Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., lauded George Washington alumni on Thursday for what she called their “good sense” to go to the university—and to choose a career in public service in the District.
“Let me say how wonderful it is to invite the alumni of this extraordinary university to an event like this to show our appreciation for you,” Rep. Norton told the more than 100 attendees at a reception at U Street’s Ben’s Next Door.
She jokingly added, to laughter: “For you who are D.C. government employees, let me just say, be glad you’re not federal employees about to fall off the cliff. … No, we’re not falling off the cliff.”
Bernard Demczuk, assistant vice president for D.C. relations, organized and emceed the event—featuring the smooth sounds of a jazz ensemble from the School Without Walls—and attendees enjoyed drinks, brined fried chicken and hot dogs and chili.
Rep. Norton told the audience that D.C. employees haven’t had it so easy in recent years, shouldering difficulties that roll off of Capitol Hill and onto them. Local government employees, she added, should be recognized for being hands-on and attuned to the needs of District residents.
George Washington President Steven Knapp echoed the representative’s compliments. He thanked alumni for “everything you do to make this the greatest capital city in the world.”
Without their service, he said, making progress on something like the district’s five-year economic plan—of which M.B.A. students in GW’s School of Business were instrumental in helping create under the direction of Dean Doug Guthrie—wouldn’t be possible.
With the university celebrating its 100th anniversary in Foggy Bottom, this year’s event—held on what Sonya Ali, manager and owner of Ben’s Next Door, joked was the university’s “U Street Campus”—was even more significant.
“We’re using that 100th anniversary to celebrate not just our university in Foggy Bottom, but what it means to be a university in and of the District of Columbia and all the ways in which we are part of the fabric of this city and this city is part of the fabric of our university,” Dr. Knapp said. Alumni service to the city is an important component of being in and of D.C., he added.
Dr. Demczuk also read a letter from Phil Mendelson, who had just been sworn in as chairman of the D.C. Council. Mr. Mendelson said it takes a special talent and tenacity to assist D.C. residents and alumni’s role in public service is a “noble cause that makes our city a better place to live, work, learn and play.”
“This is your night to be commended for all your hard work and dedication,” Mr. Mendelson wrote. “Tonight we show our appreciation for you. Tonight we thank you for all that you do.”
Shawn Stokes, director of the D.C. Department of Human Resources, also thanked the attendees—something, she said, that isn’t said enough to the “strong leaders in this District today.”
“We want to thank you for all that you do every day to serve the rest of us in this great city. It is not easy. Trust me, I know.”