- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2007

The number and variety of causes celebrated on this past week’s social calendar may have set some sort of record — at least until next week begins.

April 19 marked the fourth time that Washington-based Atlantic Media Co. has honored American journalists who best fulfill the late Michael Kelly’s quest for “the fearless pursuit and expression of truth.” Words “easy to say and so hard to do,” noted company chief executive officer John Fox Sullivan when introducing the evening’s program before a room full of Kelly family relations and professional peers.

Mr. Kelly had been editor of the Atlantic, and prior to that the National Journal, when he was killed in an accident in 2003 while reporting the war in Iraq, making for a subdued ceremony in company headquarters each year.

C.J. Chivers, who is now a New York Times reporter in Moscow and correspondent for Esquire, was presented with the 2007 award in Mr. Kelly’s name, given for a 18,000-word piece in Esquire reconstructing the horrors at Beslan, Russia, when Chechen terrorists took over the elementary school in August 2004. All the finalists’ work was published in 2006.

Atlantic Media founder David Bradley, who described the gathering as “the tribe Michael Kelly” and his job of the night to “call the tribe to order,” spoke of courage while giving an anecdotal account of his fascination with grizzly bears that segued into admiration for the disciplined talents of Mr. Kelly and the eight journalist award candidates. But humility was the word of the night, exemplified by Mr. Chivers in acceptance remarks that included a brief but passionate account of his experiences in Chechnya and praising other people’s courage.

Onlookers included Sam Donaldson, David Brooks, Bill Plante, Kathleen Matthews, Terence Smith, Leon Wieseltier and Andrea Mitchell. Perhaps no person attending was happier than Suzanne Keating, Mr. Chivers’ wife. The couple, parents of four children, were having their first time alone together in four years.

Celebrating local students

Stars of a different kind were out and shining brightly at Saturday’s seventh annual gala benefit for the Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School held on the Georgetown University campus. Called “Above and Beyond,” the event draws legal minds and money for the District’s only academic charter high school co-founded by current president Joshua Kern. The theme of the night was partly a celebration of student success — all of last year’s graduating seniors went on to college and the current class promises to do the same — as well as a renewed call for the legal community and others “beyond” to become involved in the school’s mission.

Helping the crowd of 300 raise an estimated $300,000 were TMA alumnus Lawrence Chambers, now at Xavier University in New Orleans, who was the night’s emcee, as well retiring TMA board chair and Advocate of the Year Award recipient Kevin Downey, of the Williams & Connelly law firm. A model of the scales of justice decorated every table.

“I am one of the successes,” Mr. Chambers exulted proudly, praising the school for giving him “a dream of a first-class education.”

Kathie Lee’s night

Arlington’s Signature Theatre wasn’t exactly resting on its laurels, either, with a triumphant world premiere of a new musical, “Saving Aimee,” on Monday. With an 18-member cast, 23 musical numbers and a high-tech stage, no wonder theater board chair Sarah Valente was moved to say at an after-show champagne reception that “the scale and scope of this production is ambitious even for Signature.”

Just another feather in the cap of an institution that has achieved world renown under co-founder and artistic director Eric Schaeffer, who left Tuesday for a two-week vacation on safari in Tanzania before returning to rehearse his American premiere in June of “The Witches of Eastwick.” It was Kathie Lee Gifford’s night, as book and lyrics creator of an idea that originated 35 years, congealing in play form eight years ago. The interpretation of larger-than-life showbiz evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson brought out Signature patrons Gilbert and Jaylee Mead, Victor Shargai and Enrico Cecchi, plus headliners Ethel Kennedy, Rep. Jim Moran, former Rep. Jack Kemp, Joanne Kemp, Frank Gifford and a coterie of descendants of the late evangelist, including granddaughter Victoria Salter of New York.

Folger Library’s 75th

The Folger Shakespeare Library’s spring benefit has long been one of the capital’s most civilized affairs, and director Gail Kern Pastor, together with event co-chairs Maxine Isaacs and Jim Johnson, were hardly going to let that hallowed institution’s 75th anniversary go by without a major celebration Monday night. After cocktails in the Great Hall guests meandered into the Elizabethan Theatre for viol and lute music, performances by Ken Howard, Andre DeShields and other Folger players, the reading of congratulatory letters from Laura Bush and Prince Charles, and a recitation of Sonnet 29 (“Fortune in men’s eyes …”) by Sam Waterston (the evening’s moist-eyed moment).

Dining in the Elizabethan splendor of the Old Reading Room is, as one British guest observed, “the closest thing in America to a banquet at Hardwick Hall,” and the perfect place to exchange social and political tidbits amid flickering candles, exquisite floral arrangements and hearty Susan Gage-catered fare (cobb salad, beef tenderloin and strawberry-rhubarb pie).

Among the topics du soir were Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Washington (British Ambassador Sir David Manning said he was commanded by her majesty to host two embassy events, a garden party prior to the White House state dinner on May 7 and a reciprocal dinner honoring President and Mrs. Bush the following night).

Eyebrows were raised at one table when discussion among Democrats turned toward the growing number of New York financial world kingpins who are backing Sen. Barack Obama over Hillary Rodham Clinton for the presidential nomination. Also overheard: mention of Palm Beach socialite and former U.S. ambassador to Hungary Nancy Brinker’s impending nomination as chief of protocol.

The biggest news of the night — raising a record $600,000 — was no secret, although it never was announced. The Folger, you see, tends to be veddy discreet in such matters.

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