Fisher has been featured in special exhibits at the Children’s National Medical Center, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, U.S. Government buildings, and U.S. embassies around the world as part of the State Department’s ‘Art in Embassies Program.’
Fisher, a native of Wyoming studied art at the Corcoran School in D.C, and is a graduate of the Vander Zee School of Art in Alexandria, VA. He has participated in numerous community based projects over the years including painting an Elephant for Washington’s “Party Animal Project” in 2002 and a Dolphin for Rehoboth’s “Dolphin’s Around Town” in 2003. He regularly donates paintings to help raise funds for groups such as CAMP in Rehoboth and Food and Friends in Washington, D.C.
The show will continue at the Philip Morton Gallery, 47 Baltimore Avenue, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware through August 5th. It is worth the trip to see these paintings.
After a number of years, Whitman-Walker Clinic morphed into Whitman-Walker Health. It changed from being a small gay men’s health clinic often running on a shoestring budget to a thriving health center serving the entire community. That shouldn’t be construed to mean that Whitman-Walker has forgotten its roots because it hasn’t. But the needs of the LGBT community have changed along with Whitman-Walker.
That change is a big reason for changing the name of “AIDS Walk” to “Walk to End HIV.” Last week the D.C. government released its report on HIV/AIDS in the District and while we still have infections at epidemic numbers, the incidence of new infections continues to go down. With the right care people with AIDS can live long productive lives and we have it in our sights to end new infections.
Just after Whitman-Walker made its announcement of the “Walk to End HIV,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York announced his goal to end new HIV infections in New York by 2020. Many of us remember our first encounter with Whitman Walker. For me it was when a friend was diagnosed with AIDS and I called the clinic for help. Those were the days when many of us got up each morning and checked the obituary notices first saying a silent prayer we wouldn’t see another friend’s name. It was a time when going to funerals of young men seemed to be the norm and name after name got crossed off in our address books. It was a time when the majority of the money for the Clinic had to come from private donations.
With others I joined the Clinic’s Development Committee and we pleaded with friends to attend benefits and dig deeper into their pockets, which they did. Many of the donations were made in memory of a friend or loved one who died of AIDS. Thankfully things have changed and today the rate of HIV infections is going down. In the District, Mayor Vincent Gray has had success in his vision and strategy for bringing down the infection rate and Whitman-Walker Health has been a major partner in that effort.
In announcing the name change, Don Blanchon, executive director of WWH said, “This name change reflects a cataclysmic shift to what HIV is today — a chronic, manageable disease.” Dr. Raymond Martins, chief medical officer of WWH added, “When we say that we are walking to end HIV, this is not just a pipe dream. Even without a cure or vaccine, through testing, early detection, and a comprehensive care plan, we can create an AIDS-free city and hopefully be moving towards ending HIV. We have the tools and we know how to do it. Now we need everyone’s participation and support to make it a reality.”
This is an achievable goal and the incredible staff at WWH, with the help of a motivated community, will make it happen. Under the leadership of Blanchon, WWH has seen a stunning turnaround of its own. When Blanchon came to Whitman-Walker in 2006, the clinic was in dire financial trouble. Founded in 1978 as a nonprofit LGBT community health clinic it soon became a force to be reckoned with in the 1980s and ‘90s as the AIDS epidemic was at its height. But as the 21st century arrived there was continuing evidence that the clinic could not continue on the same path or it would eventually have to close its doors. Blanchon led a turnaround that saw WWC become WWH and go from being millions in the red to functioning in the black in just five years. He and his staff have built a health center for the future that will always be here to care for clients.
Now we can all help as WWH continues to lead the nation in moving to end new HIV infections. This year, the “Walk to End HIV,” formerly AIDS Walk Washington, will take place on Oct. 25 and as in previous years will begin and end at Freedom Plaza (Pennsylvania Avenue and 13th St., N.W.). Funds raised benefit the HIV programs and services of Whitman-Walker Health along with more than 20 community partners that provide critical services in and around the D.C. area. To get more information and participate in the walk, and help to reach the goal of raising $1 million and ending new HIV infections in the District, visit walktoendhiv.org
This column was first published in the Washington Blade.