Some dreams never die. That was the theme of the Self-Determination for D.C. coalition's "Salute to Volunteers" last night at the Sheraton Grand ballroom.
The reception marked the first time the many volunteers who have worked over the years for the District's self-government and representation in Congress all gathered to celebrate their successes and to reaffirm their commitment to the work yet to be done.
"It's great. We have always been low key and low budget," said Jean Fleming, a longtime volunteer. "We had a rally on Capitol Hill a few years ago, but it was not this much fun."
"I just think this is a wonderful thing to do," said D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy, "to honor those who have given so much of themselves for so many years and seldom had the chance to taste the wine of our appreciation."
One volunteer, Wilbert Williams, came all the way from Arlington, Tex. A former D.C. resident, he had been involved in the work for home rule, and as regional director of the AFL-CIO in Texas he lobbied hard for the Voting Rights Amendement. "It's nice," he said of the festivities. "It gives me a chance to get back on the Washington scene -- to pick up some of the nostalgia and the flavor."
The 300 honorees toasted one another, munched on hors d'oeuvres and danced to the New B.B. Big Band, which donated its time to the cause. The ballroom was decorated with bouquets of red balloons with white lettering reading "Ratify in '85," referring to the Voting Rights Amendment passed by Congress in 1978, which would provide for full representation of the District in Congress, but which is unlikely to be ratified by the 38 states required by the Aug. 22 deadline. So far only 16 have ratified it.
"It's a disappointment," said Mike Beard, the coalition's first director. "It is a defeat for the city, for all of us who are interested in democracy in the U.S. It is one of a long series of defeats. But each of our defeats has helped us move on. Because of our defeat, we might have a better chance at statehood."
"I'm not sure whether it's statehood or a renewed effort for voting rights," said D.C. City Council Chairman David Clarke. "It's a time of thinking."
City Administrator Thomas Downs came in place of Mayor Marion Barry, who is in Los Angeles. Thomas said he was disappointed about the progress of ratification, but he was quick to add that this is only the "first round. There's still statehood."
"It's a little sad," said Norma Melendez, whose lobbying, according to Fleming, "single-handedly won us Delaware." Said Melendez, "We will have to go in another direction for congressional representation."