Community Palette

Natwar Gandhi’s Memoir: ‘Still the Promised Land’

October 6, 2019

I first met Natwar Gandhi when he was Deputy CFO for the District of Columbia working with then CFO and future Mayor, Anthony Williams. He was a quiet man focused on rebuilding the Districts financial credibility. I had no idea about his background and early life in India but only saw him as an accomplished gentleman who had a Ph.D in accounting and was helping and supporting Williams. 

Natwar Gandhi (Photo by: Natwar Gandhi) Natwar Gandhi

 

I was honored recently when he sent me an email asking if he could send me an autographed copy of his book, Still The Promised Land, and asking for my current address. I was doubly honored when he wrote “Let me take this opportunity to appreciate your wise counsel and guidance that helped me navigate through treacherous political waters of the District while I was its CFO.” I am sure not much I said to Nat were things he didn’t already know, but I treasure the times we sat over lunch at his favorite place, the Metropolitan Club. We would meet and chat about politics and the District.  

 

After sending him my address Nat sent another email with his wonderful sense of humor on display writing “the book is on its way to you for your reading pleasure, however, if you have any trouble sleeping, please open chapter 12 that deals with taxation and that should put you to sleep right away, even if you are suffering from insomnia.”. Well even if chapter 12 may do that this book is great read and helps us to understand again how America to so many is still the ‘promised land’ where with hard work anything is possible. It is Nat’s appreciation to our country and in many ways the story of so many immigrants, my parents included.

 

Nat writes about his book “The book narrates the story of my life that began in a dusty Indian village with no paved streets, no electricity, no telephone and no running water, and ended up in Washington, DC where I had the chance to play a crucial role in the financial rejuvenation of the nation's capital as its chief financial officer. It is a classic immigrant story that reaffirms my faith in the United States as a nation of immigrants, full of opportunities for all those who come here, work and remake their lives. Only through an enlightened, judicious and measured immigration policy can America achieve its manifest destiny as a great nation.”  

 

This is a book about both Nat and the District of Columbia. It is the story of how a few people fought to bring our city out of bankruptcy. There is a foreword by Alice Rivlin who knew Nat well and so admired him as a man and for his work. Reading this book you will come to realize Nat is a multi-faceted person; he is an accountant, a writer, an actor, a husband and a father. Reading his story in Still the Promised Land will once again make you realize if we allow the policies of the Trump administration toward immigrants to stand we all lose as individuals; but more than that the nation loses. 

 

 

 

 


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Alphonso David Shines at Human Rights Campaign Dinner

September 30, 2019

This was one of the most low-key dinners HRC has had in many years. Very few members of Congress, they were on recess, and little star-power except for the amazing Ricky Martin who received the HRC National Visibility Award. The keynote speaker was Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). 

 Peter Brett and Kyle Walton (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Peter Brett and Kyle Walton

But none of that mattered because the new President of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Alphonso David, was the real star of the night. He made an auspicious start with his first speech which was both inspirational and galvanizing. 

Alphonso is the first person of color to lead the organization in its 40 year history and the time is right. He is a brilliant choice.  According to his Wikipedia page Alphonso was born in Silver Spring, Maryland and at the age of one his family moved to Monrovia, Liberia. His family was immersed in politics with his father becoming Mayor of his city and his great uncle, William Tolbert, was President of Liberia. During the coup in 1980 his uncle was assassinated and his father incarcerated and later sought political asylum in in the United States. Alphonso came back to the United States and attended college and law school here. 

During his speech Alphonso teared up as he told the story of how his father reacted when he told him he was gay, disowning him and telling him he would rather he had never been born. But it clearly molded who he is as an out and proud gay man of color willing to stand tall and speak out for himself and his community. Alphonso has been an attorney with Lambda Legal and before taking the position with HRC was Chief Counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York. After he walked the red, or in the case of HRC blue, carpet at the dinner I had the chance to say hello and he laughed when I mentioned to him my first meeting with Andrew was when he was nineteen during the Mayoral campaign of 1977 which Mario Cuomo lost to Ed Koch. 

 Samir AL-Hawamdeh and David Franco (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Samir AL-Hawamdeh and David Franco

As I said he was the star of the evening. His speech ‘The Dream; seeing beyond ourselves’ more than once brought people to their feet. It made people think. He began forcefully asking the crowd, “Who are you? — An immigrant, an American or both? Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Straight? Black, White, Latinx, Asian or Native American?”  Going on to say “We all have identities that deserve to be respected and celebrated. But today we are at a crossroads in this nation, where our identities will either serve as a tool to achieve liberation, or as a tool to further oppress us.” That was the crux of his speech. That we must respect each other and see ourselves when looking at someone different from us. He went on to name the eighteen transgender women of color who have been murdered this year and saying, “Regardless of how we self-identify, we share a common dream -- the dream of full equality. It is the dream that led Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera to fight back at Stonewall. It is the dream that led Harvey Milk to run for public office. It is the dream that led Edie Windsor and Jim Obergefell to fight discrimination all the way to our nation’s highest court. It is the dream that led each of you to get involved with this incredible organization. And it is the dream that brought me here tonight. The promise of this organization and this movement must be fully realized. As I stand before you as the first person of color to lead the Human Rights Campaign in its nearly 40 year history, I promise you I will fight as hard and as long as necessary to make the dream of full equality a reality for all of us. All I ask in return is that you make that same promise. As the great Toni Morrison said, “the danger of losing humanity must be met with more humanity.” 

People jumped to their feet with the recognition HRC has a new leader who will motivate our community, stand tall and fight for us. The people in the room committed to joining him in that fight.   


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'Sizzling Science': Nutrition Guru Taylor Wallace’s New Cookbook

September 23, 2019

Taylor Wallace, PhD, CFS, FACN has published his first cookbook, "Sizzling Science." Taylor wrote this cookbook for fun and to honor his Mamawl, the name he called his grandmother who first got him excited about cooking. Taylor often worked on the cookbook at Java House on 17th and Q Street. He would talk about some of the recipes and debated book titles with friends. I think he came up with the perfect title as he is all about science. 

While I am not a chef, those who know me have accused me of using my oven to store sweaters, I am lucky to have friends who generously invite me to occasional home-cooked meals. Those who have already made some of the dishes using the recipes in this great new cookbook have said they are easy to make and delicious. I am waiting for a friend to bake and let me try the Kentucky State Fair “Grand Champion” Sour Cream Coffee Cake on page twenty-three that Taylor and Mamawl created. Hint, Hint Taylor! It won the blue ribbon each of the eight years they entered it into the fair and won the all-around Grand Champion for all foods entered in the Kentucky State Fair three times. 

(Photo by: )

Taylor wanted people to be able to use his cookbook to prepare a full day’s meals. I kidded him suggesting maybe the breakfast section should have come last. Sizzling Science is separated into eight sections with the first being the science behind great-tasting dishes. Then breakfast, Appetizers and nibbles, Soups salads and stews, side dishes, main dishes, and desserts. Then to complete your meal and make sure your company goes home not only full and happy but totally relaxed there is the Drinks and cocktails section. Now that the cookbook is finished I can’t imagine Taylor having much time to cook. As he will tell you his real world doesn’t leave much time for cooking.

Taylor is Principal and CEO at the Think Healthy Group, Inc. and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at George Mason University. Prior to founding the Think Healthy Group, Inc., Taylor served as the Senior Director of Science Policy and Government Relations at the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) and the Senior Director of Scientific Programs at the National Bone Health Alliance (NBHA). He has extensive experience and expertise in developing and implementing comprehensive and evidence-based legislation, policy, and regulatory programs in the fields of nutrition and food science. His academic research interests are in the area of nutritional interventions to promote health and prevent the onset of chronic disease.

Taylor received his PhD and an MS in Food Science and Nutrition from The Ohio State University and a BS in Food Science and Technology from the University of Kentucky.  He currently manages and operates a large food and nutrition blog, and is a co-host of the mainstream weekly radio show, Risky Behavior™️, where he provides science-based nutrition, food safety, and food technology information to the general public and consumer media. 

Taylor is also a regular guest and contributor to the Dr. Oz Show, NBC4 Washington and has appeared on most major national news stations throughout the United States. He has served on the Boards of the Institute of Food Technologists, Alliance for Food and Health, Feeding Tomorrow, Phi Tau Sigma, Capital Pride Alliance, and DC LGBTQ+ Community Research Advisory Board.  He is a fellow of the American College of Nutrition and is the 2015 recipient of the Charles A. Regus Award, given by the American College of Nutrition for original research and innovation in the field of nutrition. Taylor is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Magnesium Education & Research, the Editor-in-chief of the Journal of Dietary Supplements, Deputy Editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, editor of six academic textbooks, and author of over 50 peer-reviewed manuscripts and book chapters. 

So yes he is a busy guy.  But everyone can take advantage of and enjoy the fruits of Taylor’s fun project, Sizzling Science, which makes a great gift for any friend or family member who loves to cook.


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