Stan Sloan, the CEO of Chicago House and Social Service Agency, knew his crew would face a tough task for its second-annual Speakers Series Luncheon.
After all, they had President Bill Clinton as their inaugural speaker in 2009.
"From the time we booked President Clinton last year, people were saying, 'It is going to be tough to follow this event up…,' but we knew that President Clinton would pave the way for great speakers to follow, and Madeleine Albright is just the first of those," Sloan said. "The success we felt due to last year's event has thankfully spilled over to assist in the planning of this year's ( event ) , and we are confident that this year's will spill over into next year's. The event aims to encourage discussion and inspire donors in a way our other fundraising events can't, and we hope to bring a new and diverse perspective to lead that discussion each year. We will have to wait and see who we get for future years, but our hope is to involve speakers from the sports, media and entertainment worlds as well as from the political worlds. HIV/AIDS and homelessness know no boundaries. We similarly want our speakers to attract people of all ages and interests."
Albright is the former secretary of state who, in 1997, was named the first female secretary of state and became, at that time, the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. As secretary of state, Albright reinforced the United States' alliances, advocated democracy and human rights and promoted American trade and business, labor and environmental standards abroad.
Albright will speak Thursday, Dec. 9, at the Palmer House Hilton, 17 E. Monroe, starting at 11:30 a.m.
"Albright continues to be a prophetic voice in discussing the role of America in the world and the implications of that role on our citizens and domestic policy," Sloan said. "HIV/AIDS and homelessness are the major issues addressed by Chicago House, and to have Madeleine Albright with us to help explore the economic implications of our country's policies both domestically and abroad will be perfect in these difficult economic times, and the perfect platform to discuss the state of HIV and AIDS 25 years after our founding."
The Chicago House board of directors met after last year's Speaker Series and compiled a long list of potential candidates for 2010. "Dr. Albright's affiliation with our inaugural speaker, and our board member Todd Hamilton's connection to the Clinton Global Initiative made her a likely next choice," Sloan said. "We were thrilled when Madeleine Albright enthusiastically responded to the call placed by our Special Events Manager, and we can't wait to hear what she has to say."
Sloan confirmed they had "several irons in the fire for this year's event," yet scheduling conflicts knocked many out of the running, "but Madeleine Albright was always at the top of our list."
Sloan added: "We have a major network newscaster who heard about the event and wanted to come for it, but was unable to commit with certainly since he is frequently sent overseas to cover major issues. Instead, he has volunteered to do a smaller and more spontaneous event on a date that he is otherwise in Chicago. If he is able to arrange a trip here, we plan to use that event as a personal 'thank you' for our many corporate sponsors and table captains of this event. We similarly considered other celebrities and political types who we feel will be fascinating to hear speak, and many of those are back in the running for next year's event."
Sloan said future Speakers Series events will be held in the fall, if possible, based on the speaker's schedule.
"Madeleine Albright is a dynamic, knowledgeable and inspirational speaker and I believe ( the LGBT ) community, and every community, will enjoy her perspectives on poverty and the link between HIV and homelessness," Sloan said. "In this time of economic hardship, I think all communities are being choosier philanthropically. The LGBT community has an unprecedented history of taking care of its own. It was through grassroots support and townhall meetings that Chicago House and many of our partner organizations were founded. Twenty-five years later, I believe that although we're well established, our donors still want to be part of the process and part of the conversation. Any sense of connectedness they can feel to the cause can only make us all stronger.
"Dr. Albright can bring a global and perspective to validate something that our local community has been working together to solve for 25 years. As with the Clinton event, we are confident that people will leave the event inspired and more hopeful about the sum of the issues that affect us all."
Funds raised from the Albright event will help Chicago House, which provides housing and support services to over 1,100 men, women, and children each year. Funds from the Speaker Series Luncheon, as well as from all Chicago House annual signature events, provide opportunities for growth of essential programs while allowing Chicago House to serve those who might otherwise fall through the cracks: those who don't fit the requirements of large government and private grants and contracts, Sloan said.
"Dr. Albright's focus has been inclusive, but not specific to our key issues, and part of what attracted us to her was her prominence on the world stage during peak times of HIV infection in and across the United States as well as developing parts of the world," Sloan said. "We're anxious to hear her perspective. Much of her work as Secretary of State surrounded helping impoverished communities to become self sustaining through job possibilities and economic opportunities. With the common incidence of HIV among the economically disadvantaged, it's clear that providing new pathways for the poor and homeless will break the cycle of poverty and allow rates of infection to follow suit."
Corporate sponsorship for the Speaker Series Luncheon has surpassed any event in Chicago House's history, Sloan confirmed. "What this means for those attending is: the event is completely underwritten, thus the proceeds of every ticket sold goes directly to the programs and operations of Chicago House itself.
"It's an important year for Chicago House, as we commemorate 25 years of care and service to the HIV and AIDS community. Last year's inaugural Speaker Series event featuring President Clinton really raised the bar for us, both from a fundraising standpoint, as well as providing new opportunities to make Chicago House and our issues visible in the media and outside of our traditional supporting communities. We're confident that Dr. Albright's participation in the 2010 event will be as successful, while giving us a new point of view from which to discuss Chicago House's position in the global AIDS crisis. While her availability was limited, we believe there's nothing coincidental about the event's proximity to World AIDS Day ( which is Dec. 1 ) . We hope that we can raise the bar once again."
Tickets to the lunch event and Albright's speech start at $150. To order, or for more information, call 773-248-5200, ext. 304 or visit www.chicagohouse.org .