Lean in? Sheryl Sandberg could learn a thing or two from Washington’s Adrienne Arsht — a hands-on businesswoman who crashed the old-boys philanthropy club with $30 million to Miami’s performing arts center, $10 million to Lincoln Center, $5 million to the Kennedy Center, and many, many more.
Her latest project: a $5 million gift to the Atlantic Council for a new center on Latin America. So trendy these days! Booming economy, host of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics, and home of the new Pope Francis.
The dinner Tuesday night at the home of Brazilian Ambassador Mauro Vieira was informally dubbed “the Adrienne Arsht conclave” by council president Fred Kempe. No cardinals, but an elite gathering of foreign policy, diplomatic and political leaders, including former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Stephen Hadley, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall, Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and ambassadors from Italy, Spain, Portugal and Israel.
Arsht says she joined the board of the Atlantic Council, in part, to open doors for other women at the male-dominated international think tank. The dinner was a thank-you to her from the council (originally focused on North America and Europe) and a way to highlight the new Latin America partners. (Fun bar bet: The country with longest coastine on the Atlantic Ocean? Brazil.)
The tributes flowed, as they are prone to do for multimillion-dollar donors: Praise for Arsht’s smarts, generosity, toughness, honesty and ability to draw people from diverse backgrounds into her web. “Like all of you, I am a fan of Adrienne — a force of nature,” said Villaraigosa.
After too many toasts, the guest of honor took the mike, explained that her interest in South America began 50 years ago during her first trip on the continent and thanked the Atlantic Council for creating the new center, which will officially launch in May. Her philosophy to getting things done: “I jump — and assume I will get my wings on the way down.”
That, and leaning in with $5 million. Amazing how well that works.
Earlier: Adrienne Arsht has returned to Washington and is giving away millions, 10/23/11
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