Thank you Heather for that kind introduction.
Thank you Liz and thank you Dad for both of your warm remarks about Mom.
And finally, on behalf of my entire family, I would also like to thank Michelle Bernard and the IWF Board of Directors for this wonderful evening which I know Mom appreciates so much.
My mother loved this organization. She imbued it at its founding with the same sense of energy, confidence, optimism, and love which she bestowed on her own children; my sisters and I.
As many of you here in this room can attest, when my mother set her mind to something, she had an ability to focus all her energy, confidence, optimism, and love in a way that was truly irresistible. She was often described as a benevolent force of nature. This made perfect sense to my sisters and me. As kids, we would literally pity the poor, unlucky obstacles which happened to be caught in my mother’s cheerful way.
More importantly, if you were fortunate enough to find yourself adopted into my mother’s orbit, she also made you believe in yourself. She made you believe you could do anything you set your mind to, that somehow the stars would align, the winds would shift, or the tides would change in your direction, allowing you to eventually accomplish whatever you had set your heart to. Optimism was a part of my mother’s soul. Faced with what seemed to be an unsolvable problem, she would always say, “Don’t worry, it will all work out,” and somehow, it always did.
I cannot adequately articulate how valuable her love and confidence was to me as a son. However, I am sure that all of you here tonight who knew her and loved her, know exactly that feeling that I am unable to find the words to describe.
I wanted to share with you tonight one quick personal vignette which I thought might help illustrate the values which both defined my mother’s life, and which she brought to this organization. It happened on a family summer beach vacation some 15 years ago. My wife, Tina, and I were there with our four young children. My sisters Katie and Annie were also there with their families, as well as, of course, Mom and Dad.
Mom loved the ocean and she loved to walk on the beach. She and I were taking such a walk one day while the rest of the family played in the sand and the surf. The sun was shining, the waves were breaking; it was one of my mother’s perfect days, and she was taking great delight in it. And to top it all off, a pod of dolphins, her favorite animals, even swam in towards the shore, and were playing right in our view.
Now, in addition to our family, I also had a close friend from college visiting that day, and he was paddling a kayak off the beach as Mom and I walked. My friend was actually trying to paddle the kayak out to the dolphins, but every time he got within 100 yards or so, the dolphins would just swim away.
So Mom and I were getting a real kick out of the show, and we watched for a while, laughing, until my friend gave up and started to paddle in. At which point Mom turned to me and said, “What a shame, Bobby, J.B. didn’t reach the dolphins, you should try.”
Well, I patiently explained to my mother that my friend J.B. had been captain of his college crew team, that he had been selected for the U.S. Olympic Crew Team, that both his father and his grandfather had won Olympic Gold Medals in rowing, and therefore, that if he couldn’t paddle hard enough to reach those dolphins, there was no way on God’s earth that I was going to be able to.
I thought my explanation had been both articulate and persuasive, but Mom just looked at me and smiled and said, “Oh Bobby, YOU can do this.” Now I am sure some of you have been the recipient of similar exhortations from my mother, and if you have, you know there was only one response. So I grabbed the kayak, muttering to myself how stupid and futile this whole exercise was, and started to paddle out to sea.
Of course, each time I thought I was getting closer to those damn dolphins, they just swam away. So when I’d concluded that I had kept up this charade long enough that I could quit and legitimately face my mother, I stopped for a second to catch my breath before paddling in. But as I floated for a few moments on the gentle swells, rehearsing in my mind the various excuses I would use to explain to my mother why I had thrown in the towel, I looked up, and miraculously at that point the dolphins had started swimming in TOWARDS me.
In just a few seconds they reached me, and as I stared in wonderment, they swam all around my kayak; they splashed the water and swam on their backs just as you would see at Marine World. It was truly magical, and then, as suddenly as they had arrived, the dolphins just swam away.
Now to this day I am certain that somehow my mother convinced those dolphins to swim into me. If you knew her, it just wasn’t that much of a stretch, it was certainly within her capabilities. And I will always remember the sight, as I was paddling in to shore that afternoon, of my mother standing on that beach bluff, laughing and waving, and the sound of her voice, happily calling out to me, “Wasn’t that Fun!”
Mom brought that same sense of joyful purpose to the founding and operation of IWF. She believed in providing women, particularly young women, with the energy, confidence, and optimism to succeed in life. She believed that it was critically important that the work of IWF not be confined only to public policy debates here in Washington, DC, but more importantly, that the ideals of IWF take root in college campuses throughout the country.
And so, it is with great pride tonight, that on behalf of the Silberman family, and with the gracious support of so many people here in this room, I have the honor of announcing the establishment of the Rosalie Gaull Silberman Center for Collegiate Studies at IWF.
My mother was an educator for her entire life. Not merely a teacher, although at times she was certainly that, but more importantly, she was a provider of wisdom. Through the example of her actions, and her love, she taught us all how to live. I know, that through this center, Mom’s memory, and her good works, will continue to live on where they will have the most valuable impact, in the hearts of future generations of young women.
I want to thank all of you for coming tonight, and thank you on behalf of my mother, for your support of the Independent Women’s Forum.