By: Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie, GenR: NY Communicatons Chair
The IRC’s annual Rescue Dinner was held last week on a warm November evening at the Hilton in midtown Manhattan. The guests were welcomed with a reception before making our way to the tables inside the dining room.
I loved that the dinner began with a quote that encompassed what the IRC believes.
“The most dangerous world views are the world views of those who have never viewed the world.” - Alexander von Humboldt
Right on, Mr. Humboldt. Certainly you didn’t realize how appropriate your words would be in 2017.
As the night went on, we heard refugee youth tell inspirational stories, awards were handed out to long-time IRC supporters and philanthropists, and powerful speeches were made. We also learned that our support helped to raise a record-breaking amount for the IRC!
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the recipient of the Freedom award at the 2017 Rescue Dinner.
When thinking about the global refugee crisis, it is sometimes easy to feel hopeless. Every day, emergencies are unfolding and evolving right before our eyes. Yet, a room full of dedicated IRC supporters, board members, and staff clearly showed the contrary.
So, it was a fitting start to hear from a teenage refugee from Iran named Rooha. She and her family fled Iran six years ago because of religious persecution and were eventually resettled in Dallas. Rooha is now an honor student and speaks up for other young refugees and immigrants in her community. She has more poise than most of us can pull together as adults.
Next came Oliver, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He and his family were forced to flee and live in a refugee camp in Zimbabwe because of his father’s work as a journalist. Today, he too is an honor high school student grateful to be resettled in Phoenix. He even took a moment to honor his mother for her love and strength, which made me and others in the room tear up.
Rooha and Oliver were both proud to give the John C. Whitehead Humanitarian Award to Liv Ullmann. She has been involved with the IRC for almost 40 years. She is a consistent and courageous activist speaking out for women and child refugees across the globe.
Later in the evening, Michael Bloomberg was awarded the IRC’s Freedom Award for his extraordinary philanthropic contributions in support of refugees and their right to basic human dignities. His generosity stems from a deep personal desire to improve people’s lives around the globe and make society as a whole better for everyone.
One of the most poignant moments of the night was when David Miliband, the IRC’s president and CEO gave his remarks. Paraphrasing his message, Mr. Miliband started by saying how strange it was for a Brit to be giving this reminder to a room full of Americans. He went on to speak about the beacon that is the American dream. He explained what makes the American dream hopeful is that it’s a dream for everyone—no matter your race, religion or country of origin.
He called on all of us to protect this tenet of our beliefs and raise our voices. He asked us to take action and support refugees, whether they’re abroad or resettled closer to home.
Throughout the night, whether as a part of Mr. Miliband’s speech or Keegan-Michael Key’s hilarious video, we were called to come together and take action. Watch Keegan-Michael Key’s video here.
As IRC supporters and GenR members, let’s remember this Van Gogh quote, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
Let’s come together, as David suggested, and do something to help refugees. Here are a few ways you can join me in getting involved:
Call your representatives to tell them you support refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. ::link to advocacy page::
Attend GenR fundraising events to help the IRC abroad and here at home.
Give your time at GenR volunteer events.
Be active in sharing IRC and GenR work on social media. Raise your voice to help bring awareness to the plight of refugees.
Engage knowledgeably with the people around you about the myths surrounding refugees.
You and I are individuals, but together we are GenR. We are partners with the IRC and all of their supporters and staff here and abroad.
Together, we are a force for change.