On the evening of April 23rd, 700 partners, colleagues and allies gathered to officially mark LISC's 40th anniversary at a gala celebration in New York City. Special guests and speakers included New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, former Vice President Walter Mondale, former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell. And of course, our 20-year board chair, former US Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin, the evening's distinguished honoree.
Read on for a recap of the event and to watch our 40th anniversary videos.
The executive director of one of our longtime community collaborators once said, "Funders are our backbone, partners are our life blood, and friends are the heart of it all." At LISC's 40th anniversary gala last night in New York City, 700 people from each of those categories—many who fall into all three—gathered to raise a glass to the decades of work, investment and partnerships that have helped stoke opportunity for millions of Americans in communities all across the country.
From honoring our 20-year board chair, former Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin, to recognizing the extraordinary partnership with the NFL Foundation and the often unsung efforts of our community partners, to reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, it was a night that encapsulated the goodwill, the dedication and the values of everyone in LISC's far-flung extended family.
Brenda Palms Barber, president and CEO of Chicago's North Lawndale Employment Network, kicked off the evening by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Number one in your life’s blueprint should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness," he told a group of junior high students in 1967. Every partner and program that LISC supports, said Barber, aims to build the dignity and "somebodiness" of the millions of people living in under-resourced places across the the country.
Whether they are local community organizations, state government agencies or innovative tech companies, our partners bring knowledge, insight and relationships to the table that in turn enable us to harness new ways of tackling challenges in the communities we care about.
For 20 years, LISC and the NFL Foundation have partnered through the NFL Foundation Grassroots Program.
The program provides non-profit, neighborhood-based organizations with financial and technical assistance to improve the quality, safety and accessibility of local football fields. But it does so much more.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, who presented an award to the NFL Foundation at the event, recalled playing on a field in his youth that has since been renewed with the partnership's support, and attributed his life's mission and success in part to the lessons he absorbed as a young athlete. Over the past two decades, the LISC-NFL Foundation partnership has revitalized 365 fields and given over 700,000 young people the chance to play, learn and grow.
When Robert E. Rubin, former U.S. Treasury Secretary, took the helm of LISC's board in 1999, our organization got a boost of direction, mentorship and recognition that helped create the success of our last 20 years. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who counts Rubin as his mentor, expressed the gratitude of many in his remarks thanking Rubin for his generosity, service and expertise—and for his bone-dry one-liners.
And as former LISC CEO Michael Rubinger put it, Rubin's involvement inspired "people to begin saying, 'this is an organization that must be worth looking at.'" Since then, Bob has worked year-in and year-out to sharpen our focus, hone our strategy, strengthen our finances and realize our mission.
The night's surprise guest was President Bill Clinton, via video message, who weighed in with a gracious message of thanks and appreciation for the work of LISC and his one-time treasury secretary. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my increasingly long life, it’s that talent and intelligence are equally distributed across the country and around the world," Clinton said. "But opportunities aren't. Since it’s founding in 1979, LISC has worked to create those opportunities, to help people live up to their full potential. I am really grateful [Bob has] put his gifts to work for LISC for 20 years.”
Of course, the evening would not have been possible without the support of our generous sponsors, board, staff, donors and friends. Your contributions are the reason LISC has achieved the success it has over the past 40 years, and we are deeply grateful for all you do.