Madison Freedom Award Winner Christopher Gardner


Every now and then I’m invited to an event that doesn’t exactly match my work profile — and that’s how I measure most of my opportunities to be in the streets — what can I do with this for Foodservice Monthly. I went quite honestly to see my friends Ellen Gale, director of public relations for The Madison Hotel, and Jayne Wise, senior editor for National Geographic Traveler. Then at the reception I met two really nice Fiji water on premise managers for Washington: Lisa Kurts and Deanna Yokoro. I was just doing my job … and they had provided the water for the evening.

Then it happened … the evening became one of those special events. JC Hayward dazzled as the emcee for the Loews Hotels’ Madison Freedom Award. Jonathan Tisch, legendary hotelier who serves as the chairman and CEO for Loews Hotel and Keith Taylor, president and executive director of Modest Needs Foundation reached our hearts with messages of compassion and giving. Kirk Whalum tore up the stage with his solo saxophone set.

But the world slowed down for a moment as the Madison Freedom Award recipient Christopher Gardner took the staqe. Garnder is the owner of Christopher Gardner International Holdings … but you’re more likely to recognize him when Will Smith is mentioned in the same sentence. It’s Gardner’s autobiography, The Pursuit of Happyness, that provided the story for the movie of the same name starring Smith and his son Jaden. His is a story of overcoming homelessness while raising his son and the path his life has taken to reach a stage of success, power and wealth. In person, Gardner commands the moment … he is a man of strength, passion and words. He can talk homelessness because he has lived it. He tells us 12 percent (and in some places as high as 30 percent) of homeless people work. Work is not always the complete answer when the pay cannot guarantee you a place to live. Chris Gardner is a man of action and conviction — if you can’t be motivated to find a place somewhere in your life to do some good … to help someone who needs help … well then you should reexamine your life and its priorities. That’s what I think. As I was leaving, the world came back up to speed … I better do something soon.

About the Author

Michael Birchenall is Editor and Publisher of Foodservice Monthly, a regional trade publication covering the foodservice industry of the Mid-Atlantic (DE, DC, MD, VA). Foodservice Monthly has been recognized as the Restaurant Association of Maryland's Allied Industry Member of the Year and by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington as the Joan Hisaoka Associate Member of the Year.

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  1. Nycci says:

    Michael — So far each blog has been a fantastic read! Great work — Nycci

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