Several hundred guests — including celebrities, leaders in health and finance and Washington movers and shakers — crowded into the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on Thursday for the awarding of AARP The Magazine's 2010 Inspire Awards.
“Tonight we have gathered together some truly exceptional people, whose perseverance and passion for their causes have paid off by improving people’s lives,” said Editor and AARP Vice President Nancy Perry Graham in her opening remarks. “Our honorees serve as proof of the power that each of us has to make the world a better place.”
The gala was presented by Platinum sponsor VITAS Innovative Hospice Care® and hosted by broadcast legend Jane Pauley, AARP’s “Your Life Calling” ambassador. It kicked off at 6 p.m. with a star-studded red carpet that spotlighted all 10 people whose actions and charitable works earned one of this year’s awards.
This year's honorees include acclaimed poet Maya Angelou; actor-turned-educator Tony Danza; pancreatic cancer funding advocate Lisa Niemi Swayze; free clinic founder Pedro José Greer, M.D.; heart disease campaigners Joy Behar and Eve Behar Scotti; CARE USA CEO Helene Gayle, M.D.; stroke activist Henry Winkler; end-of-life counselor Sandy Chen Stokes; and Elizabeth Warren, special advisor for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“They inspire us,” said AARP CEO A. Barry Rand of the honorees. “They celebrate their humanity by making the lives of people around them better.”
Starting off the evening, Maya Angelou received AARP’s prestigious Andrus Award, which pays tribute to the legacy of AARP’s founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus. This national award recognizes an individual who, like AARP’s founder, has generated positive social change in the world and whose work and achievements reflect AARP’s vision of engaging the experience and vitality of people over 50 to serve all generations.
As AARP Board Chair Phil Zarlengo and CEO Barry Rand presented the award to Angelou, Zarlengo called her “one of the great voices of contemporary literature and a remarkable Renaissance woman.” Angelou accepted her award with thanks to AARP — her “peers,” as she called the organization — for helping the world better appreciate the word “old.” Then, she read a poem written just for the occasion.
Subsequently, each honoree took to the stage and shared moving stories of the driving passion that keeps them motivated every day.
As Jane Pauley noted in her closing remarks, it was “truly an inspirational evening.”