Monday, May 10, 2010

Washington Social Diary

The Trust for the National Mall luncheon was, literally, on the Mall in the shadow of the Capitol.
by Carol Joynt

It was impossible this week to live in the Washington area and not feel the shock and sadness flowing up from Charlottesville, Va., where a local young man and lacrosse player was charged with the violent murder of a local young woman, also a lacrosse player. The man, George Wesley Huguely V, and the woman, Yeardly Reynolds Love, both 22, were seniors at the University of Virginia, just weeks shy of graduation, and once were boyfriend and girlfriend. The breakup of that romance is said to have precipitated the attack in her bedroom that ended Love’s life. Huguely is in jail, charged with first-degree murder.

Yeardly Love.
George Huguely's lacrosse team photo.
I do not know the families but I know of them, particularly the Huguely family, who live in the suburban community of Bethesda, Md., and own an almost century-old lumber and construction business. Love was from the Baltimore area, where she lived with her widowed mother and sister. What I gather from friends in common is that these are not particularly social or high profile people. Well off, perhaps, but passionately low-profile and private.

The story has people here baffled, because everything about the murder is out of synch. By conventional logic this isn’t how a young and athletic coed dies, its not what a talented young man does, it’s not where or how ugly events like this are supposed to happen. But it happened – to the wrong people, in the wrong place and in the worst way – which has unleashed a fresh debate about abuse against women, schools tolerating inappropriate behavior, and the culture of lacrosse.

The nation’s oldest team sport is again in the middle of a heated debate, as it was when the Duke lacrosse scandal happened in 2006. But please don’t blame the game. There are bad apples in every sport. Lacrosse is no different. The many solid and well-grounded players, young men and women of character, don’t deserve the broad stroke of a smear to their sport that is prompted by the shocking behavior of one individual.

My perspective is as a parent of a young lacrosse player but also as a member for several years of the board of the Tewaaraton Foundation, which each year presents a coveted award to the top college male and female lacrosse players. It is the Heisman of lacrosse. Over the years, my fellow board members and I have met the nominees, and their families – from noted colleges as well as from Native American teams - and as you might expect these young men and women are talented and poised. (The Tewaaraton Foundation recently came apart, but the annual trophies will still be presented June 3rd in Washington.) I’ve met most of the top coaches, too, including UVA coach Dom Starsia, who is considered one of the best in the game.
2009 men's and women's lacrosse Tewaaraton award nominees.
Though it has been around for centuries, founded by native North Americans, lacrosse in the last decade has become a hot and rapidly growing sport – for boys and girls. Every year more schools and colleges add teams to their sports programs. Anybody who plays or watches the game knows success rides on well-honed speed, agility, ball handling and, like it or not, aggression. The men’s game can be brutal, and players need to be taught how to handle confrontation, on and off the field.

Since the murder of Yeardly Love there have been calls for lacrosse as a family to review itself. There are vulnerable spots, particularly within some of the “powerhouse” high schools and colleges, where the obsession with winning can cloud the moral compass. Too often schools let the good male players, at an early age, skirt the disciplinary rules that apply to others, creating a cocky, jockey attitude that hurts the boys and the game. Can this happen in any sport? Yes. Why does it blowback so fiercely on lacrosse? Because the schools that field championship lacrosse teams are among the nation’s top schools and a higher standard of behavior is expected.

The U.Va lacrosse logo: should they or shouldn't play in the NCAA championships?
Regardless, from the first time it seems apparent, when aggressive or inappropriate behavior happens off the field it needs to be called out, punished, and not overlooked or excused.

I received some thoughtful emails this week from acquaintances at the highest levels of lacrosse. What concerned most of them is the responsibility, if any, that schools and coaches have when players break the law. “Whose responsibility is it to discipline these athletes? The law? The coaches? The University? The parents? The teammates?” one of them asked.  “The problem is universities need money and athletics is one of the best ways for alumnae to support their school. And we also know that contributions become less if their team is not winning!”

It’s a timeless question: winning at what cost?
The UVA men’s team is ranked #1 going into the NCAA championships, which begin May 29 in Baltimore. In Love’s memory, it would say a lot to see them stand down this year, much as the players on the field take a knee when one of them is down. It would send a powerful message and be a positive step in the healing process.
Candlelight vigil for Love on the UVa campus.

The Washington mall, usually a field of green, was that and every other color under the rainbow last week when the Trust for the National Mall held their annual fundraising luncheon. The dress code was decidedly “hat’s on.”

Though much younger, organizers admit Washington’s hat event is modeled after New York’s Frederick Law Olmsted Awards “Hat Luncheon,” and some of the women got themselves and their hats to both. Tickets started at $500 per person, the money earmarked for maintenance of the mall, adjacent parks and all the “horse people,” as Nini Ferguson put it, referring to Washington’s many statues of historic figures on their steeds.
One of the tables, with an impressive view.
An abundance of beautiful flowers filled the luncheon tent.
Caroline Cunningham, the group’s president, said that since the organization was launched 28 months ago it has raised $4 million, with more than half going toward a new system of signs. She said that in September the Park Service would have a finally approved National Mall Plan, which will be “the blueprint for Trust’s work. It is tremendously exciting to be at this crossroads.”

Hundreds of men and women enjoyed lunch of chilled avocado and cucumber soup, grilled tenderloin and cinnamon churros with roasted balsamic strawberries in a flower-filled tent where the cold white wine was as welcomed as the fans whirring around the edges. It was a warm, sunny day, in contrast to last year’s luncheon, which is probably why the swag was a beautiful red umbrella. Just in case.
Pamela Sorensen.
A well-hatted U.S. park ranger. Lila Sullivan.
DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, who often is in a hat, showed up hatless. "No hat in hot weather" he said.
Husband and wife to be: Michele Seiver and City Councilman Jack Evans.
Popular saxophonist Ski Johnson with his baby.
Cindy Jones with Pamela Sorensen in the background.
Trust president Caroline Cunningham, with her husband, Matt Jacobs.
Chip Akridge, the Trust's chairman, noting a "true coming together of Washington" for the National Mall.
Lucky Roosevelt and Caroline Cunningham.
Guests included: Gina Adams, George Ballman, Kathy Barnes, Art Bean, Lisa Beek, Grace Bender, Rep. Roy Blunt, Ron Bonjean, Amy and Warren Bischoff, Bruce and Sharon Bradley, David and Katherine Bradley, Mary Ann Bradley, Hilda Brillembourg, Mark Ein, Antonio and Bobbi Jo Cecchi, Allen Chambers, George Chopivsky, Jim Clark, Alice Clark, Tom Daschle, Mark Devaney, Drusilla Demmy, Alejandra de la Paz, Carole and Donald Dell, Amb. Ichiro and Yoriko Fujisaki, Izette Folger, Bruce Gates, Carl Gewitz, Kay Kendall, Janice Kim, Martha Neff Kessler, Johnny and Pamela Moloto, Mary Mochary, Rusty Meadows, Mark Monahan, Susan Nixon, Peggy O’Dell, Patrick O’Connell, Rachel Hayden, Phil Musser, Bill Rankin, Susan Rappaport, Pam Peabody, Melinda Rayhall, Jay Rasulo, Dale Rainville, Catherine Reynolds, Lucky Roosevelt, John Richardson, Jean Rutherfoord, Donald and Deborah Sigmund, John Shooshan, Richard Smith, Darren Sleeger, Richard Thompson, Chris Simmons, Tricia Silberman, Cynthia Vance, David Vennett, Gail West, Jocelyn White, Andrea Weiswasser, JoAnn Mason, Lady Booth Olson, Sandy Brock, Barbara Harrison, Penny Yerks, Don Wright, Ron Woodson, Christian Zapatka, Jeff Zell.
The room as guests took their seats.
... and took their seats.
The ceiling of the tent.
NYSD's host, Nini Ferguson.
It had to be good dish.
The one table of no hats and only men, guests of Tompkins Builders.
Dessert of Cinnamon Churros, Mexican Chocolate Soup and Roasted Balsamic Strawberries with Caramel Flan.
After lunch champagne.
The umbrella swag.
After lunch, outside the tent, tourists doing what comes naturally on a sunny spring afternoon: nap.

Constance Chatfield-Taylor has one of the prettiest homes in Georgetown, and also one of the prettiest gardens, and she opened both to friends and colleagues to welcome a friend and traveler from Nairobi, Salim Amin. Interestingly they were meeting for the first time, even though Chatfield-Taylor, with her Washington-based Flying Colors production company, has worked for a while with Amin and his Camerapix Nairobi. For a couple of hours on a spring evening a large world was made smaller.

While Salim was in Washington to attend a conference and to promote his new all-about-Africa A24 website, he also had his father on his mind. Mohamed “Mo” Amin was a photojournalist, who founded Camerapix. “When Mo started his career in the 1960s, the term ‘African journalist’ was derogatory,” according to Salim. “He turned it into something symbolizing pride and achievement. My father believed Africa could be covered best by African journalists, who understand African history and culture. My father’s images of the 1984 famine in Ethiopia brought international attention to the crisis and helped save the lives of millions. His career inspired me to do what I do now.”
Constance Chatfield-Taylor with her "tool shed."
Mo Amin died in 1996, when the Ethiopian airliner he was aboard crashed after being hijacked. Salim said, “He gave up his youth, his family, his left arm (to a grenade) and eventually his life for the continent he loved.”

Chatfield-Taylor, a veteran of the global satellite production business, provides an impressive professional bio on her website. She also includes some personal Q&A. For example: How would your friends describe you? “Adventuresome, big-hearted.” How would your colleagues describe you? “Well informed, professional.” How would your family describe you? “Resourceful, happy.” These virtues are in plain view in her, her home and garden.
The Georgetown garden of Constance Chatfield-Taylor, the lady in hot pink.
On the balcony, a word dear to any production executive's heart. A peek inside the "tool shed" at dusk.
Constance Chatfield-Taylor shows off the new A24 website.
Among the guests - a mix of U.N., State Department and serious media - you can spot the hostess in pink.
Beth Solomon and Constance Chatfield-Taylor. Constance Chatfield-Taylor with her guest of honor, Salim Amin.
Guests listen to Salim Amin.
The bar.
The back garden at Constance Chatfield-Taylor's Georgetown home.
Francesca Craig of The Center for Public Integrity. Collen Girouard.
Salim Amin talks with Francesca Craig.
Some of the irresistible tiny canapes from caterer Susan Gage:

The MIT economist Simon Johnson was in Washington last week to talk about his book, 13 Bankers, and what’s come to be known as “the mess we’re in.” Unfortunately his appearance at a gathering of The Empire Salon was before the market meltdown. That probably would not have changed his opinion that President Obama is “making the same mistakes” as former President George Bush.

Obama, he said, “Does not want to take on the big banks.” He said the individuals running the banks, the targets of his book, “have a hold over U.S. society as never seen before.”
Simon Johnson at the Empire Salon.
Simon Johnson's popular book, 13 Bankers.
An audience member takes notes on Johnson's remarks.
I arrived late at the event, organized by writer James Henry and his father, John, but in time to shoot some Johnson’s closing remarks:
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe in Washington, D.C.

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