This year's third Awards dinner honored four people for their remarkable work in films.
The emotional tribute was to the real heroes of the film Argo - Tony Mendez and his wife, Jonna, as well as Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor. Sadly, the Ambassador had planned to attend the award ceremony, but died earlier this month and his funeral was held the day before the event. In an amazing display of strength and commitment, his wife Dr. Pat Taylor came to the dinner and spoke about sheltering six Americans during the Iranian hostage crises of 1979 and 1980. She is tiny and frail, but her voice was powerful, and she received a long standing ovation.
The appearance of Tony Mendez was also emotional. The former CIA Master of Disguise suffers from Parkinson Disease, but he spoke clearly and slowly. Ironically, one of the other four honorees also has Parkinson (as do I), but we were all met with patience and understanding.
The Canadians sheltered six Americans for months, as the US Embassy was taken over by angry mobs. The other 46 hostages were held captive in the US Embassy for over a year, and were released when Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President. The CIA devised a brilliant and wacky scheme to get the six out, and the Canadians took great risks - but it worked. Former CIA Director , General Michael Hayden, called the entire rescue of the six a great tribute to the skill and dedication of the clandestine services.
America Abroad Media brings together leaders in the media, the diplomatic, and film community. Its President and Founder, Aaron Lobel, says "its mission is to harness the tremendous power of media to promote the free exchange of ideas, critical thinking, and self-governing citizens."
Most of the films centered on the Mideast and sponsors came from world -wide businesses and governments. The other three honorees were Turkish journalist Mithat Bereket; a group which developed the film Difret about a child bride in Ethiopia, and Noura Al Kaabi, CEO of twofour54 - a media production facility in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
The Washington Awards Dinner was held in the Andrew Mellon Auditorium.