Yesterday, I spent doing what I love best: connecting people. I had a delightful lunch with two very interesting and accomplished people: Eli Wilner (renowned framer of priceless art) and Patricia Greenwald (pioneering businesswoman now the driver behind the Friar's Club Foundation Wounded Warriors Program Gift of Laughter.)
They shared a love of art and talked passionately as they did a "dance" discussing shared friends, art events and in the overall warm milieu whereby an instant connection is established and flourishes. It was obvious that Eli and Pat would become friends and work at their passions together. Just the "how" needed to be established. Eli is, of course, passionate about his framing and his evolution into an iPhone app inventor whose product can work for nonprofits. For smaller nonprofits, they can "spread virally" the iPhone app and collect a portion of the proceeds. For larger organizations, as time permits, he will evaluate the cause and perhaps donate the "privately-branded" Eli Wilner frame to be used as a fund-raiser. He had read about Patricia's creation of the Gift of Laughter program through the Friar's Club Foundation.
Although I have heard Pat describe the evolution of Gift of Laughter many times, Eli and I both sat spellbound and we heard Pat speak of the Foundation's mission. "Among the horrific legacies of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are the untold numbers of terminally ill, maimed and traumatized U.S. service members returning from active deployment. Those afflicted are predominantly once-healthy young individuals who, in many cases, now require full-time medical care and may continue to do so for the rest of their lives. Adding to their misfortune -- and perhaps even more pervasive -- are the emotional and psychological scars that returning warriors face as a result of the stress of their total experience." Wow! This is powerful!
Fast forward to President Obama's speech last night when he acknowledged the fallen heroes and urged America to "turn the page." Once again, the story of the wounded warriors was "untold." There are thousands of wounded warriors, according to Pat Greenwald. I listened carefully to Obama's speech for any mention of these soldiers who, for the most part, are very young, i.e. under 25 years old. But there was none. I couldn't help but think back to my lunch with Eli and Pat: What can we do to support Wounded Warriors? One of the the many meaningful ways is through the Gift of Laughter program.
In keeping with the long history of Friar's members representing the best of the entertainment industry, Pat put together a group of dedicated performers through the Friar's Club to help bring laughter to the injured. The mission of the Gift of Laughter Wounded Warriors Program is to provide uplifting entertainment to enhance and increase the well-being and positive attitude of troops injured in Iraq and Afghanistan who are currently in military hospitals throughout the United States, as well as those that are outpatients.
Back to Obama, it was sobering to hear him speak about how winding down in Iraq would allow the United States to "apply the resources necessary to go on offense" in Afghanistan. This "war" is now the longest since the Vietnam War. This "war" has been one of the most divisive issues in American history that I can remember. There is much passion on each side regarding issues like: Who should prevail, how long should we be there? What is our goal? What is our exit strategy? and so on. These are shared concerns of the American people whether you are a Democrat or a Republican. It will be a long time before we can "turn the page" as our President so eloquently remarked. It is much easier said than done.
I think that we can all agree on the fact that this war, conflict, incursion, exercise, invasion, battle has taken its toll on American people and their pocketbook. Perhaps President Obama needs to tell us where we are going before we "turn the page."