First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

Editor's Report
‘Lemonade’ for Life on a Wintry Night
Editor’s Report
John Woods

The latest Nor’easter of the season could have eclipsed the Momentum Gala that Students for Life of America had planned at Edison Hall in Manhattan. After all, the snow started falling in the morning March 21 and pretty much kept up all day and well into the night.

From my office on the 17th floor of the New York Catholic Center, I watched the flakes come down hour by hour until the building was closed at 12:30 p.m. At that point, I was in a bit of a quandary. I had planned to cover the dinner, but I did not want to be stranded in the city if public transportation was shut down. A couple of hours later, after checking with the dinner organizers, I learned that the show would go on, both at Edison Hall and on Facebook Live, where I checked in later.

And what a show it turned out to be.

The Facebook livestream picked up with master of ceremonies David Bereit, a co-founder of 40 Days for Life, outside in the wintry elements in Times Square heading toward Edison Hall. He spoke about trains and planes that were canceled, leaving many guests from around the country unable to make their way to the gala. Still, about 200 guests had gotten through, and Bereit repeated the old saying about turning lemons into lemonade.

“If they can’t get to us, we’re going to bring the event to them,” Bereit pledged.

For the next couple of hours, Bereit and a cast of others did just that.

At the gala, Champion of Life awards were presented to several students from around the country. One was Queens College senior Norvilia Etienne, who was forced to sue that school to open a chapter of Students for Life on campus.

As dinner was served, Bereit conducted on-camera interviews with a bevy of Students for Life regional directors, student leaders and other supporters. What struck me most about all the speakers was how open, honest and informed they were. One of the regional directors from Illinois, who studied architecture in college, said his pro-life work requires a “huge sacrifice,” which he is willing to make.

“Architecture doesn’t bring me to tears,” he said. “This does.”

For those who haven’t heard of Students for Life of America, its mission statement says that it “exists to recruit, train and mobilize the pro-life generation to abolish abortion.” They do so by launching and providing support for chapters in colleges, high schools, middle schools and medical schools across the country. There are about 1,200 such groups across the country. Kristan Hawkins is the president of Students for Life of America.

I honestly feel like I saw much more of the action, including behind the scenes footage, than I would have if I had been sitting at a table at the gala. As it happens, the viewers on Facebook were actually quite a large community, sharing comments throughout the livestream. Late in the evening, it was reported that about 3,500 people had watched at least a portion of the livestream.

William McGurn, an editorial writer at the Wall Street Journal, delivered the keynote address at the Momentum Gala. He promoted the work of Students for Life, and beautifully explained what those who stand up against the prevailing culture already know. “It’s not always easy to live the culture of life. Human beings are messy and complicated. But no one ever said life is easy. What we say is life is beautiful, even when, maybe especially when, it’s messy and complicated.”

McGurn closed by speaking directly to the students about a simple guiding principle that he said has always separated the civilized from the savage. “The strong protect the weak…I applaud you for your courage, and I remind you that you are writing America’s future,” he said.

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