D.C. Power Index Prize Launches, Lunches at Cafe Milano

The D.C. Power Index Prize was inaugurated in person, in style and in full throttle at Cafe Milano on Prospect Street in Georgetown July 20, as it honored six women.

If the phrase, “power lunch,” means anything in the nation’s capital, it was evident at this high-energy event attended by more than 100 women that included government officials, members of Congress, diplomats, journalists and leaders in business, technology and the arts.

Created by magazine editor Joanna Coles, Microsoft’s Teresa Carlson and Paramount Global’s DeDe Lea, the prize recognizes accomplished, trailblazing women. 

Honored at the Georgetown lunch, as described by the hosts, were:

Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova for her tireless advocacy and representation of her country during this year of crisis and war in Ukraine (Yaroslav Brisiuck, deputy chief of mission for the Embassy of Ukraine, accepted the award for Markarova, who with Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska for her address to Congress);

U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards for her bravery and sacrifice in defending the U.S. Capitol during the insurrection of January 6, 2021;

Dr. Christine Grady, chief of the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health, for her contributions to the field of bioethics, particularly surrounding ethical challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic;

Sheila Johnson, founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, co-founder of BET, and a partner in Monumental Sports & Entertainment, for leading the way for women entrepreneurs, championing women in sports and her extensive philanthropic work;

Denyce Graves, the Emmy and Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano, director, and alumna of Duke Ellington School of the Arts, for her more than three decades of contributions to the musical arts, and for her leadership of the Denyce Graves Foundation;

Melora Hardin, the Emmy-nominated actress, director, singer, and activist, known for her roles on “The Office,” “The Bold Type,” “Monk” and “Transparent,” for her authenticity in Hollywood and for her groundbreaking and empowering performances.

The D.C. Power Index, the group says, “celebrates women who exemplify resilience, foster innovation, exhibit flexibility in times of crisis, and make a social and cultural impact. The Washington event builds upon the legacy created by Coles with the annual Power 100 lunch in New York, which has highlighted the contributions of trailblazing women for the last decade.”

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Of course, with some many women in the room, there were quite a few comments. The following are a few choice quotes from the event.

Joanna Coles, cohost of the D.C. Power Index Prize:

“These are the moments we’ve lost because of COVID because we haven’t been getting together and having these small connections and that’s the goal of today’s lunch … and even when you take the mask off, you realize you’ve lost the practice of actually being human and connecting with each other, so that is the sole purpose of this lunch.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar:

“It is my honor today to honor someone who truly stood up and that is Officer Caroline Edwards  … and that day she was there protecting our Capitol. She was yelled at, she was tear-gassed, she was knocked unconscious and when that happened she got up and she ran back again onto the front lines. Incredible bravery. It was Abraham Lincoln who once said when they were constructing the dome of the Capitol, and people were giving him grief that they were spending money on that dome in the middle of the Civil War and he looked at them and said this: ‘If people see the Capitol going up, they will know we intend the Union to go on.’ That’s what you did when you stood up for that building, because it wasn’t just a building, it was a symbol of our democracy.”

U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Murphy:

“Women have also been an integral part of the hearings. I find myself in a sisterhood with Shaye Moss, Ruby Freeman, Cassidy Hutchinson and tomorrow, Sarah Matthews will take the stand. Among us are countless women in Congress like Sen. Klobuchar who are working tirelessly to make sure that justice will be served. It gives me hope and it gives me joy to see so many women finding their voice, so many women saying ‘I will not be silent in the face of injustice,’ so many women who have found the courage to continue despite threats, obstacles, and suffering. I don’t believe that the future is female. I believe the present is female.”

Sheila Johnson, Founder and CEO, Salamander Hotels & Resorts and Partner, Monumental Sports:

“We at the WNBA are really fighting, not only for social justice, we’ve got the Brittany Griner issue that we are working on, and we aren’t going to give up on that either. But I have learned so much from young women out there and we can’t forget them. We have to be there to mentor them … even when they fall, and help them get right back up again. Perseverance, courage and fortitude, that’s what we’re all about. We will never give up the fight for our rights.”

Denyce Graves, opera singer:

“After these 38 years on the stage of singing I have finally found my voice in the establishment of the Denyce Graves Foundation, and I say that not to impress you, I say it because it impresses me. I was a little girl growing up in what they used to say ‘Southeast’ Washington, D.C., on the other side of the tracks, not thinking that my presence could bring about change in the world.”

Dr. Christine Grady, NIH Bioethics Chief, wife of Dr. Anthony Fauci:

“It’s amazing, first of all, to be honored myself but also because I’m a bioethicist and nobody ever talks about bioethics! … We have some plans, you know, going from a 16 to 18 hour workday to something else is going to be very different.”

Melora Hardin, actress and director

“I feel really thrilled that what I do makes people come together on all sides of the aisle … and they can laugh, and they can cry and maybe they can ask questions of each other with an open heart and an open mind, because I think that’s what’s missing in our world, and the fact that I can be a really tiny, tiny, tiny little part of that inspiration in what I do makes me feel really honored.”


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