- The Washington Times - Friday, November 19, 2004

Young crooner Kyle Ahn wowed guests at this week’s Washington Business Hall of Fame dinner with a soulful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Before belting out the final verse, the 12-year-old blurted out, “God, I love this country.”

So do this year’s five honorees, a group whose members used their entrepreneurial pluck not just for material gain but to give back to their country.

Tuesday’s black tie gala at the Hilton Washington Hotel in Northwest celebrated this year’s laureates: AOL’s Stephen Case, Pepco’s John M. Derrick Jr., P. Wesley Foster of Long & Foster, Marie C. Johns of Verizon-Washington and Robert B. Pincus of Milestone Merchant Partners — while trumpeting the American spirit.

Among the 1,300 guests applauding compassionate capitalism were PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, Washington Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs and retired Redskins legend Darrell Green, AOL Vice Chairman and Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis, former “Apprentice” contestant Sam Solovey, Gallaudet University President I. King Jordan and VMI Superintendent General J.H. Binford Peay III.

The 17th annual dinner, co-sponsored by Washingtonian magazine, the Greater Washington Board of Trade and Junior Achievement raised $1.1 million for the latter group which provides mentoring opportunities and training for tomorrow’s leaders.

The evening proved so momentous it took two broadcasters to present it. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer worked the pre-dinner reception and began the program while the District’s own Jim Vance of NBC4 grabbed the hosting baton from there.

The night belonged to the honorees but tell that to the children of Anita J. Turner Elementary School in the District who kept stealing the scene while presenting the laureates.

It’s all about the children, said Ed J. Grenier III, president and CEO of Junior Achievement of the National Capital Area.

“The ideas of freedom, opportunity and self-determination are at the heart of America’s promise,” Mr. Grenier said. “Our promise … is that children will learn enough about the economic system to live out their dreams.”

At the VIP reception, Mr. Pincus said a true business leader cares about people, not just stock portfolios.

“If we can come together and uplift, it’s a win-win,” the District born and bred entrepreneur said.

Mr. Case, the boyish face of AOL for many years, said young business leaders need passion and persistence, not just a hunger for greenbacks.

“If you’re in it for the quick buck, you’re less likely to succeed,” said Mr. Case, who peddled lemonade, greeting cards and newspapers as a boy to kick off his lifelong business plan.

Hall of Fame Chairman C.E. Andrews, executive vice president of accounting and risk management at Sallie Mae, said each laureate made significant contributions to the community in their own unique way.

That isn’t so easy in the District, where two states and the nation’s capital converge.

“It’s more complicated than in some cities,” Mr. Andrews said. “But it’s an outstanding region. It’s as strong and vibrant as any place in the country.”

Christian Toto

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