The Genesis 25th Annual Luncheon on Friday, May 11, at the Hilton Anatole was the perfect kick-off to the Mother’s Day weekend. Among the estimated 1,600 in attendance, mothers and their offspring like Gail Turner with daughter Jessica Turner-Waugh and Ashlee Kleinert doing double duty as mother of Connie Kleinert Bbikan and daughter of Nancy Ann Hunt were spotted throughout the Chantilly Ballroom. It was also noted that a surprising number of men were in the crowd.
But before the ballroom filled to what seemed like capacity, a meet-and-greet was held in the Wedgwood Room with keynote speaker/actress/entrepreneur Hilary Swank that boasted such guests as Robin Bagwell, Genesis Women’s Shelter Board Chair Nancy Best and Genesis Women’s Shelter First Husband Steve Langbein. Thanks to a very well-coordinated setup, the step-and-repeat with Hilary was seamless with no breakdown or slowdown.
That smart planning also extended to the start of the program. Despite the large number and the close quarters of tables, the crowd’s attention was immediately directed to the large screens with a 30-second video followed by Luncheon Co-Chairs Jane and Michael Hurst welcoming the group and Rev. Dr. Sheron Patterson providing the invocation with her signature “A-m-e-n!”
Running on schedule, guests were just finishing up their lunches (Mandarin orange and strawberries over fresh butter lettuce, crispy stuffed chicken with orzo and spring onions and dark chocolate mousse cake with passionfruit gelee and berry tart with butter streusel), the Hursts were back, but this time he was doffed his suit jacket. They were getting down to business recognizing the various elected officials and sponsors and sharing the news that they were with $12,000 of their day’s goal.
They then announced that thanks to the 2018 Jane Doe Awardee Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, Genesis clients had been provided legal representation at no cost.
As Jane and Michael left the stage, they were replaced by HeROs Board President Crayton Webb told the audience that Judge Roberto Canas had been named the HeRO awardee for his influence in the battle against domestic violence, both in his Criminal Court #10 as well as “spearheading the country’s efforts to save lives by improving and enforcing a gun surrender program that keeps guns out of the hands of abusers.” As Crayton emphasized, “Violent people should not have guns.”
Following Crayton was Genesis Women’s Shelter CEO Jan Langbein, who recalled how the first luncheon had been at the Melrose 25 years ago. Over the years, the problem of domestic violence has come to the forefront with it being a part of the #MeToo movement. As Jan put it, “Women are no longer responsible for not getting raped. Rather rapists are responsible to not rape.”
She then said that Bill Cosby was no longer America’s father. “Because America’s fathers do not perpetrate, premeditate drug assault women.”
Jan revealed that the videos that had been shown throughout the luncheon were a part of a campaign “Be Her First Step” by the American Advertising Federation’s local affiliate Ad 2 Dallas for Genesis. Since its launch, the campaign has created 7M impressions. (Editor’s note: The campaign won first place in the recent National Public Service’s annual Admerica! Competition in Chicago. According to the Ad 2, “The campaign, which included TV, out of home, digital ads and website content creation garnered over 56 million impressions and delivered over $690,00 in value over 5 months.”)
At 12:37 Jan introduced Hilary, who took her place on the stage for a conversation with WFAA’s Sonia Azad. Highlights of the conversation included:
- Her first champion — “My mom. She said to me, ‘You can do anything you want in life as long as you work hard enough. That belief in me instilled something so powerful. It made me get out of my own way because as we know our mind is most of the time our biggest obstacle. I had a gymnastic coach who always said, ‘Never say can’t. Can’t means won’t. Won’t means pushups.’ I’ve been blessed by a lot of people along the way.”
- Her role in “Boys Don’t Cry” — At that time (1999) there was no conversation about transgender or sexual identity crisis. “I was born in the same hospital as Brandon in Lincoln, Nebraska.”
- Challenges in growing up — “I’m still growing up. I grew up in a lower socio-economic background and quickly learned class distinction. When you are seven years old and are told you can’t have a dinner at somebody’s house because you don’t belong there, that’s tough. It’s hard to wrap your head around. You should never make a child feel like they don’t belong. We all belong.”
- FX series “Trust” — “It’s really fun to work with the incredible Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy because I get to get into the gradations of a person. It was really an interesting family to say the least.”
- Her new dress line — “It’s made for modern day women.”
- MissionStatement.com — “I wanted to encourage women to live their own personal mission statement. Women come up to me and say to me, ‘You really encouraged me to never give up on my dream.’ You know, especially where you come from.’ I thought that was so humbling to think that’s a byproduct of my just living my dream. I never thought it would be something that would encourage others. As far as we know, we only have one life and it’s short and you want to live it… I want people to live their personal mission statement by taking one hour each day to do something for themselves.”
- As an inspiration — “I still feel like that person from Nebraska. To hear people talking about that (an inspiration) is humbling. It’s an honor to be in a position where I can actually have a voice about things that are really important to me.”
- Dogs — “I love dogs.”
- Motivation — “I don’t try to inspire other people. I just try to live my own personal mission statement every day.”
- #MeToo — She grew up as an athlete and one of the things she learned at a young age was the interaction with other girls. “We learn how to support other women. We have to work together for a common goal. That really formed me as a young person to have that objective my whole life… to really be there and support one another walking shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity for a common goal. And right now the #MeToo movement for equality and anyone who finds themselves in a position like the women who are coming to Genesis to seek protection and shelter and a new lease on life. I just think it’s really important to really think about the fact that none of these women ever thought they would be in this position. That’s what you hear. The common theme you hear is ‘I never thought it would be me.’ When you hear that, you realize it could be any of us. That’s why it’s so important that we stand together. It could be your sister. It could be your daughter. It could be your mother. It could be your best friend. It could be your neighbor. It’s really important to open our eyes and see the cues. Some of these women are scared for their lives. They’re told they’ll be killed if they say anything or try to get out of their situation.
- Message for young girls — “We’re raising girls and boys who are looking at everything in a different way and breaking stereotypes. It’s no longer acceptable to allow someone to be put in a place life where they’re heckled, harassed or sexually abuse. It starts with the parents.”
- Who motivates her — “Always my mom.” From Iowa, she got married young and put her husband through college. Today she still is an executive secretary and “doesn’t want to quit because she’s close to retirement.”
- Her father — He had lung cancer and required a lung transplant. Hilary took three years off to see him through that.
- Travel — She’s just back from New Zealand. Was in Cairo four months ago. “The most important thing about travel is we get to connect with people and to see how alike we are.”
- Advice For women — “It’s really important to nurture, but it’s not selfish to take care of yourself. You’ll be able to give more and be more present.”
- Most Grateful — “My health. The ability to live my dream.”
- How to live your dream — “It goes back to third grade teacher.” He had the class write a skit and perform in front of the class. She didn’t realize this could be a calling. She thought people on TV where simply “people in that box.” However, her performance so impressed her teacher that he called her mother and told her to get her into the school play. “It was Jungle Book and tried for Baloo.” She ended up playing Mowgli “because I had this raspy voice… That was my precursor to “Boys Don’t Cry.”’”
- Overnight success — She and her mother, Judy Swank, moved to Los Angeles when Hilary was 17 and briefly lived in their car. “I was 24 when I did ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and some critic in the paper said, ‘Overnight success.’” Hilary thought, “Boy, that was one long night.”