An audience of mostly women filled the banquet hall of the Woman’s National Democratic Club in Northwest D.C. Thursday evening to honor four women in the first Women Who Make a Difference awards, organized by the Top Ladies of Distinction D.C. chapter.
The honorees represented a spectrum of public service in the nation’s capital, from the rising political career of D.C. mayoral front-runner Muriel Bowser to the first female African American U.S. senator, former Ambassador to New Zealand Carol Moseley Braun.
“It’s very humbling, because I’m doing what I’m supposed to do,” said another honoree, Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, the director of the Department of Education’s Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. “To have people wanting to recognize that is very extraordinary,” she added.
Before the speeches and awards, guests sipped sparkling Barefoot brand wine, sampled vegetable and hummus plates and performed a magician’s feat by disappearing a fruit sampling, leaving behind only the clean mirror that was beneath. Rum cupcakes, on a different table, received veritable support from the audience when the ceremony began and the speaker thanked the sponsors of the event.
Among those in the couple hundred audience members was Malikah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X, as well as the current and past national presidents of Top Ladies of Distinction.
Bowser spent a couple minutes recognizing her “opportunity” to fulfill a leadership position in the District, thanking the residents of Ward Four, which she has represented in the D.C. Council since 2007. She then thanked women for providing the opportunity through years of fighting for equality. “I am so grateful to be able to carry the baton to so many women who have fought that fight for decades and decades and decades,” Bowser said.
Top Ladies of Distinction chose to honor women that “step up and give us causes and give us solutions,” the national president of the Texas-based group, Audrie Lawton, said.
“It’s what they’ve stepped up and done while they are in those offices,” Lawton said. “It gives us the opportunity to highlight their programs.”
Three of the four women on the honoree list, which also includes Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, currently hold government positions. Moseley Braun is in the private sector, but the Illinois Democrat already has a cemented public legacy.
In the "VIP" room before the ceremony, Moseley Braun reflected on her career working as an ambassador during the Clinton Administration, as a senator, and also on her career since leaving Washington.
She is optimistic that the country is progressing with regards to race relations, and that the new generation is more progressive — even if there are still challenges to overcome.
“Young people are more inclined to be open to people who are different,” she said. “Young people are much more open to talent.”
Since leaving D.C., she has spent time developing an organic beverage company. She is passionate about sustainability, she said, and it has been that passion that has driven her focus in politics and business. To her, sustainability is an unavoidable public policy topic.
“I don’t know what subversive decorator decided to put this up,” Moseley Braun said, describing a New Yorker cartoon she had noticed framed on her hotel room wall.
The cartoon showed men in suits, water flooding to their knees, agreeing they needed to address climate change.
“We don’t have a choice but to address this issue,” Moseley Braun concluded.
“Eleanor Roosevelt must be smiling right now,” Moseley Braun said to roaring applause from the crowd. “At the end of the day, that’s how we are all judged, (by) if we service others.”
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