On the evening of September 28th, Susan G. Komen for the Cure®  paid tribute to leaders in the fight against breast cancer at its third annual “Honoring the Promise” gala at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The star-studded event raised $1.5 million for Susan G. Komen’s breast cancer programs globally and in Washington, DC, the city with one of the highest mortality rates from breast cancer in the nation.

Featured guests included:

  • Jordin Sparks (singer, Sparkle)
  • Jaclyn Smith (Charlie’s Angels)
  • Naomi Judd (singer)
  • Richard Roundtree (Flash)
  • Bob Schieffer (Face the Nation)
  • Nancy G. Brinker (founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen)
  • Susan Ford Bales (Daughter of the late-first lady Betty Ford)
  • Sen. Olympia Snowe
  • Sec. Ray LaHood
  • The Honorable Richard Daley, former mayor of Chicago
  • Dr. Christine Kaseba, first lady of the Republic of Zambia
  • John Castellani (PhRMA president and CEO)

Co-survivor and longtime CBS correspondent Bob Schieffer, moderator of CBS’ “Face the Nation,” emceed the evening’s program, which featured performances by singer Jordin Sparks, the former “American Idol” winner who currently stars alongside the late Whitney Houston in the film “Sparkle.” Sister group The Sledge Grits Band also performed.

Hollywood stars and breast cancer survivors Jaclyn Smith and Richard Roundtree joined country star Naomi Judd, former first daughter Susan Ford Bales, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Representative John Dingell to present the evening’s Awards of Distinction in four categories.

“This is the juncture where we find ourselves today – a past of great progress but an unforgiving future unless we renew our commitment to winning this fight,” said Nancy Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen. “I’m confident that we will, because of what I see here tonight.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe accepted the Betty Ford Lifetime Achievement for her outstanding leadership in the Senate Cancer Coalition. The lifelong advocate for cancer research and the movement helped pass several key pieces of cancer legislation, including the Breast Cancer Research Stamp, the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act and most recently, The EARLY Act, which stands for Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young and established a public education initiative around breast cancer for women under 45 years old.

Honorees for the Awards of Distinction are:

  • For Scientific and Medical – Umberto Veronesi, M.D., accepted by Dr. V. Craig Jordan. While serving as a surgeon at the National Cancer Institute in Milan, he was the first to demonstrate that in the case of small cancers of the breast, it is safe to perform a wide resection followed by radiotherapy. This discovery helped preserve the breast, thereby obviating the mutilating procedure of mastectomy.
  • For Community – Maggie Daley, accepted by her husband, Richard Daley, former mayor of Chicago. As the first lady of Chicago, the late Maggie Daley founded After School Matters (ASM), an organization that offers Chicago teens the opportunity to participate in meaningful activities after school. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, she founded the Maggie Daley Center for Women’s Cancer Care located at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern Memorial Hospital to ease the process of a breast cancer diagnosis by providing all aspects of treatment under one roof.
  • Global Leadership – Her Excellency Dr. Christine Kaseba, first lady of Zambia. Dr. Kaseba is a leader in the fight to reduce maternal mortality through the provision of quality obstetric care and in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. In the Fall of 2011, Dr. Kaseba led her country to be the first Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partner, expanding the availability of vital cervical cancer screening and treatment and breast cancer education to those in need. Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon is an innovative partnership between the George W. Bush Institute, the U.S. Department of State President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) that leverages public and private investments and existing health infrastructures to combat cervical and breast cancer, the two leading causes of cancer deaths among women in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Honoring the Promise celebrates those who have helped to fulfill the promise set in motion 30 years ago when Susan G. Komen Founder Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan Komen, that she would do everything in her power to end the disease that claimed Susan’s life. Brinker founded Komen in 1982 in her sister’s memory. Since then, the organization has donated $2 billion dollars towards research, education, community programs and international assistance, second only to the government as the world’s largest funder in the fight against breast cancer.

Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein served as founding chair for the event. The night was chaired by PhRMA CEO John Castellani and his wife Terry, alongside honorary chairs the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates and Mrs. Abeer Al Otaiba, Ambassador of the State of Kuwait and Mrs. Salem Al-Sabah, Senator Scott Brown and Gail Huff, Representative John Dingell, the Honorable and Mrs. John Engler and Senator Joseph Lieberman. The evening gala was co-chaired by Jane and Spencer Abraham, Howard Bernick, William and Stuart Bernstein, Deborah Dingell, Hadassah Lieberman, Marlene and Fred Malek, Ginger and Stuart Pape, Anne and John Raffaelli, Vanessa Reed, Vicki and Roger Sant, Linda and Acie Vickers.

About Susan G. Komen for the Cure®

Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer. Today, Susan G. Komen for the Cure works to end breast cancer in the U.S. and throughout the world through ground-breaking research, community health outreach, advocacy and programs in more than 30 countries. Visit komen.org.

– Christine Shepherd

Photos by Margot Schulman and Tony Powell