Dinner With Churchill was the inspiration of Senator Jon Kyl, after reading the book by the same name and meeting the author, Cita Stelzer, who had recently purchased a home in Scottsdale. The elegant, educational evening that resulted featured a historical perspective by Stelzer and fireside chat with Senator Kyl. The dinner and program recreated Christmas Day 1941, when two world leaders, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, dined on roast turkey with chestnut dressing in the White House. Guests dined on the same menu at the fundraising dinner.
The educational nature of the evening set it apart from typical fundraising dinners, with guests talking about it in the weeks that followed. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, eager to build on the engaging event, put forth the idea of additional “Dinner With” evenings and personally selected Thomas Jefferson for the 2016 dinner.
Organizers researched and found the pre-eminent living author on Jefferson, Pulitzer Prize-winner Jon Meacham, whose book Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power will be the subject of the evening’s discussion.
THE SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR INSTITUTE
From 2009, when the adobe home built by Sandra Day O’Connor and her husband, John O’Connor, was moved to Papago Park on the Arizona Heritage Center campus, to August 2016, when the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute moved into its downtown Phoenix office in the Arizona Center for Law and Society, the organization has grown quickly.
In 2009, the bipartisan Sandra Day O’Connor Foundation gained 501(c)3 status. Its goal is to seek to build consensus and craft solutions to public issues, notes Sarah Suggs, who has been the organization’s president and CEO since 2012. In 2015, the foundation became the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute. Its core values reflect those of O’Connor, retired associate justice of the Supreme Court: non-partisan, objective, fact-based, centrist, inclusive, collaborative and civil. Its process is to build partnerships and collaborations with Arizona and the nation to implement solutions.
The O’Connor Institute’s Distinguished Speakers Series has gained attention nationally as it has presented high-profile leaders from around the globe. Past speakers have included President Mikhail Gorbachev, Secretary Colin Powell, author David McCullough and Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai, just a few among an illustrious list. The Sept. 26 presentation by Nobel Peace Prize recipient F.W. de Klerk at the Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia, has sold out well in advance of the event.
Other initiatives of the O’Connor Institute include Civic Engagement and Education programs that include screenings of films and documentaries related to our history followed by public discussions, building partnerships with other organizations to promote civil discussion, public forums on critical issues and ballot initiatives, and O’Connor Institute fellowships and internships. Public Policy Education and Sandra Day O’Connor History.
The Institute’s outreach continues to grow. In summer 2017, Camp O’Connor, a free summer civics camp for middles schoolers, will debut.
DINNER WITH JEFFERSON, An Evening at Monticello
In addition to being credited with writing the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson served as the first secretary of state and was the third president of the United States. He negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, launched the Lewis and Clark Expedition, founded the University of Virginia and helped establish the Library of Congress.
Through his travels, he acquired a passion for food and wine, especially French food and wine, and he had his cooks at Monticello trained in the French manner. Guests at Dinner With Jefferson will dine on an authentic menu that might have been served at Monticello.
The second annual history dinner is co-chaired by Penny and Larry Gunning and Ina and Murray Manaster. Senator Jon Kyl will serve as moderator of the evening, and Sharon Dupont McCord is the presenting sponsor.