|Human Rights Campaign
8th Annual National Dinner - Washington, DC - October 8, 2004
Streaming Video of the event is available: HRC National Dinner video. Note: My introduction of Jessica Lange is about halfway down the page.
do things like this happen? How do people like me get asked to do things
like this? It all still seems like a dream....
It all started a few weeks ago as I taxi'd to the terminal on some runway at some airport somewhere during one of my wild weekend trips. I had just reached into my purse and turned on my phone, and to my surprise it rang! I looked at the 202 prefix on the screen, didn't recognize it right away, and answered it.
One the other end was the Education Director from the Human Rights Campaign. Her name was Liz, and we've worked together before. I assumed she was calling about something having to do with our upcoming Business Council meeting in Washington, DC.
She asked if I was planning to attend the National Dinner following the board meetings that week. I told her that funds are tight at the moment, and although I'd like to go I didn't know that I could afford it. I asked whether there was some way she could rustle up a ticket for me.
She mentioned that part of the program included presenting an award to Academy Award winning actress Jessica Lange for her portrayal of Irma Applewood in the HBO production of "Normal". Then, she asked if I would consider presenting Jessica with the award.
I don't get stunned very often, but this was one of those times. I didn't know what to say. What does someone say to being asked to do something that would be an incredible honor? I told her I'd be honored and proud to do it. She told me that script writers and planners would be contacting me over the next few weeks, and thanked me. And the bell dinged meaning we could take off our seat belts and actually get up I hung up and sat there for a couple of minutes, still not believing that we had just had this conversation....
As the days ticked down and the realization that I'd be speaking in front of over 3,000 people there I actually found myself getting more comfortable instead of more nervous.
Actually, the thing that made me most nervous was deciding what to wear. What does someone wear when introducing someone who has won an Oscar? What does someone wear when they're representing their community in front of a group of people like this? It's not as easy as it might sound. So, after some unsuccessful attempts to find something nice on sale I ended up making a magical trip to Saks 5th Avenue.
I felt like Pretty Woman as they brought expensive dresses for me to try on. And, I felt only the slightest tinge of buyer's remorse as I walked out of the store with my booty - the most expensive outfit I've ever worn.
The event itself remains a blur. I brought my dear friend Sally as my date, and we were treated like royalty. We were assigned to a table at the front of the huge Convention Center with the rest of the speakers. We attended the VIP reception for major donors. We had a handler who made sure we got where we were supposed to be. We attended a photo session prior to the dinner with Jessica and Rosie O'Donnell. And I felt comfortable and relaxed as I spoke - more proud of that evening and all it represents than I can even begin to put into words.
Donna and Jessica Lange
Donna Introducing Jessica Lange
Jessica accepts her award....