Friday, November 20, 2015

Independent Women’s Forum Awards the Honorable Barbara Comstock 2015 Woman of Valor

Karen Buchwald Wright Named Outstanding Woman in Business

And Steve Forbes Presented Gentleman of Distinction

 Leaders Committed to Liberty and the Promise of Modern Feminism

(Washington, D.C.) – The Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) Board of Directors awarded The Honorable Barbara Comstock (R-VA) with IWF’s Barbara K. Olson Woman of Valor Award for serving at the helm of government, standing for liberty and limited government, and for founding “The Young Women’s Leadership Program,” to engage the next generation of female leaders.

The awards were presented at the Woman of Valor Awards Dinner, held Wednesday evening, November 18, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.


Kicking off the evening Deneen Borelli, author and television personality, welcomed the crowed ballroom and praised IWF for being the woman’s group that’s not afraid to engage in conversation, for always seeking a diverse set of perspectives, and successfully attracting and gaining trust from a broad audience.

Following dinner, IWF’s executive director Sabrina Schaeffer offered her reflections, noting “It’s come to the point where the other side has not just taken note of the vibrancy of our ideas and our presence – but is recognizing the effectiveness of the Independent Women’s Forum, in particular.” In addition she emphasized that “Winning in the court of public opinion requires making politics personal again.”

The 265 guests in attendance included: Senator Rob Portman (Ohio), Senator Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), Chairman Tom Price (Georgia), Congressman Ron Desantis  (Florida), Congressman Ken Buck (Colorado), Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (North Carolina), Congressman Gary Palmer (Alabama), as well as 2014’s Woman of Valor recipient Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee). Additionally, representatives from CNN, Fox News, PBS, The Wall Street Journal, Independent Journal Review, The Daily Caller, Townhall , The Washington Examiner, The Daily Mail, WMAL, and National Review were in attendance., as well as IWF supporters, and luminaries from Washington’s policy and think-tank community.

IWF Chairman Heather R. Higgins explained the significance of the Woman of Valor award – given to honor the memory of Barbara K. Olson, an IWF founder, who perished in the September 11th attack on the Pentagon – as “an honor created not only to celebrate women, not only valor, and not only valor in women, but a kind of ethos in our society that we must celebrate more.”

Ms. Laura Cox Kaplan, a member of PricewaterhouseCooper’s executive management team, introduced this year's Woman of Valor recipient. Hailing the Honorable Barbara Comstock as a “tireless advocate who has blazed trails as a working mom—in law, politics, and business,” Cox Kaplan Gable explained how Congresswoman Comstock has been a strong, intelligent, authentic, and vocal advocate and role model for women, particularly the next generation of women.

Rep. Barbara Comstock was honored and thrilled to accept the Woman of Valor award in her late friend and former colleague’s name. Comstock said, “When IWF said they were going to give me this award in Barbara’s name, I was so thrilled because the best women are always at the IWF events.”

Accompanied at the awards dinner by her mother and father, Comstock reminisced about meeting Olsen for the first time calling her fabulous and “such a star.” A mentor to Comstock in the 1990’s, Olsen served as Comstock’s boss, Chief Investigative Counsel, at the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight. They were known by some as the “Barbarellas.”

In the wake of the brutal terror attacks in Paris just days before the awards dinner, Comstock compared the attacks to those we saw on September 11th, the day Barbara Olsen showed extreme valor aboard the flight that crashed into the Pentagon. Comstock said, “ISIS, radical Islam, is waging a war. It is the battle of our time. We have to defeat them. We have to take this on with ever fiber of our being, the way Barbara fought to the very last moment.”

The first Woman of Valor award was given in 2004 to Lynne Cheney, and it has had a broad spur of wonderful, extraordinary recipients in all years since, including: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Fmr. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, Fmr. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Nancy Brinker, Fmr. Rep. Mary Bono, and R. Gaull (Ricky) Silberman.

In addition to the Woman of Valor award, the IWF included two additional inaugural awards: the Gentleman of Distinction award and the Outstanding Woman in Business award.

Steve Forbes, a corporate leader, political candidate, a philanthropist, husband, father, and champion for limited government, received IWF’s first-ever Gentleman of Distinction award. “Few men can better understand how a free society benefits women and girls than the father of five daughters,” hailed Schaeffer.

Deeply grateful to accept the award, Forbes, head of Forbes Magazine and chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media, said that “such an award can be given in these times by a woman’s organization is one of the signs that makes IWF so unique and so essential. One can be for the cause that helps women without being anti-men.” He continued,”[IWF] can promote good principles and good policies without purposefully pitting one group against another.”

Explaining how free-markets enhance humanity and break down barriers between people, Forbes praised the IWF for its courage to fight for things that benefit all of humanity, women and men alike.

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Marathon Petroleum’s Patricia Richards had the honor of introducing the first ever awardee for Outstanding Woman in Business to Karen Buchwald Wright, chief executive officer, president and chairman of Ariel Corporation.

Sen. Portman praised IWF’s recipient as a role model for women, “[Karen] so well represents what the Independent Women’s Forum stands for because she has chosen to work hard, play be the rules, be innovative, entrepreneurial, and therefore has succeeded.”

Patricia Richards added that taking over a family business is very challenging, but Buchwald Wright chose to do so and has since quadrupled its size while raising four sons, highlighting that women’s choices are not limited.

Buchwald Wright did not set out to be a businesswoman; she desired to be an artist, then a wildlife biologist, then a bookstore owner but eventually stumbled into the family business. Focusing on choice and celebrating gender differences, Buchwald Wright said she was accepting the Outstanding Woman in Business award from the perspective that “all women have individual choices, whether its to stay home and raise a family, be a community volunteer, climb the corporate ladder, run for president, and that we need to celebrate the fundamental differences between men and women.”   


Independent Women's Forum works to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free-markets and personal liberty. 

Victoria Coley
Communications Director
443.758.6077 | [email protected]

Celia Meyer
Communications Associate
248.885.1878 | [email protected]