Behind the scenes with Campbell Brown

26 Dec

Campbell at WD

Campbell Brown at Women’s Day

When I book a speaker for an event, I never know what the person will really be like until the day of the event when I finally meet them in person after months of planning.  There was a lot of excitement leading up to Women’s Day this year. Although the event always sells out, this year’s speaker, award winning journalist Campbell Brown, attracted a larger than usual response creating a waiting list in a very short time.

The Saturday night prior to the Monday event, I received an email from Campbell asking if we planned to videotape her speech.  We did not plan to tape it and I went into panic mode wondering if this would be the first of many demands by this much-anticipated speaker. When I replied that I was checking into the possibilities, she thanked me profusely and told me that she had been meaning to arrange for her speech to be taped for her 94 year old grandmother who could no longer travel. If I could not make the arrangements at the last minute, she completely understood. Campbell said that she could not wait to escape New York’s cold weather and was really looking forward to the event!

I felt a sense of relief until I read Sunday’s weather forecast for New York.  Sleet, snow and freezing rain and flight delays expected. Speakers have been known to cancel and this is a job after all…would she cancel?

Well, she showed up.  How could I think that a little sleet would stand in the way of a woman who has covered wars and disasters? (She graciously did not laugh when I shared this thought with her).

Campbell turned out to be not only a kind, friendly and considerate person who had her picture taken with everyone who asked, but a speaker who related to all of us with humor, warmth and emotion.  Speaking about lighting Shabbat candles with her two young sons and her mother-in-law brought tears to her eyes at the podium and to ours as well.  Through her experiences of conversion and her struggles to find acceptance by her mother-in-law, she put each of us in touch with our own Jewish experience in a way that sticks with you long after the event is over.

The preconceived notion of a demanding speaker who was just doing her job?  She didn’t miss a beat chatting with me while in a semi-dark dressing room at Michael’s On East, expertly touching up her lipstick and mascara.

Ilene Fox is the Director of Women’s Philanthropy at The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee.

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