Former President Bill Clinton called Andrew Young a profoundly good man as hundreds paid tribute to the civil rights legend in honor of his 75th birthday.
“You were given by God great gifts,” Clinton said. “Many people have gifts. The test is what you do with them and whether you care about others who deserve their chance in life, who either don’t have your gifts or didn’t have your opportunities.”
“You have done well and we would be well served if you would hang around for another 75 years,” he said. “Thank you for who you are, thank you for what you’ve done. Thank you for being my friend.”
Young was ebullient on the occasion, twirling a silver and gold umbrella and bouncing along in a raucous second-line, a tribute to his New Orleans roots. About 1,400 people came out to celebrate with him _ including Clinton, poet Maya Angelou and comedian Dick Gregory _ at a $500-per-plate black-tie dinner and fundraiser for the Andrew Young Foundation.
|“Each time he spoke, the bells rang,” Angelou said. “Each time he appeared, he brought the dignity, the sincerity, the devotion and the dedication of African-Americans brought here in 1619.”
She thanked him for being a brother and recited her poem, “And Still I Rise.”
Young also received several video tributes, including well-wishes from Martin Luther King III, Kenny Rogers, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Shaquille O’Neal, Lebron James, Dikembe Mutombo, Magic Johnson and rapper Lil’ Jon. The Rwandan dance troupe URUKEREREZA performed as a gift from the country’s president, Paul Kagame. And gospel singer Donnie McClurkin and jazz saxophonist Najee performed.
Young also took the occasion to present the first Andrew Young Medal for Capitalism and Social Progress to P.J. Patterson, the former prime minister of Jamaica. The medal was presented by the dean and chairman of the advisory board of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.
Husband and wife actors Courtney Vance and Angela Bassett served as master and mistress of ceremony. And Atlanta’s three leading 6 o’clock news anchors – dubbed the "anchor dream team" – also presided over segments of the program.
The mission of the Andrew Young Foundation ist o support and promote education, health, leadership and human rights in the United States, Africa and the Caribbean. In addition to the school for policy studies at Georgia State, the foundation supports the Andrew Young Center for International Affairs at Morehouse College, the Andrew and Wlater Young YMCA in southwest Atlanta, the Jean Childs Young Institute for Youth Leadership and the "New Rwanda Educational Film Project," one of Young’s many efforts to raise awareness in America about opportunities in Africa.
The gala event that drew some 1,400 guests was produced by Young’s sister-in-law, Sonjia W. Young, president and CEO of Eventions, Inc. Key corporate participants in the program were UPS, The Coca-Cola Company and Delta Air Lines, where Young had served as a board member.