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Sarah, Duchess of York and BABC 54th Christmas Luncheon Remember Mandela

December 13, 2013, Santa Monica. President of the British American Business Council (BABC) Los Angeles, Paul J Wright, Esq, and selected guests celebrated it’s 54th Annual Christmas Luncheon at the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica. The BABC LA is part of the largest transatlantic business network, with 23 chapters and 2,500 member companies. The BABC LA is non-profit organization dedicated to promoting friendship, commerce and trade between the United States and the United Kingdom.

This festive event has become a celebrated favorite with the British and American communities in Southern California as it brings spirited Merry Christmas Celebration in the Grand British Tradition. Each year it draws over 500 people, including the British Consul General, the Regional Director of UK Trade & Investment, celebrities, local political figures, and prominent leaders from high profile business, aerospace, manufacturing, legal and entertainment companies. The special guest speaker this year was Sarah, Duchess of York.

Festivities began with a hosted Champagne Reception and Silent Auction with over 70 items, which featured a wide variety of articles and fantastic vacations, both domestic and abroad. A Grand Raffle featuring spectacular trips rounded out the afternoon. The program included celebrated British comedian hilarious Patrick Kielty, and a performance by Quinn Archer who was described in the December issue of Vanity Fair (U.K. edition) as "poised to become Britain’s next great soul singer", who has already shared stage with Bon Jovi and Taylor Swift.

Host and Master of Ceremonies of the Luncheon was veteran News Anchor and multiple Emmy Award winner Carlos Amezcua, who said a few words in memory of Nelson Mandela, as he recently passed at age 95: "Madiva lived a fulfilling, robust and impactful life. Few people have had as much impact in history as Madiva has… an incredible selfless man who made so much of a sacrifice to rewrite the history of generations, and the South Africans, and the world." Amezcua quoted Mandela: "There is no compassion if found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living".

This special tribute to the life of Nelson Mandela continued with South African Emile Welman who performed "9,000 days", a song he co-wrote with Clint Eastwood for the movie "Invictus", 2009 biographical drama film based on Nelson Mandela's life during the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa. In working with Eastwood, Emile realized how important is to "tell a story" when singing a song, because "when you strip down the song, all is left is the lyrics." He dedicated his performances to Madiva with this song that is "very close to my heart".

New British Council General, Chris O’Connor, mentioned that tickets for the 54th Annual Christmas Luncheon sold out within moments. He congratulated the work of BABC and gave a toast for the President Barack Obama. President of the (BABC) Los Angeles, Paul J Wright, Esq, commented on the growth of the organization in the last year and the new chapters getting started. He also congratulated a BABC member on her 50th wedding anniversary, and welcomed the several personalities in the ballroom, including the Australian Council General. Wright also made the traditional Loyal Toast to Her Majesty the Queen of England.

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, displayed her well-known natural charm and sense of humor. Hers is "the story of a woman that never gives up" she said. "It feels like coming home, as I love America so much." She spoke about mistakes and fun, the importance of listening and being grateful, and how her marriage changed her life. "I was lucky to marry the best prince in the world. We still live together and are the happiest divorced couple in the world. We both believe in the 3 ‘Cs‘: communicate, compromised and compassion." She continued "He rang me up today to support and said ‘Get out there and do what you do best: talk with your heart.’" During her talk, Sarah quoted Winston Churchill and his speech for the Oxford Union Society, "Never give up. Never give up. Never give up," and even Winnie the Pooh "You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes."

Throughout her inspired and inspiring talk Sarah spoke on her passions. "What I really am is a humanitarian, a philanthropist and I stand very strongly for what I believe is right. We have to stop human trafficking. We have to stop 32 million slaves, mostly sex slaves, in the world. We have to continue to educate our children." She told the story of how she drew a doll in a napkin for a child in a hospital, which she called Little Red. "She stands for children’s rights all over the world, and builds schools in Africa." As a thank you to American for everything they’ve done for her, she started Changes for Children, which is an organization to help American children. "Little Red had an office in the 103th floor of the World Trade Center and we lost 700 people in Sep 11." It was Larry King that saw the photo of the mascot, doll Little Red, found in the rubble and said "That’s no child’s doll. That’s Little Red."

Despite the disaster, Little Red is still alive and "will continue to fight for the rights of children which is what my heart tells me to do." Sarah also talked about her father, who died of cancer 23 years ago, and how she created Teenage Cancer Trust in his memory, which now has 23 units, to bring music, support and laughter to children with cancer. "I want to bring it to America, and we are now opening it in Los Angeles for all the hospitals to have a unit." She continued "Next thing I’m going to do is to help you Americans with this epidemic of obesity. I’ve fought it all my life because I’ve always thought I’ve got a huge bottom." She announced a partnership with Oxford University, joining forces to get to inner cities to stop obesity and all the diseases that come from it.

In closing, Sarah spoke on Nelson Mandela again and quoted UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in Mandela’s funeral: "He showed the awesome power of forgiveness, and of connecting people with each other - the true meaning of peace, and that was the lesson." She also mentioned the poem by Marianne Williamson who is somehow being attributed to Madiva: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?"

Sarah shared a private moment with Mandela when, in her "darkest moments" she visited Mr. Mandela at his home to ask him for advice. He told her "You’re always welcome in my home. You’re a women who stands for good mothering; a woman who stands for what you believe." Then he reluctantly brought frightened Sarah out, where the world press was waiting, and told her "Yes, you can (go out), and you will walk with me. I am proud to walk with you and I am honored that you’re my friend and you came to my house." And she did. "My father was dying of cancer and Mr. Mandela didn’t know it. I rang him after and asked him: ‘Dad, did you see?’ And he said: ‘All my life I’ve wanted to stand up and say what a good girl you are. And he did it for me.’"

Other celebrity guests to the sold-out Luncheon included: Gene Simmons (Kiss), Vivica A. Fox ("Independence day", "Set it Off", "Soul Food"), Will Rothhaar (star of National Geographic’s Killing Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald), Cas Anvar ("Diana" the movie and co-star of upcoming CBS show INTELLIGENCE), Penelope Ann Miller ("The Artist," "Saving Lincoln" and "Mistresses" series) Lolita Davidovich ("Rizzoli & Isles" "Kill Your Darlings" upcoming "Squatters").

Recent distinguished speakers at the Christmas Luncheon have included NBA All-Star Gary Payton in 2009, renowned producer Mark Burnett in 2010, best-selling author Sir Ken Robinson in 2011, and comedian Tom Arnold in 2012. Other notable speakers, performers and guests have included Roger Moore, Daniel Craig, Lynn Redgrave, Brenda Blethyn, Billy Connelly, Ben Stein, Joan Collins and some of LA’s most talented musicians.

The BABC LA is part of the largest transatlantic business network, with 23 chapters and 2,500 member companies, including many of the world’s largest multinationals, based in major business centers throughout North America and the United Kingdom. For more information please visit: www.babcla.org. Facebook: www.facebook.com/babcla Twitter: @babcla