As American Red Cross Tiffany Circle members gathered on June 1, media outlets issued tornado and flash flood warnings for the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area, the location of this year’s summit. Fitting, perhaps, for a Red Cross event.
“This is what we do,” Melanie Sabelhaus, founding chair of the Tiffany Circle, said with a smile to the rumbling thunder in the background as the evening events kicked off. “We (the Red Cross) do disaster.”
The Tiffany Circle is a society of women leaders and philanthropists who annually invest a minimum of $10,000 in their local Red Cross chapter. Once a year they come together, wearing their Red Cross pins and embracing members like old friends, affirming their commitment to compassion and generosity. With more than 250 members that continue to expand around the globe, these women have raised more than $40 million for the American Red Cross since 2007.
Welcome Former First Lady Laura Bush This year, President and CEO Gail McGovern of the Red Cross introduced a new Tiffany Circle member, a woman who, “has represented the United States with grace, good humor and above all else, compassion;” Former First Lady Laura Bush.
Bush, at the dinner, spoke of her time in the White House and the unexpected emergencies that arose during those eight years including 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. “Of course, the Red Cross was first on the scene,” Bush said.
“Our family is proud to support the Red Cross and I am happy to be here tonight to continue the Bush family tradition,” she continued. “The American experience relies heavily on individual citizens … and every President has relied on the Red Cross. The Red Cross represents the very best of American ingenuity.”
A Message from President and CEO Gail McGovern Saturday morning, the storm had passed as Gail McGovern took the podium to address the Tiffany Circle members. A reoccurring theme arose as McGovern spoke, “The Tiffany Circle,” she said, “is a testimony to women in philanthropy in our country.”
Gail McGovern remarked on her daughter who had just recently graduated college and recalled her own graduation, 38 years ago. She had just completed a college aptitude test that informed her she could be an elementary teacher, a florist or a beautician upon graduation. Looking out upon the crowd of women leaders, McGovern said, “Because of women like you … My daughter thinks she can do whatever she wants.”
McGovern also spoke of the many lessons she had learned during her four years as president and CEO of the Red Cross. “I have learned to lead not only with my head, but with my heart,” she commented, admitting it was something she wished she had done more of during her time in the for-profit sector.
And regardless of the claim that America is caught amid disagreement and division, McGovern put forth a different perspective. “I have learned that everyone in our country wants to have a higher purpose. I have seen that every day at the American Red Cross,” she said. “I see a country of caring and generous people who want to give back.”
And the women leaders and philanthropists in that room exemplified this vision.
After McGovern’s address, Tiffany Circle members heard from First Lady of Quebec and Author of “Missions,” Michele Dionne and Laura A. Liswoood, author of "Women World Leaders.” Later that evening, Award–Winning Country Music Star, Jo Dee Messina, entertained the crowd of women leaders. And as part of the Red Cross’s salute to men and women in uniform, Former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael G. Mullin was in attendance at the Chairman's Dinner that featured a performance by “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band.
Tiffany Circle members follow in the footsteps of a long line of women leaders who have helped the Red Cross serve the American public in times of war and peace with disaster assistance, blood collection, safety training and countless other community assistance services. Visit redcross.org to learn more about the Tiffany Circle Society of Women Leaders.