Silda Wall Spitzer, the founder of the New York based not-for-profit generationOn, let down her hair and kicked off her shoes (literally) to honor Lauren Bush Lauren and Gary Knell for their role in empowering young children in service at generationOn’s Annual Benefit last night. Knell is the CEO of NPR and former president of Sesame Workshop, and Lauren, a model/designer and granddaughter of former president George H. W. Bush, is the founder of FEED project.
Along with Lauren and Knell, generationOn also set the spotlight on six impressive young community leaders. Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner and wife Barbara, co-chairs of the event, read the list of accomplishments of these amazing children as two of the young honorees –- a pocket-sized eight year old girl and 16 year old boy –- smiled in solidarity.
The night was filled with celebrity appearances including John Oliver from the Daily Show and Stephen Lang, the formidable Col. Miles Quaritch of Avatar. Lang provided his theatrical stylings as guest auctioneer, claiming that he was asked to emcee the event because his daughter thought he was so “forbidable” (that’s an auction joke, everyone). We’re sure John Hays, the premier auctioneer of Americana sales at Christies who earlier helped to introduce honorees, was amused. Perhaps the most coveted celebrity appearance of the night, however, was the Sesame Street version of Gary Knell, who first took to the stage to jokingly accept his award. “We know who’s testifying at the House Committee next week,” Knell quipped.
Olympic medalist Paul Tergat, author Wes Moore, Fabien Cousteau and NPR host Jacki Lyden were also in attendance.
We caught up with Silda after the ceremony, after she’d kicked off her heels to mingle with friends, family and attendees. The barefoot philanthropist spoke about how important it was for children to recognize at an early age their ability to institute change, emphasizing the value of experiential learning for the young volunteers themselves. “It changes the way they view education, looking at service as a form of applied learning. And understanding the social and emotional aspects of the experience is so important.”