The Kennedy Center hosted a star-studded crowd to honor “ladies who didn’t wait” to enact change.
By Fran Holuba
It was her first public appearance since stepping down as secretary of state, and Hillary Clinton could not have looked more rested and reinvigorated after taking a break from her four-year stretch of endless flights and overseas negotiations. On Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton joined a star-studded lineup of presenters to recognize global leaders in women’s advocacy at the 2013 Vital Voices Leadership Awards at the Kennedy Center.
As guests shuffled through metal detectors, a palpable buzz stirred the room and a sea of business leaders, NGO leaders, activists and community organizers who packed the grand opera theater in an excited rush. The evening’s presenters included the actress America Ferrera, former Today Show co-host Ann Curry, Newsweek/Daily Beast Editor Tina Brown, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg who guided the evening to honor “leaders that didn’t wait” to transform their communities.
As Vice President Joe Biden jogged onto the stage to raucous applause and a big hug from Vital Voices Board Chair Susan Davis, the crowd had already found a favorite act in honorees like Sandra Gomes Melo of Brazil working with the Civil Police Academy in the Federal District of Brasilia to enable the criminal justice system to better combat domestic violence.
The true celebrities of the night represented all walks of life in every corner of the globe. Trailblazing women like Malala Yousafzai, who advocates for women’s education in Pakistan, told their rousing stories to a passionate crowd.
Fern Holland Award winner Dr. Hawa Abdi was recognized for her clinic in war-torn Southern Somalia, the Kant brothers were recognized for battling human trafficking in India, Manal Yaish Zraiq was lauded for building hope and an entire city in Palestine, and the Cambodian land rights activist Tep Vanny was hailed for standing up against inhumane treatment and forced resettlement.
“These are just a handful of the social entrepreneurs and innovative activists working to transform the lives of women and girls that are celebrated and championed by the Vital Voices Global Partnership evey day,” Davis said about the organization, which works with 14,000 women in 144 countries.
And while Vice President Biden held the room in his charismatic storytelling and emboldening challenges to ramp up efforts, it was his playful reference to former Secretary Clinton that surged the crowd into a noisy applause.
“There’s no woman like Hillary Clinton,” Biden said.