Monday, April 25, 2011

Syracuse trip

I don't think it's ever been 10 days since my previous blog... Oops! But it kind of explains life lately.

When I flew home from LA last Monday afternoon, I immediately went to a cocktail reception and special dinner for the Women's Campaign Forum. WCF is an organization that backs and funds female politicians in the early stages of their races. The themed question was "When do we need women doing [xyz] in politics? Now, more than ever!" Among 500 attendees at the reception were 11 Congresswomen from all over the country, specifically Carolyn Maloney whom I was there in connection to, in additional to past and future politicians. Following the reception, we went to private dinners around the city, mine hosted by Fern Hurst, with private chefs from famous restaurants in NYC.

 Co-Hosts: Sybil Shainwald, Marcia Sudolsky, Elizabeth “Betsey” Wood
Upper East Side- Fifth Avenue & 87th St.
Dinner by: Peter Yurastis, Fine Food Affairs
Special Guests:

Claire Buffie Miss New York; Patricia Duff Founder, The Common Good; Joan Helpern Co-founder, Joan & David; Annette Insdorf Director of Undergraduate Film, Columbia University; Julie Johnson Winemaker & Owner, Tres Sabores; Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-14); Hoboken City Council President Beth MasonMichelle Paige Paterson Former First Lady of New York; Donald And Shelley Rubin Founders, Rubin Museum of Art 

It was such an inspiration and honor to be recognize amongst these amazing people. Of course the hot topic of the evening was whether or not I'm going to fun for office. Although I don't see it for myself right now, there have been many people this year who see that for me. But then again, I didn't see myself ever doing a pageant, but I have the best job ever. So we shall see!

Tuesday morning - early early morning - I headed back to JFK, definitely almost missing my flight: I woke up a 7;18 for an 8:30 flight from JFK (which is appx 1 hr from my house.) Well, I made it and attribute it completely to good karma. I was off to Syracuse University to deliver a keynote address at their Social Justice Awards, presented by the College of Social Work and the LGBT Resource Center. It was a very nice evening, honoring Debra Person for her work in helping women in the community through a domestic violence home and working towards opening her own home for women. Quite an inspirational story: she grew up in and out of homelessness, endured abuse, became addicted to alcohol and drugs, and the story goes on. But in her later life was able to see the problems surrounding her, and recognized those she had lived through and experienced first hand, and worked to tackle those problems head on with her own hands.
with Debra Person, recipient of the Daniel and Mary Lou Rubenstein Social Justice Award
Lorna Rose, a former Miss NY contestant, was an integral part of getting me to the University and was so wonderful to me the entire time I was there in addition to giving quite a stellar introduction to my speech! It was really great getting to know her better, meeting Molly who is president of Social Workers United, and to experience the real and relaxed Syracuse University with Lorna, Molly and Becca was so fun!
Social Workers United
The next day, I visited Upstate Children's Hospital, a fairly new and absolutely beautiful Children's Miracle Network Hospital. Following a tour of the hospital, meeting a few patients, I went to the weekly Wednesday family reception where the hospital continually seeks feedback from the patients' families in order to serve them better.

That night, the mood changed as I attended the "Take Back the Night" rally and speak out against domestic, sexual and dating violence. Hundreds of students gathered in the University Chapel and listened to a few stories and keynote address. They marched even in the rain to make a statement and create awareness of violence and returned to the chapel for a speak out. It was so moving. Person after person stood up to tell their personal story about survival. Although I have never had a direct relation to domestic violence, it even opened my eyes to the fact that it can happen to anyone, even those we least expect. Without breaking confidentiality agreed upon that night, I do want to mention the gist of one story that defied stereotype. A woman stood up to tell her story of being abused by a woman and saved by a man - perhaps the complete opposite of what we generally think of. This resonated with me, reminding once again that we can never assume anything about anyone or predetermine judgement based on "the norm" because what is normal anyway? I shared the importance of taking your personal stories into conversations, no matter how private or public because they have the biggest impact on changing and opening minds. Amazing night.

Well, one more thing...
Notes that impacted me from the keynote address - so wise and challenging:

Use the past as a place of reference, not residence.

If we spend our time looking in the rear view mirror we crash.
Challenge to GROW:1. Give your voice
2. Release - let it
and them go
3. Overcome fear
4. Win

Take your mess and make it your message.

Point at yourself...See, you point at your heart, not your head (your mind). So use your heart to influence your mind.

And that was Syracuse. Good trip.

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