There’s nothing like a good meal on a Friday afternoon in New York following an early morning flight from Atlanta. It isn’t the delectable menu selection that satisfied this writer’s palate, but the motivation, spiritual uplift and the harmony among the 200 plus influential women in civil rights, government, business and media who gathered to honor Valerie B. Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama and assistant to the president for Intergovernmental Affairs & Public Engagement. It was also the morsels of information and encouragement that Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, delivered during her remarks, ensuring that the agency she leads is working diligently to “close the gap” in health care disparities and to issue educational scholarships to African Americans from low-income communities who are seeking careers in the health care field.
This year’s Women’s Power Lunch was organized by Debra Fraser-Howze, senior vice president OraSure Technologies Inc.; and Tamika Mallory, national executive director of the National Action Network.
“The members of the National Action Network are the foot soldiers for the oppressed. We are our sister’s keeper and at the same time, our brother’s keeper,” offered the passionate Mallory, looking pristine and powerful in her white suit.
Honoree Valerie Jarrett, who was welcomed with thunderous applause, added to the spirit of fellowship with her remarks. “It feels so good to look around and see these women and a few good men. There are very few people who can talk and do. [Rev.] Al Sharpton has proven that he can talk and do,” Jarrett said.
During her keynote address, Jarrett also highlighted that the Affordable Care Act is celebrating its one-year anniversary, revealing that while the first lady was away last March after the act passed, the president had a little celebration. Jarrett disclosed the details of a conversation that evening with a humble President Obama who opened up saying that “winning the election was about creating the possibility of change” and “the passage of the Act was about actually delivering” and that’s worth celebrating.
Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed, president of Bethune-Cookman University; and 13-year-old Mary-Pat Hector were also honored.
The National Action Network is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The theme of this year’s celebration and convention is “20 Years of Struggle, 20 Years of Progress … 20 Years of Shaping History.” –yvette caslin