November 2, 2016

Feast, Fellowship, Focus: The 33rd Annual Walter Kaitz Foundation Fundraising Dinner

On Wednesday, September 21, 2016, advocates and supporters joined together in celebration at the 33rd Annual Walter Kaitz Foundation Fundraising Dinner. The event represented the culmination of Diversity Week activities where hundreds gather in NYC to acknowledge gains made in the media and communications industry while simultaneously working to identify and implement solutions to the lingering issues of diversity and inclusion. In a strong show of support of the Foundation’s efforts, nearly $1.7 million in funds were raised to support the ongoing grant-funding, scholarship opportunities and targeted programming the Foundation develops throughout the year.

Founder Spencer Kaitz and his son Alex were on hand to witness the outpouring of appreciation and staunch commitment to the cause he championed in establishing the Foundation named in honor of his father, Walter Kaitz, over 30 years ago. As the Foundation has grown in scope and reach, the core mission of inclusion continues to drive the organization. Executive Director, David Porter’s opening remarks reminded the audience that “we are in this together and that we believe in the power of diversity and the value that it brings to our industry and society at large.”

Turner Chairman and CEO, John Martin along with Charter Communications, Chairman and CEO, Tom Rutledge announced the tributes to award honorees NALIP and A + E Networks. Beginning with their take on the gala’s theme – Inclusion. Impact. Inspiration. – the two leaders drove home the purpose of the evening and implored everyone to enjoy the unique opportunity to share with so many around in a single, important cause.

A+E Networks President & CEO, Nancy Dubic
accepts the Diversity Champion Award from Dinner Co-Chairs,
Tom Rutledge, Chairman & CEO, Charter Communications
and John Martin, Chairman & CEO, Turner.

Accepting the honor for the diversity advocate award on behalf of NALIP was Executive Director, Axel Caballero while A + E Networks President & CEO, Nancy Dubuc accepted the diversity champion award on behalf of the network. NCTA’s President, Michael Powell, encouraged dinner guests to reimagine the direction of their companies. “As our businesses mature, the shape of our industry is changing as well. I know that in an era of consolidation, we can improve our performance by eliminating activities that are counter-productive and inefficient, giving ourselves a fresh start,” he said.

Margie Moreno, Board Chair, NALIP, along with
Axel Caballero, Executive Director, NALIP
accept the Diversity Advocate Award
from Dinner Co-Chairs.

NALIP’s work focuses on advancing minorities in the media and entertainment realm. Axel Caballero shared the vision and plans that support their promise to up-and-coming Latino creators: #WeMoveYouForward. “Three years ago when we thought of what NALIP should focus on in the next iteration of the organization, we realized that this organization needed to move individuals forward into professional development and advocacy” said Caballero.

Earlier, Nancy Dubuc spoke on the discomfort that happens in the midst of change. The lesson is important for all companies seeking to make a lasting change. “When you’re growing and advancing, it’s uncomfortable and you have to somehow find some comfort in the discomfort,” she said. Dubuc acknowledged that gender equity is still not where it ought to be. Women are often treated differently and that attributes that are likable in men and are often declared unlikable in women. “As one of the few CEOs in this industry that’s a woman, I walk into too many conference rooms and board rooms that do not reflect the diversity of experience and perspectives needed for growth in these rapidly changing times,” she said. Dubuc shared her optimism for the industry based on the renewed commitment evident in the room.

Comedian Emma Willmann, who was provided courtesy of Fuse, grabbed the attention of the audience at the start of the evening with her engaging banter. She graciously handled the task of getting the show started as guests made their way to the ballroom from the spirited reception.

(Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Walter Kaitz)

Fredricka Whitfield, Anchor, CNN, speaks onstage
at the 33rd Annual Kaitz Dinner

CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield served as hostess as guests dined, reconnected with old friends and were introduced to new cohorts. The respected journalist shared her personal story of her family’s international travel and the resulting outlook which connects her to so many. She also touted her own employer’s commitment. “Collectively CNN is a marquis of diversity. Showcased in our programming on CNN domestic, Español, HLN and International. Diversity doesn’t just look good or feel good. It works. It broadens all of our horizons,” she said. “It fits. It’s smart and it teaches. It is who we are and if not, or if not enough, it is who we should be.” Ultimately, the good time, great food and exceptional company inspired all who were in attendance.