Susan G. Komen is the world’s largest breast cancer organization, funding more breast cancer research than any other nonprofit while providing real-time help to those facing the disease. Since its founding in 1982, Komen has funded nearly $840 million in research and provided $1.7 billion in funding to screening, education, treatment and psychosocial support programs serving millions of people in more than 30 countries worldwide. Komen was founded by Nancy G. Brinker, who promised her sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would end the disease that claimed Suzy’s life.
Journalist and former “Good Morning America” host Joan Lunden emceed the Susan G. Komen gala at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In June 2014, Lunden was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, a rare and aggressive form of the disease.
Carlyle Group CEO David Rubenstein was the recipient of the Mission Advancement Award. He explained that it is inappropriate to speak about money at the Kennedy Center but that he spoke to the Chairman, who also happens to be himself, and received special approval to mention that the event raised almost $2 million. The proceeds will fund grants for Komen’s 19 breast cancer grantees in the National Capital Region. Mr. Rubenstein also generously offered to contribute an additional $250,000 to match new gifts from the evening. David continued with saying:
“Thanks to events like Honoring the Promise, we have been able to invest more than $35 million in more than 300 community grants to serve low-income, uninsured and medically underserved women in the National Capital Region”
While Laura Bush was not able to attend the gala, she did appear in a video message to discuss the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon charitable foundation that builds on existing healthcare programs to integrate cervical cancer prevention in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Laura also provided a quote that she admires of Mr. Rubenstein:
“Happiness is one of the most delusive things in life but happiness is one of the things you can clearly bring about yourself if you help others.”
Judith A. Salerno, M.D., who is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Susan G. Komen, explained that it is mission of Komen to end breast cancer. Komen seeks to find gaps in healthcare coverage and provide help to those in the community who have fallen through the cracks of the healthcare system. Dr. Salerno explained:
“The greatest gift you can give to those with cancer is the hope that something may be done to help them.”
The highlight of the evening was Rep. Wasserman Schultz, who was the recipient of the Betty Ford Lifetime Achievement Award. Rep Wasserman Schultz is a breast cancer survivor and has provided critical women’s health legislation. She has labored to implement programs to empower young women afflicted with breast cancer. In 2009 she successfully passed the Breast Cancer Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young, or EARLY Act, an Act that creates education campaigns about the threats of breast cancer in young women. Rep. Wasserman Shultz was brave in deciding to keep her diagnosis private as she went through seven surgeries over the course of a year. She chose to keep her cancer private for the reason that she did not want others to view her as a victim and expect less of her. Rep. Wasserman Shultz wanted to battle the disease and move forward with her legislative career with the same high expectations as the past. She closed with the following statement:
“It is truly special to receive an award named for a woman who reduced stigmas by publicly talking about her own battle against breast cancer at a time when it was considered inappropriate to do so, thereby helping other women know that they were not alone and helping start an important national conversation. I thank Susan G. Komen for this incredible honor and for their leadership in fighting breast cancer,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23). “Once I recovered from my own battle against the disease, I knew I had to translate that experience into action by writing legislation with a simple premise: knowledge is power.”
President Barack Obama also provided a video message thanking everyone for all they do in the fight against breast cancer. He expressed his admiration in Rep. Wasserman Shultz’s courage in battling breast cancer while still maintaining her responsibilities to family and her Florida constituents.
Entertainment for the evening was provided by accomplished pianist Bruce Hornsby who said, “I will be doing a song by the late and great Tupac Shakur and this is for all of the hip hop aficionados.” This provided a good laugh for the audience as Bruce was referring to Tupac Shakur’s hit song “Changes,” which is actually based off of Mr. Hornsby’s original song “The Way It Is.”
The event was followed by a reception at the Kennedy Center’s Atrium where WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon and her husband Paul “Triple H” Levesque gave remarks about WWE’s partnership with Komen. In October 2012, the two organizations formed the “Rise Above Cancer” campaign. The partnership, which features wrestlers wearing pink and the sale of pink branded merchandise, has raised more than $1.2 million to date. This year’s partnership will launch at Monday Night RAW on September 29 at the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois.
Photo © Tony Powell