Author: eolis staff
On a wintery night, the pairing up of Presidents Bush (43) and Clinton (42) warmed up the magnificent sanctuary in an instant. A dazzling roster of speakers has become the norm this past year, at Temple Emanu El’s Streicker Center, but the event planners truly outdid themselves on this particular occasion. They created an SRO condition for the highest priced tickets within days of their going on sale. The bleacher seats in the distance went like hotcakes, too.
A Bubbly Evening
The blockbuster event began in the early evening. It was a post-Mid -Term elections soiree with a fancy reception to get it started. Champagne, cocktails and high-end appetizers were offered to the well-heeled who could afford the tab. The uber-connected and clever crashers also got a personal glimpse of the starring performers. More importantly, however, the program left most everyone in the crowd, from all around town, wanting more from the speakers when the quick-witted debate came to an end. The two presidents came with a plan they fully relished. And, they put on the style for an unforgettable evening; ribbing each other good-naturedly while educating a jam-packed audience.
Two men of opposing parties, that had battled ferociously for the presidency have found much to share between themselves. And, they brought their sincere camaraderie into view for the diverse crowd. The pair of presidents gave their listeners a taste of the awesome responsibility each felt upon election to the most powerful position in the world. They also shared with their audience, a few nuggets of the wisdom they acquired during the period each occupied the Oval Office and added insights from the further education of hindsight.
Wendeen stood with them for a moment that evening, hardly shoulder-to-shoulder–but with a deep respect for their public service and use of continued celebrity to do good around the world. She rose to the occasion, accepting their congratulations on her own public service during their respective administrations and for her ongoing recovery following an accident, in which she was hit by a taxi, earlier in the year.
The two good men reminded all, sensibly, that what makes America great is the resilience and endurance of its people –especially in volatile times. The presidents agreed about the laundry list of big and disruptive challenges, but they also shone a light way beyond them–from different perspectives.
Doris Kearns Adds Heft
The Clinton-Dubya duo started the proceedings by needling each other, playfully, as they stepped across the stage to their side by side seats. Doris Goodwin, the highly regarded presidential historian trailed, politely, behind them. She was at the ready to moderate the proceedings. Kearns, who is known to all manner of history buffs, TV cable news watchers, political pundits, and poker players of all stripes, is a well-modulated force of nature and a keen observer across a multitude of industries and cultures.
Politics and Poker
Speaking of poker — everyone who saw All In-The Poker Movie would recognize Ms. Kearns, a petite blonde with a frequently cheeky smile, from her narration of presidential forays into poker rooms. Wendeen waited with bated breath for stories of Tricky Dick’s poker prowess and tales from the felt as told by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, but Ms. Kearns took no special notice of Texas Hold ‘Em poker this particular evening–not even with the Texan president in residence; there were no questions as to why on his watch, Mr. Bush signed legislation designed to curb online poker–as part of the Safe Port Act! But–Kearns showed no fear in asking direct questions.
Both former presidents took on all her serves in their own distinctive communication styles. Right off the bat, Kearns asked if the current state of affairs in American politics worried either of the two presidents. After a few wry asides Mr. Bush said, “I am not worried;” explaining why he remains confident that the country will survive and grow stronger, no matter the challenges presented by the current occupant of the Oval Office. Mr. Clinton waited patiently to weigh in. There was no curveball before he deadpanned, “I worry.”
Different Optimism; Similar Conclusion
Bush talked up optimism, making a reasoned case one might expect of the Yale graduate with a Harvard Business School degree to go with it. He couldn’t help but jab, affectionately, at the liberal New York cognoscenti that dismissed him as a dunce and a putz while in office. On this night they were clapping in response to his penetrating and good-natured words. Clinton, for his part, opined on the unending need to worry and scrutinize. He made a high charging case with a low key delivery, worthy of the Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law School graduate. He also reminded the visiting intellectuals in the crowd that overthinking produces its own unique headaches! Speaking their piece with different vocal cords, at the end of the day, both of them left their guests with ample hope for the future.
The Strength of Diversity
The open and well-publicized access to this event was a testament to inclusion. The Temple welcomed straight and gay, teens and adults, tough veterans and frail seniors, men and women of all faiths and more –all thirsting for explanations as to how/why our country is so seemingly divided, at the moment; a public that was looking for answers as to where we are going.
“An Unprecedented Evening”– was how the event was billed, and the publicist got that right! What a full house –more than 1700 strong! Sitting side by side were high powered politicos including former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, entertainers and business luminaries from across the City. They paid their respects to the double headliners along with a large complement of Temple members. But most notable was the highly visible broad sample of New York’s immigrant-connected population.
By the time this extraordinary evening came to an end, a shared warmth among attendees filled the air. Likewise, there was plenty of food for thought as to how we ensure the ongoing success of our democracy. For Wendeen, there was also a giant grace note. She enjoyed, immensely, rising for her arm in arm walk with these two strong gentlemen, proving where there is a will there is a way –and so she is reminded in the newest picture displayed at eolis.com/photos–“Wall of Fame and Fortune.”
The decision to unite Madelaine Albright, and Dick Cheney, in their first joint appearance-ever, this past fall, was a brilliant example of creativity and gumption on the part of the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center event organizers.
The first woman to become Secretary of State, a dedicated Democrat, and the most powerful vice-president in American history, a vigorous Republican, engaged in a discourse that was both intellectually stimulating and refreshingly civil.
The Odd Couple has Appeal
The timing of their appearance was particularly prescient, as the country was nearing the end of the 2018 mid-term election campaigns; the dominating news of the moment was gruesome accounts of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khasoggi’s murder. The event drew a very big crowd.
Wendeen arrived for the debate, in the nick of time to catch up with the two distinguished guests that had consulted with her office on special counsel requirements–in two different Presidential administrations. The former Veep and one-time chief diplomat smiled, as if they remembered her well, but neither one greeted her by name. Together, they beckoned her to take advantage of a grand photo opportunity. Now take a look at the group photo! This picture is awesomely telling. The honorable dignitaries are at the ready to fake delight–of sorts, while Wendeen is at the ready to play her part in the scene!
The Stars are Aligned!
Secretary Albright and VP Cheney made their way to the stage, flushed, from recent flashes of public attention on their lives. Madame Secretary had been crisscrossing the country more than continents, of late, with books that highlight her continuing relevance in foreign affairs and the super confident one-time Vice President has proven himself worthy of a Christian Bale performance in the upcoming movie, Vice. Russell Goldsmith, the longtime Chair of City National Bank and an esteemed member of the Council on Foreign Relations, served as the low-keyed intellectual who acted as a moderating force between these two hot tamales.
Walking with a certain authority in her kitten heels, Secretary Albright sashayed to her place. She was wearing a brooch, perhaps in homage to her best selling book, Read my Pins. It is a collection of stories that link her well-known collection of brooches to her diplomatic communications, The brooches provide her with a style signature. Secretary Albright’s latest scholarly tome (2018) and third NY Times best seller, is Fascism, A Warning.
The former Vice President was second in the parade to the armchair-based conversation. He stood at ease, reveling in his uber celebrity status as the chief protagonist in the highly touted, upcoming biopic of his life. He knew that it would confirm both his extraordinary power in American political history and the counterpoint of his record-low approval ratings by the end of the George W. Bush presidential administration. The former Vice-President exuded comfort in this rather unfamiliar venue.
The speakers were followed by Mr. Goldsmith. He tailed behind them with perfect posture and a half smile; he checked his ego at the door and promptly turned the spotlight evenly on the two speakers.
Once they squared off, the Albright- Cheney pairing covered a wide range of world events and foreign policy issues. The speakers’ divergent views were less discernible then their apparent commitment to mind their manners. For the most part, the audience mimicked their example. You could forget for a moment the crazy world in which we currently reside–no matter which side of the spectrum is your favored home court.
The complexities facing the current US president in our relationship with Saudi Arabia was front and center that evening; the apparent cover-up of the murder of the Saudi Arabian- American resident journalist was boiling over.
Decorum–Staying the Course
The evening’s speakers offered overviews and strategies that were more similar than different, both taking measured positions rather than engaging in rambunctious, independent, politically motivated rants. Different political views, notwithstanding, this audience was reacting to the program as if they live in one America, even when tested.
There did come one point in the discussion, in which some strongly disposed Democrats seemed agitated by the respect Secretary Albright gave to the former Vice President. But, the savvy Streicker Center executive director took notice– deftly.
Gady Levy stepped in- -at the speed of lightning. He stood at attention, raising his hand slowly, with the gesture of a stop sign. By the time his hand was visible to the crowd, everyone had simmered down; this crowd aspired to higher standards of civility.
An Evening Marked by Civility
Educated, competitive, focused strongly on public service and their independent ideas, the Albright-Cheney match-up kept the audiences’ rapt attention for their entire 90-minute lesson in passionate politics, grounded by civil argumentation and debate.
For her first post-accident outing, Wendeen chose a wine and cheese tasting at the French Consulate, just a block from her city home. Hosted by a colleague of the International Women’s Forum, it was truly a feast of summer wines and cheese.
Although wine was strictly verboten for Wendeen–no desire to tire quickly– the education about the summer offerings and the cheeses that surrounded them was thoroughly joyful. So, too, were the incredible group of women who have supported Wendeen with calls, messages, and visits for the past eight weeks.
Wendeen says, “Merci beaucoup,” to the fabulous women in the New York chapter of IWF who instantly stepped up to the plate with help and friendship from the moment of her injury. These incredible ladies notably include Roxanne Mankin Cason, a good friend as well as a client, who found her in the street awaiting an ambulance. Roxanne accompanied Wendeen to the hospital and notified her home and good friends in the NY Women’s Forum of the accident.
The challenge of unexpected fate is mitigated significantly by the solace of a great group of friends. The mission of WFNY is to provide a community “where preeminent women leaders of diverse achievement come together to make a difference for each other”…
In addition to the friendship and compassion that members of this sisterhood can expect from colleagues, the organization advances women’s leadership through multiple initiatives; an Education Fund to provide scholarship awards to women with potential, board initiatives to encourage participation of more women on corporate and civic boards, and unique programming made possible by the organization’s high achieving membership.
Here’s to the Women’s Forum!
In the 80’s era of extravagance and glitz, Barry Wine turned The Quilted Giraffe Restaurant into a thing of beauty and a joy forever for diners like Wendeen and every other foodie in our town, not to mention the rich and famous from around the world. The restaurant is long since gone but early East Coast worshipers of farm to fork produce and meat exquisitely prepared and presented, knew Barry as the King of the road from the farm to the table.
Barry first popped up on Wendeen’s radar screen as a lawyer at a prestigious NYC law firm of yesteryear. In due course–40+ years later, the legendary chef became an EOLIS client, as a JD credentialed executive, contemplating new adventures! In his final coaching session, Barry thanked Wendeen. As they parted company, Barry quipped: if your advice pays off, a Quilted Giraffe- type dinner is on me!
Tonight he made good! Barry and Wendeen met up at Eleven Madison Park Restaurant. It is widely reported as “the best restaurant in the world.” EMP, as it is known to New York foodies, is the capital of the restaurant world, and it seems to operate with many similar principles that Barry Wine held dear–—excellent ingredients, prepared to bring out the full flavor, with plenty of grace notes, and striking presentations, and uncompromising devotion to the customer experience.
Barry and Wendeen were pumped up for their planned visit to catch up on the results of their collaboration. Barry had developed a unique strategy for a big deal. and had just hit another home run in a life well lived. They were about to celebrate in style!
Turning back the clock, Wendeen recalled that Barry first popped up on her radar screen as an associate at Breed, Abbott and Morgan, a prestigious, New York, White Shoe law firm that was swallowed up in a fancy mega-merger. Barry was wholly unaffected. He had long-since begun his march to the beat of a different drummer. In a small Hudson Valley college town, where he lived with his former wife, Barry taught himself how to cook. He relied on local farms to produce meals for the table. He took ideas from his home kitchen to a tiny restaurant he opened and put on the map–in no time flat. Instant raves never waned from one move of his restaurant to another that accommodated expansion and greater grandeur. Barry Wine made it, big time in “New York, New York; he closed the Quilted Giraffe amid success rarely achieved with ever-fickle foodies.
He has moved on, seizing opportunity each time it knocks his socks off! The one-time lawyer/restaurant owner /chef/private chef and hospitality consultant has explored his artistic side; as a jewelry designer, photographer, and artist, too. Barry epitomizes the Renaissance man. His recent home run was a real estate transaction, the product of Barry’s independence, creativity, and sharp business sense. He has coupled his artistic talent and entrepreneurial skills with a keen understanding of contracts and agreements gained from his training as a lawyer to achieve singular success in a host of endeavors.
From one course to the next, at Eleven Madison Park, Barry and Wendeen caught up on news and views and friends and acquaintances in common– in law, business, and entertainment–until suddenly they were interrupted during their sensational meal.
A knowing EMP executive summoned them to meet the chef and take a tour of the palatial kitchen. Barry and Wendeen were treated like royalty with a stunning caviar -based dish –prepared for them the EMP-way. It was a truly special toast to the visit of the Great Barry Wine!. It was also a reminder to Wendeen of the Quilted Giraffe’s singular confection of caviar and creme fraiche, tucked into a pastry crepe. The bundle of goodness was tied with a chive, dipped in clarified butter and perched on a circular slice of lime. As per Barry’s gentle instruction, it was then ready to be savored, in a single bite.
Barry’s unending talent –he still consults as a guru to culinary masters–is just one small part of a busy easel. His insatiable curiosity and desire to grow and share is reflected in his ever-evolving talents. This week he has two tango dance lessons on his calendar!
On a cold day in January, a busload of students arrived at Weil Gotshal and Manges, from a Bronx neighborhood public school– for lessons in public speaking. The kids are paired with the law firm in a New York City Pencil Project. Weil Gotchal and Manges is among the dedicated sponsors of unique learning experiences for students in NYC public schools.
The students settled into the comfy conference room chairs with plenty of spunk and curiosity about the task they were about to begin–preparation for speechmaking. The goal was to pick a subject and make a speech for 10 minutes that their peers and other attendees would judge. The reviewers included a group of young Weil lawyers, Pencil personnel and Wendeen, an ardent supporter of the project. and excellence in education.
In a matter of 40 minutes, the students gained some crucial skills and tips with solid coaching from Weil’s energized associates and dedicated Pencil executives. And Wendeen, a speaker on the lecture circuit, watched listened and cheered as the youngsters got ready to fly solo –many with plenty of confidence. One after another they stood and gave their speeches.
Their subjects were diverse, they grasped current events with startling clarity, and they interacted with each other like “ladies and gentlemen.” What a joy to watch and hear.
After the presentations, Wendeen, participated in the debriefing. She noted, “Choosing a topic that lets you show your passion for the subject usually makes for the best speech.” One of these erudite middle schoolers quickly piped up, saying you can be more passionate, if you do research. Another, whispered to me, “Information is power, right!” One young lady, without any prodding , turned to thank everyone who participated in the critiques– including “our special guest, who helped me so much.” I was awed by these inner city whiz kids. Right on!
Wendeen reconnected with a remarkably relaxed and refreshed President Barack Obama, outside Washington (which is where they first met in 2008). The president was the starring attraction at the Streicker Center/Temple Emanu-El, in New York.
After sampling chef Daniel Boulud’s signature short ribs (which Wendeen highly recommends), the President made his way to a reception at the Temple. He arrived in time to warm up with the fat cats and serious VIPs.
As the event photographer approached him, the President caught Wendeen’s eye. He waved and called her to his side, using her childhood nickname that survived until she turned six.
Wendeen joined the president, noting to everyone within earshot that the only people who call her “Wendy” are stubborn family members, her longtime friend, Wayne Newton, who sings Danke Schoen, in return for the privilege, and the good president—also known as Tease-in-Chief.
The photographer clicked, catching an impish grin, not intended for the camera. The President chuckled and then signaled he was ready to rock and roll for his eager and enthusiastic audience. Wendeen dashed off to her appointed seat.
President Obama’s arrival in the main sanctuary of the Temple was greeted with thunderous applause. And so began his interview, conducted by Temple Emanu-El’s Rabbi, Joshua Davidson.
The president navigated delicately on the subject of Israeli American relations during his administrations, lightened up describing Passover Seders at the White House, and took on the issue of fake news all around us, boldly.
The nation’s first black president resonated deeply with the diverse audience. His simple and sage advice on what to tell our children, in this complicated world, was potent: “I tell my girls, “be kind and be useful.”
How about that for some sanity!
Wendeen recalls visit with Israel’s Consul General, Ido Aharoni at his New York residence. It was an intimate gathering of members of the International Women’s Forum (WFNY), in advance of this year’s IWF cornerstone conference in Tel Aviv.
Ambassador Aharoni and Wendeen chatted about their mutual community of interest and the solid ties between Israel and New York. Mr. Ahoroni has been in the forefront of Israeli diplomatic initiatives since 1991 with a strong emphasis in New York. Wendeen has been supportive of Israeli-American friendship and business connections and was a government representative at the funeral of Yitzahk Rabinin). Eolis International Group serves clients in Israel through our affiliated consultants in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem and hosts Israeli law students for our summer internship programs and. We look forward to finding more of the best and the brightest during this year’s visit to the Promised Land.
Wendeen listened to the tribute to Nelson Mandela at his memorial service in Soweto with first-hand knowledge of the joy, strength, and pride the South African liberator brought not only to his people, but to all who he befriended.
Wendeen was privileged to cross paths with him twice. On the first occasion at Gracie Mansion in 1994, she was totally awed by his presence, his handshake and his glowing smile. She was mesmerized by his voice in their ninety second tete a tete; his every word resonated sharply.
But the second occasion, in a hotel near Johannesburg, was even more inspirational–shortly after he completed his stunning biography. President Mandela insisted on revising Wendeen’s itinerary to accommodate time for a talk about his book and a dinner to celebrate it. Reflecting on the tribute, last week, Wendeen was moved to call him “a most extraordinary man-made wonder of the world.”
At a Washington dinner Wendeen Eolis and MSNBC news anchor Mika Brezinski were curious guests of at a CPAC meeting; both had been invited by the sponsors; they chatted at their ringside table before the Latino band came out to play. Morning Joe Scarborough graced the ladies with his presence, coming down from his perch as the MC ready to watch conservatives show the world they can loosen up.
The unlikely trio mugged for the camera before the band got down to some serious salsa. Wendeen’s dinner partner, Niger Innis took Mika for a turn on the dance floor, while Wendeen moved to the beat of salsa on 1 with a member of the Board of the NRA. Joe took it all in with a slightly smiling face, before returning to the podium.
Wendeen and Bill take a photo after chatting amiably about their acquaintanceship which dates back to his first stint as NYC Police Commissioner under Mayor Rudy Giuiani. Their first encounter came when each was advising the Mayor during a moment of potential racial unrest in New York. On his watch, for two Mayors 20 years apart, Commissioner Bratton did New York City proud. He left public service in 2016–shortly after Wendeen’s photographed visit in his conference room, that took place during a tour of the police operations at Police Plaza with the Women’s Forum of New York.