First ladies who lunch
Laura and Barbara Bush lend presidential panache to cherished Dallas luncheon
What: Austin Street Center Humble Beginnings Luncheon
Where: Hilton Anatole Hotel
The 411: Former U.S. first lady Laura Bush and daughter Barbara Bush — the two "quietest" members of the Bush family (neither having been a politician nor a TV talk show host) — stepped into the spotlight on a rare public outing together to help raise funds for a beloved Dallas organization.
Just how beloved? The 22nd annual Austin Street Center Humble Beginnings Luncheon drew a crowd of 897 attendees to the Hilton Anatole's Chantilly Ballroom on Friday, October 14.
Chaired by Frank Mihalopoulos and Jay McAuley and led by Austin Street Center CEO Daniel Roby, the luncheon and presentation celebrated the center's successes (including a large new facility) and underscored its mission to serve the homeless population of Dallas.
Popular party group Emerald City Band set a celebratory mood by entertaining guests as they arrived and sat down to an autumnal lunch of butternut squash soup and seared chicken breast salad.
Legendary local radio personality and Austin Street Center supporter Norm Hitzges presented Carolyn Lacy Miller the Norm Hitzges Distinguished Service Award for her many contributions to the organization, including the creation of its Sisterhood Program, which serves women who are homeless, have been victimized, traumatized, and suffer with mental illnesses and/or substance use illnesses.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson was presented the Public Service Award. In his acceptance remarks, he became emotional when he talked about how homelessness has affected his family personally.
The highlight of the day was a conversation with Laura and Barbara Bush, moderated by former ambassador, Hon. Jeanne Phillips.
The theme being "service to others," much of the talk focused on the Bushes' initiatives to reach people around the world — from the women of Afghanistan to AIDS victims in Africa. Barbara said a trip with her parents to AIDS-ravaged parts of Africa, in fact, helped change her career trajectory from architecture to global health.
There were light-hearted moments, too. Barbara shared funny stories about growing up, sharing a name with her grandmother - former first lady Barbara Bush. (One laugh-out-loud tale involved an email from a cousin about bikini waxing.) Laura revealed the best advice her mother-in-law gave her: Don't criticize your husband's speeches (advice she didn't always follow, for better or worse).
Laura, along with daughter Jenna and Jenna's daughters Mila and Poppy, she said, recently had been welcomed back to the White House by President Biden and Dr. Biden. During a later concert at the White House, singer Elton John recognized the former first lady for her work on behalf of AIDS causes around the world, she said.
From stage, it was announced that George W. and Laura Bush will receive the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition's Global Leadership Award on December 1, World AIDS Day.
In total, the Austin Street Center raised nearly $800,000 at the Humble Beginnings Luncheon.
To end the inspiring afternoon, each attendee took home a luxurious Xela Aroma candle hand-poured by women of Austin Street Center's Sisterhood Program. Candle proceeds go directly to support the Sisterhood Program and are for sale at xelaaroma.com.
Who: Nearly 900 Austin Street Center staff, board members, patrons, and supporters including Abim Bola, Mary Danz, Bianca Davis, Priya Murphy, Britt Carman, Katelyn Muñoz, Carolyn Arnold, Gail Turner, R. Gerald Turner, and many, many more.