View photos from Woman of Valor 2007 here.

Remarks of Michelle D. Bernard


Prepared for Delivery

at the

Independent Women’s Forum’s

Fourth Barbara K. Olson Woman of Valor Award Dinner

October 9, 2007

Distinguished and honored guests and members of the Board of Directors of the Independent Women’s Forum, good evening, and welcome to our fourth Woman of Valor Award Dinner. 

For those of you who have been here before, welcome home.  For those of you who are joining us for the first time, we welcome you to our family – and we are truly a family.

I would like to take a moment to recognize publicly our dinner Chairs, Ambassador Jeanne Johnson Phillips and Ambassador Bonnie McElveen-Hunter.  Thank you so much for your help in making tonight such a beautiful evening.

I would also like to recognize and thank the members of our honorary host committee and a few of our very special guests:

•·       Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn

•       Secretary Michael Chertoff

•       The Honorable Cari Dominguez

•       The Honorable Naomi Earp

•       The Honorable Phillip English

•       The Honorable Kay Granger

•       The Honorable Michael McCaul

•       The Honorable Jean Schmidt

•       The Honorable Connie Morella

Finally, we would like to recognize Justice Clarence Thomas. Later this evening, you will hear more about the very special friendship between Ricky, Judge Silberman, and Justice Thomas, and the Justice’s unintentional role in the formation of IWF fifteen years ago.

Justice Thomas, we thank you for joining us this evening.

Each year, we come together to honor a woman of valor.  This year, we honor two women: Ambassador Nancy Brinker, and IWF’s beloved Ricky Silberman.

Prior to January 1, 2006, there were only three women with whom I spoke every day – my mother and my two sisters.  That all changed when I became president of IWF in 2006.  That year, I inherited a second mother, Ricky Silberman, also known as IWF’s “Mother Superior.” 

Ricky and I spoke just about every day.  She would call to ask me if I had found a new nanny yet.  She would call just to ask how my husband was doing.  Once, she even called to tell me that she thought my childbearing years were behind me!  Ricky was a trip!

A year ago, the night before our last Woman of Valor Award Dinner, Ambassador Jeanne Johnson Phillips, Ricky Silberman and I were having dinner at the Willard Hotel.  We were drinking fine wine, enjoying the very elegant décor, and speaking about an extraordinary  woman – Nancy  Brinker.  At dinner, Ricky spoke with great admiration for Ambassador Brinker, telling us that she herself was alive because of Nancy Brinker.  None of us ever imagined that just nine months later, Ricky would no longer be with us. 

In thinking about our 2007 Woman of Valor Award, we knew that we had to honor both of these women, who have spent their lives supporting individual freedom and achieving women’s liberty at home and abroad. 

This week’s Time magazine asks why breast cancer is spreading around the world.  At the Independent Women’s Forum, we are not only asking this question; we are asking what we can do to stop it from killing so many women and men every year. 

This year, the IWF family lost two women to breast cancer, and a member of our staff was diagnosed with the breast cancer just a week ago.  Last Saturday, Congresswoman Joanne Davis lost a two-year battle with breast cancer.  Tonight, we pay tribute to all each of these women, and we thank you and the members of our honorary host committee for joining us.  In doing so, you help bring national awareness to the fight against breast cancer.  

At the Independent Women’s Forum, one of the many reasons we love Nancy Brinker is because she is no shrinking violet.  Recently, the New York Times quoted her as saying, “As the American public and both political parties did when launching the war on cancer more than three decades ago, we need to summon the will to make cancer a national priority again.”  We couldn’t agree more. 

Finally, as president of the Independent Women’s Forum, I want to express my sincere thanks to each of you for the roles you continue to play in assisting IWF in advancing economic liberty, personal responsibility, and political and economic freedom. 

To the Silberman and Brinker families, we thank you for sharing these extraordinary women with us.  The world is a better place because of them.