“I’m here for the love of my child,” Madeleine Albright announced to a packed room at the San Francisco Ritz Carlton. The crowd was there to support the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center at its annual Blue Ribbon Luncheon fundraiser.
The slogan, for the love of a child, is often used by the center in furthering its mission of ending the cycle of abuse.
Katie Albright, the Executive Director of the center, is the youngest of three daughters of the former U.S. Secretary of State. She used her excellent connections to recruit her mom as this year’s keynote speaker, and mom and daughter appeared to be members of a mutual admiration society, two generations of women who have followed their bliss into careers of public service.
“The first time I introduced my mom to speak I was in the 8th grade and she was in the White House,” Katie recalled. She described a different side to her mom as a single mother who juggled a great deal, putting up with a house of female drama and rebellion while working in high ranking positions of government.
Katie sees first-hand the challenges faced by single mothers as many women struggling to raise children alone are clients helped by the center. Katie said her mother’s achievements have inspired many young women, but her own 6-year-old daughter doesn’t see why Albright gets so much attention at public appearances.
“She asked me about Grandma Maddy speaking today and said ‘I don’t get it, what’s the big deal that she was Secretary of State. A lot of girls are secretaries of state.’ But my son reminded her that Grandma Maddy was the first girl secretary of state!”
It’s true, Grandma Maddie did blaze the trail for future secretaries Condoleezza Rice and Hilary Clinton, who are more known to the younger generations than the elder diplomat. Albright said being a mother prepared her well for diplomacy, linking the process of teaching children the playground rules and subduing tantrums to negotiating with the Middle East.
In addressing the topic of the lunch, she called child abuse a “felony against the future” and argued that too often in both human rights issues and abuse, we fail to anticipate disaster before it’s too late.
“We often send supplies when we hear of refugees forced out of their homes or we send food when we hear people are starving,” she observed. ” The value of vision requires opening our eyes because we do much better when we can prevent abuse and suffering.”
In San Francisco alone, nearly 6,000 cases of child abuse and neglect were reported last year. The center offers a range of services for treating the entire family, from an emergency talkline, to daily counseling and playroom activities to annual holiday meal and event programs to give troubled families the leg-up needed to combat the vicious cycle of abuse.
The center is also is known for its community-based education, training teachers, police officers, medical professionals, social service providers and children to recognize and report abuse. Another speaker at the lunch, Juanita Alvarado, shared her touching story of being on drugs and on the streets with her four children before the center helped turn it all around. Today, her older sons are honor students and she serves on the Parent Advisory Committee at the center.
Katie took the helm a couple of years ago after years of working as an attorney championing children’s rights. She is very understated about her connections. In fact, I’ve volunteered at the center for years doing the annual holiday party and didn’t know until recently that Madeleine was her mother.
The economic downturn has made Katie’s job tougher as the need for food and shelter are on the rise while generous giving has weakened. Yet as director, she powers through, relying on a network of support throughout the city and teaming with the SF Food Bank to respond to a four-fold increase in demand.
“Katie went to law school so she could learn a language that would help her to help children,” remembered her mom. “She always knew exactly what she wanted to do and is now heading an organization that allows her to do just that. What more could a mother ask for?” Ditto that!
Albright, who is famous for her large, showy pins (she says her next book will focus on the collection) wore a beautiful heart-shaped brooch on her jacket which she said Katie made for her as a Mother’s Day gift when she was only five. Clearly, Katie showed great talent – and heart- even back then.
Earning her mother’s praise must be a great gift for Katie, who returned the favor by plugging her mom’s book, Madam Secretary, which was sold and signed by the author after the lunch. Katie lifted it up and showed it the crowd, assuring everyone, “It’s a really great read!”
images: Luanne Bradley