Saturday, September 28 marked the 3rd Annual Honoring the Promise Gala at the iconic John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Honoring the Promise Gala Performance was hosted by bladder cancer survivor and CBS Chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer. This year’s gala raised $1.5 million for Susan G. Komen for the Cure® international and Washington DC based cancer programs.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure® hosted Honoring the Promise Gala’s Cast, VIP’s and dignitaries at a beautiful dinner on the Terrace level prior to the evening’s performance. Arriving on the red carpet at 6 p.m. included Susan G. Komen for the Cure®’s Founder and CEO, Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker; Eric Brinker; Her Excellency Dr. Christine Kaseba, First Lady of the Republic of Zambia; Senator Olympia Snowe; Representative John Dingell; Mayor Richard M. Daley; Susan Ford Bales; Naomi Judd; Jaclyn Smith; Jordin Sparks; CBS Chief Washington Correspondent and Anchor of Face The Nation, Bob Schieffer; John Castellani; Dr. V. Craig Jordan; Grace Bender; and The Sledge Grits Band.
The Honoring the Promise Gala Performance in the Eisenhower Theater began at 8 p.m. with the adorable and fun Sledge Grits Band which is comprised of four young sisters — Keiko (age 17), Ella (age 16), Mimi (age 12) and Bo-Pah (age 10). The girls proclaimed that they are the “new Komen generation”.
Next on stage was Bob Schieffer whose mother died of breast cancer, and whose wife survived it. Schieffer noted the vast difference between his mother’s and wife’s experience. At the time Schieffer’s mother was diagnosed, society only spoke about cancer in whispers, treatment was difficult and survival less likely. Schieffer said that unlike his mother, his wife was unafraid of cancer treatment. He pointed out that since 1990, there has been a 33 percent decline in breast cancer deaths in the United States, due in large part to the important work Susan G. Komen for the Cure® has done. He emphasized the importance of education and awareness, and wants to get the message out that we should not be afraid to talk about cancer.
Eric Brinker took the stage to greet the crowd which packed the theater. Eric, who is 36, reminded attendees that his aunt, Susan G. Komen, was also 36 years young when she died of breast cancer. He then introduced Susan G. Komen’s adorable granddaughters — Abbie and Maddie Komen— another part of what the Sledge Grits Band called the “new Komen generation.”
Ambassador Brinker then spoke to attendees. She spoke about the importance of funding scientific research, and how still so much needs to be done as evidenced by Washington, DC having one of the highest breast cancer mortality rates in the nation. She urged the crowd to renew our own commitment to fight breast cancer.
I am so in awe of Ambassador Brinker. I’m not sure there is a woman I admire more. Susan G. Komen for the Cure® has done so much– inspiring a global movement and impacting world health–so it is very hard to recall that 30 years ago this extraordinary achievement all began with an ordinary promise from one sister to another. Can you imagine the audacity to think keeping your promise to fight cancer would make a difference?
There was a video message from David M. Rubenstein who was unable to attend the event as he had an obligation at Duke Chapel.
Actor Richard Roundtree who is a 19-year breast cancer survivor took to the stage to present the Community Distinction Award to Maggie Daley, which was accepted by The Honorable Richard M. Daley who came on stage with his family — Lally Daley, Pat Daley, Nora Daley and her husband Sean Conroy.
Mayor Daley spoke movingly about his late wife who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and passed away late last year after nine years fighting the disease. Not only did she fight her own battle with breast cancer, she fought to create better breast cancer treatment for all women in Chicago. Mayor Daley said that Maggie believed that we should “accept and appreciate the lives we are given and help others do the same.” She did just that with The Maggie Daley Center for Women’s Cancer Care at Northwestern Memorial Hospital which offers a unique integrative, holistic approach that addresses and centralizes all of a woman’s emotional, aesthetic and physical needs during treatment.
There were breaks in the program showcasing the new Susan G. Komen for the Cure® “I am” ad campaign which feature the stories of breast cancer survivors: Sonia Briseno, Alantheia Pena, Marian Sparks, and Bridget Spence.
The always beautiful, Jaclyn Smith who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 spoke to the audience about the huge investment of $2 billion Susan G. Komen for the Cure® has made in breast cancer research which she said was “second only to the Federal government.” Komen has granted $740 million in research, with $58 million given in 2012 alone. She then presented the Scientific And Medical Distinction Award to Umberto Veronesi, M.D., an Italian surgeon and oncologist, internationally known for his important contributions spanning 50 years on prevention and treatment of breast cancer. He is known as the founder of breast-conserving surgery in breast cancer treatment with the invention of the technique of quadrantectomy which challenged the notion that cancer could only be treated with aggressive surgery. Since then, he has supported and promoted scientific research aimed at improving conservative surgical techniques, including sentinel lymph node biopsy, which has meant that axillary dissection in breast cancer with clinically negative lymph nodes is no longer performed.
The award was accepted by V. Craig Jordan, OBE, Ph.D., DSc, F. Med. Sci. Dr. Jordan is a celebrated breast cancer researcher and known as “The Father of Tamoxifen”. He is the Scientific Director at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center where he has been focused on finding clinical benefit in use of estrogen in women with breast cancer.
Secretary of Transporation Ray Lahood and Naomi Judd took the stage, which proved to be an entertaining combination. Lahood said, “I love Nancy Brinker and you can clap for that.” After the applause settled down, Lahood went on to say of Brinker, “She is the strongest, most dedicated woman I’ve ever met.”
Judd talked about her fight against Hepatitis C, and recent negative breast cancer biopsy. She also talked about Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, an initiative to expand the availability of vital cervical and breast cancer screening and treatment for women at risk in developing nations in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America by The George W. Bush Institute, The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Susan G. Komen for the Cure® and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. The Global Leadership Distinction Award was then presented to Her Excellency Dr. Christine Kaseba, First Lady of the Republic of Zambia.
Her Excellency brings to her position as First Lady of Zambia her expertise in obstetrics and gynecology, and is driving women’s health issues to the forefront in Africa. She serves as Chairperson of the Forum of African First Ladies against breast and cervical cancer. Upon accepting her award, Her Excellency thanked Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, and both former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama for their support.
Susan Ford Bales and Representative John Dingell came on stage to present the Betty Ford Lifetime Achievement Award to Senator Olympia Snowe. Bales said three words describe Senator Snowe –“leader, bipartisan and friend.” Representative Dingell cited Senator Snowe’s outstanding leadership on the Senate Cancer Coalition, Breast Cancer Research Stamp, Genetics Nondiscrimination Bill and the EARLY Act.
Senator Snowe said of Dingell, “He’s a potent and tenacious champion for health issues….especially this one.” She spoke about meeting Nancy Brinker in 1983. Snowe was very moved by Brinker’s passion and resolve to fight cancer. She said Brinker had an “I’m taking on breast cancer. Who’s with me?” attitude and that millions were with her. Senator Snowe was only 8 years old when she lost her mother to breast cancer. She said of Brinker, “I spoke about flying. You flew. You soar the heights of passionate advocacy and lifted us all up.”
John and Terry Castellani took the stage, thanking donors for their generosity and urging them to continue supporting the important work of the organization. Castellani was followed by the beautiful and talented Jordin Sparks who won American Idol at age 16, and recently starred alongside the late Whitney Houston in Sparkle. She sang three songs — “Faith”, sung acapella, “One Step at a Time” and “Celebrate”, which was the last song ever recorded with Whitney Houston. Sparks encouraged the crowd to clap and stand and enjoy the music, which everyone did!
The performance ended with an interactive display of light. All attendees were given flashlights upon entering the Eisenhower Theater. Ambassador Brinker first asked survivors to stand with their light, then family, then friends and caregivers, and then everyone to join and stand together in the fight against breast cancer.
– Miss A