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Children's Rights Benefit
555 West 18th Street
October 5, 2009

Written by Wendy R. Williams
Photographed by Gerardo Somoza

Opposite Photo:
Malcolm Gladwell

Richard Emery, Fred Wislow and Malcolm Gladwell

The Fourth Annual Children's Rights Benefit was held at Barry Diller's new Frank Gehry designed Interactive Corp Headquarters on the far westside of Manhattan. The building is a modern marvel with huge volumes of open space. It is well worth a trip to Chelsea Piers simply to stand on the opposite side of the West Side Highway and gaze across the street at this flagship symbol of our "internetted" future.

The evening began with cocktails and tasty tidbits and then dinner was served in a "wing" of the lobby. (Creative Edge Parties was the caterer for the benefit.)

Joel Klein

The first speaker for the evening was Children's Rights board member Richard D. Emery, a lawyer by trade, who explained Children's Rights simple but effective method of helping foster children - they sue state governments and win court orders that mandate the states "clean up their acts" and help their weakest citizens, their parentless children. Children's Rights effectively multiplies every donated dollar into a much larger gain for foster children by suing state legislatures that must surely be tempted during this time of financial crisis (if not always) to balance their budget by cutting funding for programs for their weakest constituencies. Children's Rights has won court mandated settlements with six states and is in the process of initiating court action in several other states, including my home state of Texas.

Emery then introduced Joel I. Klein (Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education) who presented an award to Lewis Culman honoring both Mr. Cullman and Mr. Cullman's late wife, Dorothy (1918-2009), for "their extraordinary lifelong contributions to the betterment of children and the world in which we all live, in New York City and far beyond."

Fred Wistow

Then it was time for the guest speaker, Malcolm Gladwell (staff writer for The New Yorker and tinker-of-all-literary-trades). But before Mr. Gladwell could speak, he needed to be introduced and this honor fell to his friend, Fred Wistow. Mr. Wistow is a dead ringer for Toby Ziegler, the character played by Richard Schiff in The West Wing. Wistow resembles Schiff in both appearance and tone, but the live Wistow is quite a bit funnier than his tv twin.

Wistow began his introduction by stating that he was going to tell us why he hates Malcolm Gladwell and why we should too. Then in the spirit of the speech Shakespeare wrote for Marc Anthony to deliver at Caesar's theatrical funeral, Wistow praised Gladwell, all the while convulsing the audience with his dryly delivered lines. He told us that we should dislike Gladwell because, among other things, Gladwell is an adjective (Gladwellian) and that Gladwell had even planned his own biracial birth so he could be as cool as Barack Obama. Wistow delivered the quintessential "best man" speech, but was it one the groom could top?

Malcolm Gladwell

Well, not to worry. Gladwell then arrived at the podium, picked up the sparring sword and continued the banter. He began by stating that he was not going to talk to the group about children's rights because he does not like to talk to a group about something which they know much more than he, so he picks a different unrelated subject. As an example he said that if he were speaking with members of the former Bush administration, he would talk about the Iraq war. Gladwell then proceeded to tell us about how he had recently returned from a visit to the Nevada border where he visited Michael Vick's dogs at the sanctuary where they now live. He told the crowd about the extraordinary measures the shelter workers undertake to help those abused dogs learn to trust humans again, and that our outrage at Vick is a metaphor for our outrage when a child is abused, because the abuser has broken the human bond by betraying the trust that the child has for its parent.

For videos of the night's speechs, log onto:

Malcolm Gladwell with Parrish Family (left to right: Michael, James,
C.J. Terrell, Amber, Tre'Shawn)

An elegant African American family had arrived at the beginning of the party. They were smartly attired for the evening, even the youngest member of the family, an approximately ten year old boy, looked wonderful in a suit with a black shirt. This was the Parrish family. James and Amber Parrish had taken into their home four young boys who had been terribly abused by their former foster mother who had starved them almost to the point of death. A video was shown at the dinner that told the story of the oldest child in the family, who had been a forty-pound fourteen-year-old at the time he was rescued. The video, Tre'Shawn P.,is both heartbreaking and life affirming; it can be seen on the Children's Rights website.

Richard Emery and Tre'Shawn Parrish

After the video was shown, Richards D. Emery introduced Tre'Shawn to the group, stating that he was proud to be Tre'Shawn's lawyer and his friend.

Hugh Hildesley, Executive Vice President, Sothebys

Hugh Hildesley of Sothebys then conducted the auction, auctioning off trips, events and luxury goods with items ranging from a private tour of MoMA to a day at the John Barrett Salon at Bergdorf Goodman to photos from Elliot Erwitt. The goal for the evening was to raise $100,00 and they were successful.

For more information about Children's Rights, log onto the website.


Caroline Bienstock and Melissa Salten

Kathy Greenberg and Zina Steinberg

Anne Strickland Squadron (center) with Marie and Bill Samuels

Paul Beirne, Lewis Cullman, Children's Rights Executive Director
Marcia Robinson Lowry and Richard Emery

Joel Klein, Richard Emery, Marley Kaplan and Lewis Cullman

Christiane Olsen, Shirim Nothenberg, Howard Maisel and Eve France

John Kirby, Lewis Cullman, Susan Cullman and Joel Klein

Paul and Jeannette Wagner

Rahil Briggs and Sarah Rosenwald Varet






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