Thursday, September 24, 2009

Changes

The fete de Swifty tent as seen from 73rd Street between Park and Lexington. 6:30 PM. Photo: JH.
September 24, 2009. Yesterday in New York: very warm, even slightly muggy, often overcast; but no rain. I love the reminder, after the cool weather has made its debut, that the warm weather is not over. At the end of it, the day will come when it is chilly outside and the building’s furnaces have not checked in and so the apartments will have that sudden chill and you need a sweater. Changes.

I went down to the Waldorf at noontime to a World Leadership Forum luncheon given by the Foreign Policy Association. They were honoring Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia, Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO of S. C. Johnson & Sons, Inc., and Anthony Pratt, Chairman of Pratt Industries and Visy Industries.

First of all, the traffic.
Not as bad as Tuesday’s although frequent logjams. Just quiet enough cause me to sit back in the taxi and contemplate how I was wasting my time getting heated up over it. Since the truth was I was on my way to this luncheon where I would have the opportunity to see the man from Australia and hear what he was thinking.
Comparative shopping: 77th and Third on Tuesday afternoon, and then on Wednesday afternoon.
This is a reward for living in New York: exposure.

The Foreign Policy Association is a non-profit. Its dedication is to inspire the public to learn more about the world. It can be a dry subject if you, like me, do not have an intense interest in foreign policy, etc. I am not indifferent but I am only vaguely informed.

The ballroom was filled with a long table down the center that included among others, Henry Kissinger and Barbara Walters. In New York you can often determine the importance of an event in terms of the company that is kept.

Walters and Kissinger get around but they don’t waste their time. They move around what is perceived as the corridors of power and are very active. It is not uncommon to see them at public events. However, their choices are revealing because they are so in demand, that time only allows so much and no more.

Although I’m sure most people in the room felt as I did: we were getting an opportunity to hear a major world leader speak in person.
Irene Pritzker of the Foreign Policy Association and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia.
The prime minister was introduced by Irene Pritzker who is the President of the IDP Foundation. Those are Ms. Pritzker’s initials. I don’t know very much about her except that she is a member of one of America’s wealthiest families, out of Chicago. Among their holdings familiar to the public are the Hyatt Hotel chain, the Marmon group and Royal Caribbean Cruise lines. There’s more.

Ms. Pritzker is passionately interested in finding solutions to global dilemmas. Her foundation expresses that in its activities. On the dais, she looks like someone who might be the head of a major cultural or educational institution. Her presentation bears witness also.

After accepting his award – the Foreign Policy Association Medal – the prime minister spoke. He does not cut a statesman-like figure in his personal presentation. He’s more like your image of a college president who is moving things forward in a substantial and intelligent way.

In his speech he reiterated and reaffirmed the fellowship that exists between the United States and Australia. He told us that in the world, the United States still enjoys a powerful image of the longest existing democracy of its kind; that its power in the world remains great because it is the most dynamic nation on the planet. He pointed out that Australia and the US had many things in common, almost genetically (my word, not his). And it was this that assured the bond of mutual self-interest.

Mr. Rudd is not a dynamic speaker. But he’s professorial, kindly, gentlemanly, almost modest in his delivery. But solid and therefore credible.

Then there were two more award presentations. The first – the Corporate Social Responsibility Award, which went to Fisk Johnson, the Chairman and CEO of S.C. Johnson & Son of Racine, Wisconsin. Mr Johnson is the fifth generation of his family to be running this family owned company (2008 revenues $7 billion). They are a consumer products company. Johnson’s Wax, Pledge, Clorox, Windex, ZipLoc.

Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO of S.C. Johnson & Son, at yesterday's luncheon.
Mr. Johnson looks like a substantial and modestly presented businessman from the Midwest. He talked like a CEO of a consumer products company but I learned he also has a BA in chemistry and physics, as well as a Master’s in engineering, and an MS in Physics, along with an MBA in marketing and finance, and a PhD in Applied Physics. All from Cornell.

He was soft-spoken (albeit audible) at the mike and he quickly told us about his company. He pointed out a number of the company’s policies which are designed to improve the quality of life of its employees and the community.

This wouldn’t be an unusual presentation for a man in Mr. Johnson’s kind of mass market billion dollar business. In fact, some could regard it as a dollop of hype supporting the facts. However, Mr. Johnson, who looks to be in his early 50s – not young, not old, has a personality that is so unassuming in terms of self-importance that you not only believe him, but you know he’s right. Think Jimmy Stewart in a Frank Capra film but without the Stewart histrionics.

SC Johnson is a green company and Mr. Johnson isn’t kidding. Some of his remarks in his acceptance speech:

"Our company is a consumer goods company, so you may be surprised to hear me say that I believe the world is heading toward a crisis of consumption.

The world is closing in on 7 billion people. The resulting food, shelter and energy needs have had devastating consequences.

I have seen predictions that at the current rate of consumption we will run out of resources in 40 years.

The problem we have is one of epic proportions.

Yet I don’t think we don’t notice all the ways this problem is creeping up on us, or how serious it is.

We are like the famous frog in the cauldron, in which the heat is slowly turned up so he doesn’t know he is being boiled."


Interestingly I never got the feeling that Mr. Johnson was a pessimist. Don’t laugh. Mr. Johnson struck me as not unlike Prime Minister Rudd: looking to solve the problem.
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After Mr. Johnson came Anthony Pratt who was also awarded the Corporate Responsibility Award. Mr. Pratt is the head of Pratt Industries, a paper and box manufacturer with headquarters in Conyers, Georgia. His acceptance speech, however, was about re-cycling and that it is imperative in our survival. Yes, survival.

Again, like Mr. Johnson, you got the distinct impression Anthony Pratt in his life is addressing the issues of the environment in a sensible and business-like way although the news he shares is not mild. Also, like Fisk Johnson, Anthony Pratt is proactive.

The FPA has been around for more than ninety years. Its director is Theodore (Ted) Roosevelt IV. Its charter is to develop awareness, and provide informed opinions on global issues. Its objective is to be balanced and nonpartisan. They want to inspire us to learn more about the world.

Good lunch. Banquet chicken, well cooked string beans and mashed potato. The Waldorf is not famous for its food although the service is excellent and the room is a beauty to these eyes, a creation, like the Empire State and the Chrysler Building, that has presided over our consciousness of New York for almost eighty years and still and elegant lady.

The city streets at 2:30 were jammed of course. Fiftieth Street between Park and Lex, was entirely closed off with lots of police and squad cars watching over. The entry to the Waldorf Towers where no doubt many diplomats were guests is on that block.

I took the subway back uptown. A lot cheaper and a lot quicker.
Traffic Police holding up traffic on 79th and Fifth.
Last night I never went farther south than 73rd Street and that was to attend the 6th Annual Fete de Swifty which is held in a tent set up on the block between Lex and Third.

Liz Smith started this to raise funds to assist families and individuals, mainly women and children, who have serious domestic and abuse problems. There is a lot of that in our community, as it is in all communities. There are solutions but they come with assistance. People in dire straits or need often don’t know that assistance can change things and it is possible.
Whacky Wendy makes a lion hat in four minutes flat ...
In the six years the Fete has been going, we’ve raised well into seven figures. It’s really just a great cocktail party which offers terrific food and drinks, and entertainment.

This year it was set up like a carnival. There was a juggler, and the Mad Hatter lady, Whacky Wendy, and the Statue of Liberty plus games to play with prizes like Teddy Bears, etc. And a silent auction. And the mayor makes an appearance and gives the guests a little speech of thanks for their contribution to helping our fellow citizens.
Inside the Fete ...
Outside the Fete. 8:30 PM.
I spend the entire party chatting briefly with people, taking pictures and helping myself to the various carts and tables set up with food.

There must have been seven or eight hundred people there and it started at 6 and ran until about 9 when people moved on to go to dinner to go go home. JH was also on hand with the digital and so between the two of us, we got enough pictures for the next couple of days.
Gillian Miniter, Robyn Joseph, and Heather Leeds Dr. Mitch Rosenthal, Annette Tapert, and Peter Rogers
Roric Tobin, Geoffrey Bradfield, Margo Langenberg, Edgar Batista, and Victoria Wyman Michele Gerber Klein
Lee and Cece Black, Barbara de Portago, and Mark Gilbertson Michael Kennedy and Robert Caravaggi
Susan and Donald Newhouse Stephen and Patricia Attoe with Robert and Blaine Caravaggi
Eleonora Kennedy, Michael Safir, and Polly Onet Darren Walker and Tony Hoyt
Peter Rogers, Liz Smith, and Spencer Hoge Susan Newhouse and Mayor Bloomberg
Alia Varsano, John Rhea, Sharon Lopez, and Charlie Scheips Todd Romano and Hilary Dick
Sirio Maccioni Liana Piretra and Jason Grant Stephanie Krieger and Brian Stewart
Barbara de Portago and Pia Lindstrom Mona de Sayve, Jonathan Eliot, and Ann Downey
Edgar Batista, Margo Langenberg, and Iris Love Jonathan Eliot and Viivian Bernal
Howard Froman, John Milligan, Tony Hoyt, Scott Briggs, Dennis Cusack, and Lionel Larner Anka Palitz
Ann Rapp and Christine de Lisle JH Grace Meigher and Lionel Larner
Jacques Leviant Maria Boyazny, Alison Minton, Michel Witmer, and Gail Karr
Joe Pugliese, Joy Ingham, and Howard Sharfstein Patti Harris and Nancy Missett
Miss Liberty and gang Jamee and Peter Gregory
Richard Johnson, Lady Liliana Cavendish, and Helen Marx Bob Hardwick, Betsey Bartlett, and Jones York
Elizabeth Peabody Dr. SherrellAston and Muffie Potter Aston with Gillian Miniter Nancy Baker and Mark Gilbertson
Wendy Carduner and Roger Webster Sylvester Miniter, Alexandra Lebenthal, Gillian Miniter, and Jay Diamond
Gillian Miniter and Bill Cunningham George Farias, Beth DeWoody, and Anne Pasternak
Sabrina Forsythe and friends Doug Blonsky and Terri Coppersmith Spencer Hoge in his Whacky Wendy Hat
Sarah Wolfe, Yaz Hernandez, and Cece Black Alison Mazzola, George Farias, and Mary Hilliard
Muffy and Donald Miller Joe and Hilary Califano
Jennifer Fischer, Rob Arango, Deborah Kreulewitch, Mike Warren, and Catherine Barber Jane Singer, Joel Getz, and Nicole Vartanian
Anna Kennedy and Michael Safir with Michael and Eleanora Kennedy Len Buschmann with Sessa and Richard Johnson Cece Cord
Phaedra Chrosus, Elizabeth Sherrill, DPC, and Alix Goelet Alberto and Anabelle Mariaca

Photos by JH and DPC/NYSD.com
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