Diane Sawyer Highlights Urban Promise Banquet at Scottish Rite
The 'ABC World News' anchor spoke at the theater Thursday, praising the Camden nonprofit agency at its 25th anniversary.
Karim Council had his Irrepressible Scamp Meter cranked up to 11.
After an evening of remarkable performances and stirring anecdotes from children and adults served by Urban Promise Ministries, it was the 12-year-old from Camden City who had guests at its anniversary banquet eating out of his hand.
Neither the spotlight nor the large crowd at the Scottish Rite fazed him, and sharing the stage with ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer was old hat. He'd already appeared on national television with Sawyer as recently as five years ago, putting the veteran journalist on the horns of a dilemma: would she rather be a flag or a jawbreaker?
Council's remarks Thursday were far less psychologically probing, but he nonetheless provoked great laughs from the crowd by reminding Sawyer that she kept his photograph in her office in New York, right by her Emmys.
She outright collapsed in fits of laughter twice—once when he reminded her that the kids in the program had nicknamed her "D-Dog," and again at the end of the evening, when they presented her with a shirt embroidered with the moniker.
There were poignant moments as well—like when Sawyer, who first covered the charity in a 2007 special on its efforts in the country's most troubled city, told Council that he and his cohorts "can set the world on fire.
"We want to see you do it," she said.
Sawyer spun tales of her career highlights and lowlights, from the menacing in-person presence of Saddam Hussein to failing as a weathergirl because of her poor eyesight. She offered wisdom from the Laokta Sioux, who told her 'the center of the universe is everywhere,' when she'd interviewed them for a series on poverty in America.
"We always learn that we're more alike in our hopes and dreams than we are different," Sawyer said. "Everybody wants to be part of a big life."
Other anecdotes from the evening were stirring, like the unnamed Urban Promise graduate who praised the staff who work as "Street Leaders" for the program.
The young man spoke of his Street Leaders, one of whom started on the job because a tearful mother pleaded with him, "You've got to save my son."
"There's no way for his paycheck [from Urban Promise] to be more than he makes in the street," he said. "Everybody in the streets hustling, they're scared.
"We create a culture of positivity."
Urban Promise founder and president, Dr. Bruce Main, told the audience about overcoming his own moments of doubt.
Shortly after the agency opened its Camden Forward charter school in 1995, Main said his accountant came into his office early one morning, and informed him: "We've got $50,000 in bills and payroll due next week. What are you going to do about it?"
"I put my head on the desk and said, 'God, where are you?'" Main confessed. "What are we going to do?"
Within 30 minutes, Main said, his phone rang twice from two different mystery donors offering him $150,000 in stock.
"I'm looking at my watch," he said. "It's not even 10:00 yet, and I've got a hundred-fifty-grand."
Main said it was one of the most affirming moments of his spiritual career, not only because it restored his faith in his own efforts, but because it reminded him that he wasn't fighting the battle alone.
"Urban Promise exists because of individuals like you," he said to the crowd.