Yeardley Smith is the voice of television character Lisa Simpson, and an active Grameen Foundation supporter.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Pull up a chair, I have had a very fancy 43 hours!
I just got back from Washington, DC, where I attended a private reception co-hosted by my favorite Grameen Foundation, for Professor Muhammad Yunus, Mary Robinson, and Dr. Pedro Jos Greer, all of whom received the Presidential Medal of Freedom yesterday.
You can imagine that when I said I was going to DC for the party, my friends had two questions for me: What are you going to wear? And do you get to attend the ceremony itself and meet President and Mrs. Obama?
The answer to question #1 is: I wore a silk, blue and white flowered cocktail dress from the 1960’s, with a scoop neck, shirred bodice, sarong-style skirt, and cap sleeves. I finished it off with peau de soie, navy-blue peep toes. Nobody needs to know it took me three hours of trying on everything in my closet in Los Angeles to come up with that effortless ensemble.
The answer to question #2 is: No, I didn’t get to go the ceremony and meet the President and Mrs. O., but I got to meet people who met them! Alex Counts said he shook the President’s hand for about 30 seconds. So, of course, I shook Alex’s hand extra long last night. You know, glory by association.
The highlight of the evening for me was seeing Professor Yunus. We had met at a small dinner party in his honor in May, and I liked him instantly. I just wanted to sit next to him that night and smile at him. His mere presence makes you feel happy inside. And he’s funny! I had no idea he would be so funny. He loves a good joke.
When we saw each other last night we burst into grins, gave each other a big bear hug and a kiss on each cheek. He introduced me to his daughter, Monica, and her new husband, Brendon, who are both huge “Simpsons” fans. (Such fun.) I told him he’ll need to build himself an extra house for all the awards he’s collecting these days. And he asked me when I was coming to visit Bangladesh. (December).
As I stood there talking to this man who carries the vast impact of his achievements with unassuming grace; who is so imminently approachable –allowing me to weigh the Medal of Freedom in the palm of my hand as we talked (it’s heavy!)– I was deeply moved by the way each accolade still seems to mean so much to him. There wasn’t a shadow of indifference in his smile last night. If you didn’t know better, you’d think the Presidential Medal of Freedom was the first time he’s ever been recognized for his 30+ years in the fight against poverty.
The cherry on top was visiting the Grameen Foundation offices on F Street before I headed back to the airport this afternoon. As a bona fide Grameen groupie, I liked seeing the Com Center and Alex’s messy desk. (I can’t prove it, but I know it’s true: All trail blazers have messy desks.) The staff greeted me warmly and I was honored to speak for a few minutes at the beginning of their lunchtime staff meeting about my Grameen trip to Haiti in May. I thanked them for doing the heavy lifting back home. It made them smile. They were a most gracious audience.
So there you have it. I think I was in DC for all of 43 hours, but I loved every minute of it.