Annual Genesis Luncheon Keynoter Arianna Huffington Made A Wake-Up Call For Digital Intervention

Some of the digitally connected folks looked a bit squeamish at the Genesis Luncheon on Monday, May 15, in the Anatole’s Chantilly Ballroom. It wasn’t that keynoter Arianna Huffington created a great divide like Bethenny Frankel. Rather, the former grand dame of internet news outlet The Huffington Post was telling the crowd to cut the cord, or at least the wireless connection with their cellphones, tablets and laptops. It was like the head of Alcoholic Anonymous extolling the virtues of sobriety to the National Association of American Wineries. But more about that later.

Before the luncheon got underway, the meet-and-greet with 100 very special guests like Luncheon Co-Chairs Nikki and Crayton Webb, Gail and Gerald Turner, Pat Schenkel, Greg Nieberding, Melissa Cameron and Gail Davis got underway in the Wedgwood Room at 10:45.

Gerald Turner, Arianna Huffington, Pat Schenkel and Gail Turner

Melissa Cameron

Gail Davis

Right on schedule the doors opened to the gorgeous ballroom filled with huge arrangements of pink, white and red roses, hydrangeas and cherry blossoms, white tablecloths and pink napkins and a stage with a side backdrop of pink and red surrounding the main screen, with Genesis encircled by a heart. On the stage were two chairs in the center with a podium to the side, setting the scene for what was to come.

As guests like Ashlee Kleinert, Ken Altshuler, Nancy Best, Ros Dawson Thompson and Paige McDaniel took their seats, a man arrived who was immediately surrounded by folks wanting to have their photo taken with him. The gentleman was the man of the hour — HeRO Awardee/former Dallas Police Chief David Brown. When asked if rumors about his new book “Called To Rise” were true, that pre-release sales were skyrocketing, he smiled and said, “I hope so.”  

Crayton and Nikki Webb

Immediately signaling that the luncheon program was underway was a recitation by three Lakeview Centennial High School Young students enrolled in Young DFW Writers that was followed by Crayton telling how one in four women would face physical violence at some point in their lives. He stated that until that situation of abuse ends, “We have Genesis.” To carry on the support of Genesis, he reeled off the various raffle items available and then introduced Rev. Dr. Sheron Patterson to provide the invocation.

Following lunch, Nikki and Crayton arrived on stage to introduce various dignitaries, thank the luncheon committee members and recount stories of women who’d told them just that morning of being in abusive relationships. Adding a touch of humor and “Aw,” Crayton told how Nikki had said 18 months ago that, in addition to their three sons, she’d like to have a fourth child. To this Crayton responded, “I hope you and your next husband will be very happy.” As laughter filled the room, Crayton added, “But I’m still here.” The fourth child ended up being a little girl they name Lucy, who also brought a renewed concern and determination to the couple in helping women in danger.

At 12:20 p.m. Genesis Women’s Shelter CEO Jan Langbein, whose dress matched the day’s pink, white and red floral setting, told the audience that the Junior League of Dallas had received the Jane Doe Award the week before at a private reception.

Jan Langbein, Arianna Huffington and David Brown

Then she introduced David Brown, emphasizing his support of Genesis’ mission in fighting abuse against women. As he approached the stage to officially receive the HeRO Award, the room erupted in cheers and a standing ovation. David once again proved his skill at addressing the crowd and told how as a youngster he had witnessed the devastation of drugs and violence within his community. This experience resulted in his committing himself to public service. As he explained, if you do something for other people and expect something in return, then that is a business deal. But if you do something for other people who cannot return the favor, it a true reward.    

At 12:27, Jan then introduced Arianna, telling of her many accomplishments including being the author of 15 books, the most recent being “The Sleep Revolution.”

Arianna Huffington

With a Greek accent that at times made her sound like Zsa-Zsa Gabor, Arianna recognized Jan (“What a force of nature!”), Nikki and Crayton and Genesis Senior Director of Development Bianca Jackson, before revealing that she indeed did have a Texas connection — her former husband, millionaire Michael Huffington, had been born in Dallas. She recalled how, years before, she had served on the board of Points of Light, and Genesis was one of the organizations spotlighted.

While some guests may have expected her to talk politics, they were sorely disappointed. Nary was a Republican, Democrat or Whig mentioned.

Okay, so she did recall Madeleine Albright’s saying, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support women. But I think there’s a special place in heaven for men who support women.” The first sentence caused some guests to think that it was going to be a political ride, but the follow-up sentence quickly put that idea to rest.

Instead of controversial issues dealing with politicians, she sounded like a tent preacher on the subject of improving one’s well being. Her epiphany took place in 2007 when she collapsed and passed out due to sleep deprivation.  When she regained consciousness, she found herself in a pool of blood, with a broken cheekbone and a cut over her eye. It was literally a wake-up call. She asked herself, “What is life about?” In the past it had meant 18-hour days striving for money and power. But now she was re-examining her definition of the “good life.” Her answer was to put the priority on taking care of one’s self. As an example, she recalled the age-old oxygen mask theory.

Feeling so strongly about her discovery, she left The Huffington Post this past August and launched Thrive Global to encourage people to “look up from our phones and take care of ourselves, our loved ones and our community. Otherwise we’re in serious trouble.”

Arianna Huffington

She wondered aloud how the assembled group would handle time away from their cellphones, laptops, etc. Ironically, just as Arianna was encouraging guests to take a “digital detox,” guests in the room were seen snapping shots of Arianna on their cellphones and checking their watches about appointments.

Touching on the importance of giving and connecting with the community, Arianna said that Genesis was doing just that for women and their families.

On the lighter side, Arianna recalled how God created the world in six days and “she” rested on the seventh. Her point was that rest is vital to well-being.

After her talk at the podium, she was joined on stage by WFAA’s medical reporter Sonia Azad at 12:46 p.m., where they chatted about how people could indeed take better care of themselves through meditation, yoga, fly fishing and brushing off the problems of the day in the shower. All of those activities required leaving distractions like cellphones elsewhere. “We need to disconnect from our phones.”

Arianna Huffington and Sonia Azad

To emphasize the point of ending the digital addiction, she asked how many in the audience slept with their cellphones on their nightstands. This statement resulted in a chatter at tables and hands raised throughout the room. One guest sheepishly ‘fessed up that he did, “But I use it as an alarm clock.” Without hearing the comment, Arianna had evidently heard that one before and was prepared: “You can buy an old-fashioned alarm clock.”

Arianna Huffington and Sonia Azad

Feeling so strongly about this situation, Arianna’s Thrive Global has created a “phone bed,” so the phone can recharge on top of a satin-clad mattress outside of the bedroom.

When asked by Sonia about her advice to her daughters, Arianna told how her daughters were well “aware of the dangers of becoming addicted to social media presence in our lives.” She went on to say that the main goal for countless engineers at the social media companies is to feed this addiction.

Admitting she has an Instagram account, she reported how just that morning she had received a note asking if she would like to know each time someone likes her post or follows her: “That sounds like hell.”

As the guests waited for their cars following the luncheon, one person was overheard laughing that AT&T was not a luncheon sponsor.

Genesis Annual Luncheon VIP Sponsors Celebrated The Jane Doe And HeRO Awards At Amanda And Brint Ryan’s Home-Sweet-Home

Amanda and Brint Ryan

When Amanda and Brint Ryan waved goodbye to the last of the 75 guests at the Genesis Annual Luncheon VIP Sponsors Party on Thursday, May 11, hopefully they checked all the nooks and crannies of their palatial digs. The reason? The main house and grounds were so absolutely perfect, it was good money that someone would hide out just to spend the night.

Ryan main house

Ryan doghouse

Even the Ryan’s doghouse was a mini-version of the main house. The two Ryan pooches had to watch the festivities from their fenced-in mini-estate, while the party was going on.

But the night wasn’t just for critters and palace gazing. It was to thank the Genesis major donors and to present some awards in advance of the annual luncheon on May 15.

Gerald Turner

Chuck Thoele and David Miller

When a classical string group stopped playing and the pool’s fountains closed down, it signaled that the evening’s program was getting under way, with guests in attendance like Nancy Best, Gail and Gerald Turner, Carolyn and David Miller, Beth and Chuck Thoele, Bob Mong and Steve Langbein.

First to speak was Genesis Annual Luncheon Co-Chair Nikki Webb, who thanked the Ryans for their hospitality. “I find your house so incredibly warm, and I’m sure it’s a reflection of y’all,” she said. Then, Nikki revealed for the first time that a fella that she’d dated in college had proved to be a very wrong person for a relationship. She admitted that while she feared him, her friends claimed that he was really a great guy. Luckily, Nikki rose above and out of that situation and eventually married her husband/Genesis Annual Luncheon Co-Chair Crayton Webb.  

Crayton and Nikki Webb

Next Crayton took the mic and announced that this year’s HeRO Award, which honors men who take a public stand against domestic violence, would be going to former Dallas Police Chief David Brown. The ex-chief, Crayton said, “was involved in preventing domestic violence long before” the tragic police shootings on July 7, 2016. Brown would accept the award, it was explained, at the May 15 luncheon at the Hilton Anatole.

With that, Genesis Women’s Shelter CEO Jan Langbein took over, explaining that the 2017 Jane Doe Award—which honors groups or individuals who stand strongly in support of domestic-abuse victims—would be going to the Junior League of Dallas. Jan, who was initially exposed to Genesis as a JLD volunteer and later won its highest honor, the Mary Harriman Community Leadership Award, explained that Genesis currently enjoys the services “of the most JLD volunteers of any nonprofit in Dallas.”

Nancy Best and Jan Langbein

Bonner Allen

Accepting the Jane Doe award was Bonner Allen, the league’s 2016-2017 president. While 2017-2018 President Jennifer Tobin looked on, Bonner proudly said, “I can’t tell you how much this award means to us. I couldn’t think of a better partner [for the league] than Genesis.”  

JUST IN: Serita Jakes And Roger Staubach To Receive Genesis’ Jane Doe And HeRO Awards, Respectively

Less than a month from now the Genesis Annual Luncheon with Tyler Perry as the keynote speaker will be underway at the Hilton Anatole on the Friday before Mother’s Day. But Tyler isn’t the only big name that will be on stage. Co-Chairs Gina Betts and Nancy Rogers just sent word about this year’s awardees of the 2016 Jane Doe Award and the 2016 HeRO Award.

Gina Betts (File photo)

Gina Betts (File photo)

Nancy Rogers (File photo)

Nancy Rogers (File photo)

The Jane Doe Award “celebrates individuals who display extraordinary commitment to standing alongside those seeking safety, shelter and support.” This year’s recipient is Serita Jakes “for her leadership of the ‘Starting Over Ministry’ and her recognition of the important role of the faith community in ending domestic violence.”

Serita Jakes (File photo)

Serita Jakes (File photo)

Roger Staubach (File photo)

Roger Staubach (File photo)

The HeRO (He Respects Others) Award “recognizes men who use their voice and influence to take a public stand against domestic violence.” The word “hero” has long been associated with this year’s recipient in the world of sports, business and community involvement — Roger Staubach.

If you have a mom in your life, why not treat her to an early Mother’s Day treat that will be a real memory maker? Individual tickets are now available!

Genesis Annual Luncheon’s Maria Shriver Encouraged Guests To Drop Negative Influences And Strive To Be Themselves

The Genesis Annual Luncheon kicked off the Mother’s Day week festivities a tad bit early. But then it’s never too early to celebrate moms. So, it was no surprise that more than 1,600 high-heeled types included moms and their kiddos (Micki Rawlings and son Gunnar, Lisa Ogle and mom Nina Thornburgh, Marianne Staubach and her daughters, Nancy Ann Hunt and daughter Ashlee Kleinert and her daughter Connie Kleinert, made their way to the gargantuan Trinity Ballroom on Tuesday, May 5.

Ashlee Kleinert, Nancy Ann Hunt, Connie Kleinert and Mackenzie Meyer

Ashlee Kleinert, Nancy Ann Hunt, Connie Kleinert and Mackenzie Meyer

Micki Rawlings and Gunnar Rawlings

Micki Rawlings and Gunnar Rawlings

As they strutted on their way, they passed by the Wedgwood Room where featured speaker Maria Shriver posed for photos with VIP guests. Each one she greeted with a handshake and “Hello, I’m Maria.” She handled each meeting like the seasoned trooper she is, including the woman who bear-hugged her.

Pio del Castillo, Jan Langbein, Maria Shriver and Crayton Webb

Pio del Castillo, Jan Langbein, Maria Shriver and Crayton Webb

Eventually the action moved to the Trinity, where it was hard to find a single empty chair. Maria was joined tableside by Luncheon Chair Kathy Helm. At nearby tables were Nancy Rogers, Michael Flores, Olivia Kearney, Holly Deason, Shelly Slater, Ros Dawson Thompson, April Box Chamberlain, Katie Pedigo, Joyce Lacerte, Pio del Castillo, Amy Turner, Julie Hawes, Rev. Sheron Patterson and Claire Emanuelson. Congratulations were being distributed to the various fellows in the crowd like newlyweds Niven Morgan and Shelby Wagner and WFAA’s John McCaa, who had just earned his doctorate in philosophy.

Michael Flores and Nancy Rogers

Michael Flores and Nancy Rogers

Josh Ragsdale, Sheron Patterson, Kathy Helms, John McCaa and Ashlee Kleinert

Josh Ragsdale, Sheron Patterson, Kathy Helms, John McCaa and Ashlee Kleinert

Before Maria was introduced, The Dallas Morning News and its series “Deadly Affection” were recognized with the Jane Doe Award and Genesis Women’s Shelter Jan Langbein emphasized that the work against domestic violence was more necessary than ever.

Josh Ragsdale and Kathy Helms

Josh Ragsdale and Kathy Helm

Then HeRO Board President Crayton Webb gave a stirring talk on how men…real men are more than “gentlemen…they are “gentle men.” He then introduced W.H. Adamson High School football coach and athletic coordinator Josh Ragsdale, who was presented the HeRO Award. In his brief acceptance speech, it was obvious how this man who works with young men on the football field was chosen. Through his efforts, he has inspired more than just the Adamson athletes to take a pledge to be against domestic violence. His message has spread throughout the country. In addition to having twin daughters, he and his wife Amber are expecting a son, who will have an excellent role model.

Maria Shriver and Jeff Brady

Maria Shriver and Jeff Brady

Before settling into the comfy chairs on stage, Maria addressed the group, telling about her visit the night before at Genesis. Through talking with the clients of the shelter and hearing their stories, she told guests “these women deserved respect and not shame.”

Highlights of her chat with Jeff Brady included:

  • At the age of 8, she hated Dallas. And due to what had happened in Dallas (the Kennedy assassination), she was not changing her mind. At the age of 40 — 32 years later — she realized that she didn’t want to drag negative influences along her journey of life. One of those items was that hatred that had resulted from family feelings. So she visited the Sixth Floor, the grassy knoll and returned to the Sixth Floor for a prayer. Her hatred was transformed to understanding and liking Dallas. In fact, one of her closest friends, Jan Miller, lives in Dallas.
  •  Jan Miller and Maria Shriver
    Jan Miller and Maria Shriver
  • When asked if she would have gone into journalism today, she said she had been asked that before and had to think about it. Her answer? She would probably go into sports because so many things were initiating from it.
  • Maria told how the previous weekend she had turned down the sound on the broadcast of the Floyd MayweatherManny Pacqiao fight much to the chagrin of her sons. She explained that they needed to know about Mayweather’s history of domestic violence. Maria went on to say she was not ruining their evening, she was instructing them.
  • Jeff Brady and Maria Shriver
    Jeff Brady and Maria Shriver
  • Upon hearing about Dale Hansen’s outgoing personality and his taking a vocal stand against domestic violence, she said she wanted to meet him.
  • Maria admitted to a personal problem when she has been hit by mistaken identifications like “Are you Caroline Kennedy?” Other times she was asked if she was indeed Maria Shriver. At one point she just denied being Maria Shriver. One person said they didn’t think she was Shriver because “Maria Shriver is fatter.”

In conclusion she shared a lesson that she had learned over the years of being associated with well-known parents and other family members — do not compare yourself to others but to strive to be yourself. And Maria has indeed mastered that lesson.

More photos are available at MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.