On a bright sunny spring day last week, a sold-out crowd of 600 supporters crowded the Ritz-Carlton ballroom to raise some $300K in support of the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center.
Under the dynamic leadership of new director Katie Albright, this 12th annual Blue Ribbon Luncheon: For the Love of a Child, also featured a knockout keynote speech by Katie’s mom, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
While the organization is inspiring in its commitment, the stats against which the Center fights are sobering:
- three million cases of child abuse and neglect, nationwide, were reported last year
- 2,000 children died as a result of that abuse
- the others suffer in different, and often, irreparable ways: emotional trauma, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, drug abuse, delinquency, teen pregnancy.
And that current bugaboo, the economy, isn’t helping matters.
“The center is receiving more requests for food than ever,” explained event co-chairman and SFCAPC Board Secretary Robert Callan, Jr. “We are getting requests from families from all walks of life; from all zip codes.”
Former client Juanita Alvarado stood before the crowd with her son and, movingly, spoke of the success she and her family have achieved because of the Center.
“13 years ago I was a total mess: I was addicted to drugs and alcohol, living on the streets and involved in an abusive relationship,” said Alvarado. “But when I looked in my children’s eyes, I saw hope; I saw the future.”
She found that hope and future by turning to the Child Abuse Prevention Center where she learned to become “and activist for myself and my children.”
“The Center helped me break the cycle of violence and create a home for my family,” said Alvarado, her voice catching in her throat. “I became a more confident woman and I could see the same spark of confidence in my children.”
This month, Alvarado graduates from City College with a degree from the Community Healthcare Program.
SFCAPC client Juanita Alavardo, her son Damien Silva and Host Committee member Kelly Halper
Katie Albright, a lawyer and mother of two young children, admitted that parenting is not easy: “We all need support.”
She also paid tribute to her mom, who as a single parent and a working mother, raised three daughters who have “survived and thrived.”
Before introducing her mother at the podium, Katie shared with the audience a charming exchange she had with her daughter who wondered what the big deal was about Grandma’s arrival in San Francisco.
“I don’t get it. Grandma Maddie was only Secretary of State. A lot of girls become Secretary of State.”
Katie’s son explained to his sister: “But she was the very first one!”
And as the “very first one” took the stage, she said that she stood before the crowd not as a former ambassador or Secretary of State, but as a mother.
“Yet, I can tell you that being a mother is actually excellent training for high level diplomacy,” said Albright, to great laughs. “After all negotiating with children about playground rules and bed times isn’t that different than trying to broker peace in the Middle East -- except that, with children, the tantrums are less frequent and do not last for two thousand years!”
Albright’s passionate and intelligent talk outlined lessons she learned from diplomacy as applied to the fight against child abuse: a comprehensive solution, critical thinking, preventive diplomacy and the belief that every individual counts.
“Society can and must do its part -- because whenever a young person is denied the right to grow up healthy and strong, we are all damaged,” declared Albright. “Make no mistake: child abuse is much more than a crime committed against one individual; it is a felony against the future.”
Paying tribute to the individuals and organizations in their support for the prevention of and fight against child abuse, Albright also had warm words of praise for her daughter.
“Included in that category is my daughter Katie who, when applying to law schools, said the reason she wanted to go was to learn a language to help children,” explained Albright. “Katie has had many terrific jobs in her career. But she has finally found the perfect place to use her knowledge to help children.”
Among Albright’s many post-White House accomplishments, this gracious diplomat (and mother of three; grandmother of six) and author founded the Albright Group (an international strategy consulting firm) in addition to serving as a top national security advisor to President Barack Obama, the Chairperson of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, a Distinguished Professor of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, and a Board member for the Council on Foreign Relations.
Phew. Was it difficult, we wondered, to get on her mom’s schedule?
“She would do anything,” said Katie, with a broad, warm smile, “For her daughters!”
Check the photos out below.
Event co-chairs Anne Symon and Robert Callan, Jr.
Tipping Point Director Daniel Lurie, Jennifer Siebel Newsom with Host Committee member and SFCAPC volunteer Cathy Topham
Carlin Anton and Host Committee member JaMel Perkins
Tedi Vriheas, Nicolas King, AT&T Executive Director and Event sponsor Lynn Bunim, SFCAPC Board Member Capt. John Ehrlich and Hazel Woon
Meagan Levitan, Ian Picache and his fiancee, Host Committee member Patricia Calfee
Barbara and Robert Callan
Eileen Michael and her mom, Elaine McKeon
Francesca Schuler and her mom, Tila Hancock
Hilary and Geoff Callan
Susie Tompkins Buell and Cathy Topham