Celebrities and Members of Congress Praise Volunteers at Annual Banquet

June 24, 2009
by Robyn Shepherd, RESULTS Communications Officer

After all of the weeks of preparation and pre-lobby day anxiety, the participants of the International Conference returned to the Washington Court Hotel on the evening of June 23 happy, emboldened, and exhilarated from their day on the Hill. Overall, RESULTS partners visited over 250 congressional offices that day, lobbying on issues such as global health, education for all, domestic health care reform and microcredit. Some groups even allowed for members back home to participate in congressional meetings by conference call, so as many voices from home regions could be incorporated as possible.

Traditionally, the completion of Lobby Day and the International Conference is celebrated with the RESULTS annual banquet. This year, we were lucky enough to have actress Valerie Harper emcee the event. Valerie was in town for her role as Tallulah Bankhead in the play Looped, and has a long history of involvement with RESULTS, including serving on our board of directors. “We’re all gathering together as partners in this work, and it’s tangible in this room,” she said. “I’m so pleased to be here with you.”

The banquet is also where we traditionally bestow the annual Cameron Duncan Media Award to a journalist or publication that has demonstrated excellence in highlighting issues related to poverty. This year, the winner was the Times of Trenton, in honor of 20 years of partnership with our Delaware Valley RESULTS group. Accepting was Diana Lee Groden, opinions editor for the Times. She acknowledged the importance of the community’s input to the editorial pages, and noted that when the Times was forced to cut column inches, they chose to keep the editorial pages intact. She also praised longtime RESULTS volunteer Phyllis Alroy, who forged the group’s relationship with the paper, and is known in the newsroom as “the little lady with fire in her eye — Phyllis the Persistent — Phyllis the Positive, the Tireless, and the Passionate.”

Also in attendance were several members of Congress who have worked closely with RESULTS partners through the years. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) praised RESULTS as “one of the first groups who recognized the importance of educating women.” He also encouraged volunteers to continue to engage their elected officials, even if they get discouraged. “In this town you have to be the squeaky wheel,” he said.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) also spoke of the need to make sure more children, especially girls, receive a quality education, in order to raise a new generation of leaders. “If we were to turn over more of the decision-making power and the ability to determine priorities to the women of the world, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.”

Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) also spoke well of his local group. “You inspire us to make sure we remember what we’re here for; that we’re trying to change things for the better for the country and for the world,” he said. He compared the idea that poverty can be ended to the civil rights struggle in the 1950s. “How did you get people to think about segregation in 1956,” he asked? He urged people not to give up on what may seem impossible to others.

Canadian MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis of Winnipeg told of her visit with RESULTS Canada to Bangladesh, which was a powerful experience for her. “We have an absolute obligation when elected to fight for a change locally and globally,” she said. She also made a reference to the serenity prayer, which asks God for help in accepting the things we cannot change. Instead, she said, “our prayer should be for God to help me to change the things I cannot accept.”

Although the conference officially concluded with the end of the banquet, many partners remained in Washington for final meetings with congressional aides. We’re delighted that so many partners and distinguished guests came out for the conference, especially in such lean economic times. The enthusiasm and participation of so many is a true testament to the passion and commitment of our volunteers. See you next year!

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