Clin­ton among 10 trail­blaz­ers hon­ored at IWF gala

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - CITY | STATE - By Am­ber El­liott am­ber.el­ twit­­ber­jel­liot

Six blocks from Minute Maid Park, where 41,000 fans watched the Astros de­feat the Dodgers in Game 3 of the World Se­ries, Hil­lary Clin­ton stepped up to bat.

Though the crowd, some 1,000 In­ter­na­tional Women’s Fo­rum & Lead­er­ship Foundation gala go­ers, was sig­nif­i­cantly smaller, it was just as in­vested.

This time last year, many of the con­fer­ence’s business own­ers, tech in­no­va­tors and civic lead­ers rooted for Clin­ton in the his­toric 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Their team lost.

But on Fri­day night, in­side of Hil­ton Amer­i­cas Hous­ton’s fourth-floor ball­room, Clin­ton was in­dis­putably MVP-elect.

“She has bro­ken many glass ceil­ings and has the scars to show for it,” said Donna Sha­lala, who co-in­ducted Clin­ton into IWF’s 2017 Hall of Fame with Ann Drake.

Drake met Clin­ton — “then, she was just Hil­lary Rod­ham” — in bal­let class when they were 8 years old.

She shared sto­ries of how their friend­ship blos­somed through­out high school, col­lege, and after “Hil­lary met a dash­ing young man from Arkansas at law school.”

Dozens of pre­teen and teenaged girls lis­tened in­tently, with in­cred­u­lous eyes and bob­bing pony­tails, as a video pre­sen­ta­tion il­lus­trated Clin­ton’s as­cent from first lady to sen­a­tor, sec­re­tary of state and the first fe­male can­di­date to be nom­i­nated for pres­i­dent by a ma­jor U.S. po­lit­i­cal party.

The word “re­silient” was thrown around.

“De­fi­ant” is an­other fit­ting de­scrip­tor, as Clin­ton ig­nored her physi­cian’s or­ders to hob­ble across the stage with her foot in a boot.

“I tripped on some stairs re­cently, and my doc­tor told me to RICE (Rest, Ice, Com­pres­sion, El­e­vate),” she ex­plained. “In ad­di­tion to RICE, I said I’m also go­ing to IWF.”

De­spite land­ing in Hous­ton at 7 p.m., Clin­ton man­aged to squeeze in time with Mayor Sylvester Turner, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jack­son Lee and Sammy Sal­divar, the Katy pas­tor who lost six fam­ily mem­bers in Hur­ri­cane Har­vey flood­wa­ters.

“Hous­ton’s come back and your Astros have come back … makes me feel great be­cause I won Hous­ton and Har­ris County,” she quipped be­fore turn­ing at­ten­tion to gen­der is­sues.

“When you stand up or speak out against in­jus­tice, it’s ex­haust­ing. But we can­not give up. And the only way we’re go­ing to get sex­ism out of pol­i­tics is to get more women into pol­i­tics.”

By her es­ti­ma­tion, more than 19,000 women have elected to run for pub­lic of­fice in the past year. Gov­ern­ment sec­tor aside, Clin­ton en­cour­aged cham­pi­oning work places that are more fair and equal across the board.

“We have to re­in­force (fe­male col­leagues with) ideas,” she said. “It’s not enough for women like us to climb the ca­reer lad­der, we have to lift other women up, too. Par­tic­u­larly young women.”

The In­ter­na­tional Hall of Fame gala, chaired by Su­san Criner and Lauren Rot­tet, hon­ored nine ad­di­tional trail­blaz­ers who are lead­ing the charge. Among them, Bayou City na­tive Joanne King Her­ring and IWF Canada-Cal­gary’s Mary Rozsa de Co­quet each re­ceived deaf­en­ing ap­plause.

The black-tie af­fair capped a week’s worth of pan­els, re­cep­tions and lun­cheons helmed by con­fer­ence co-chairs Gra­cie Cav­nar and for­mer Mayor An­nise Parker.

Or­ga­ni­za­tion in­sid­ers report that as one of IWF’s most ac­tive out­posts, Hous­ton vol­un­teered to host the in­vi­ta­tion-only an­nual gath­er­ing and re­mained com­mit­ted post-Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

Clin­ton dropped the R-word (re­silient) to com­mend city­wide ef­forts, many of which were or­ches­trated by lead­ers at the event. “When women are will­ing to roll up our sleeves and get to work, we get the job done.”

A home run for girl power. And the crowd roared on.

Gary Foun­tain

Ann Drake, from left, Donna Sha­lala, Olga Sanchez Cordero, Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton and Donna De Varona take cen­ter stage at the In­ter­na­tional Women’s Con­fer­ence gala Fri­day in down­town Hous­ton.

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