On Friday afternoon, a group of well-to-do New Yorkers sat down to lunch at the Waldorf-Astoria to hear former Vice President Dick Cheney, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, TV's Dr. Mehmet Oz, and baseball personality Bobby Valentine give speeches. Donors paid $500/plate for the privilege of hearing these men impart their wisdom.
The luncheon was sponsored by the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation, a charity established to financially support the families of those involved in federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, among other missions. Members of the business community pay $30,000 for the privilege of sitting on its board. Several years ago, the Foundation was forced to distance itself from the FBI after it was learned that their board members had been duplicating the bureau's insignia on its badges, as well as using federal parking placards.
A few years later, the connection was reestablished. The Foundation is why Commissioner Kelly helped cut the ribbon at a Harlem Applebee's last December. The Foundation is also why a story about one of its board members being arrested for soliciting prostitution wasn't reported in the news. The Foundation's members enjoy maintaining close relationships with the upper echelons of the law enforcement community.
On Friday, the former Vice President received the Lifetime Service to America Award. Commissioner Kelly received the Lifetime of Service to New York Award. Dr. Oz received The Lifetime Medical Award. In fact, all the speakers on Friday received awards.
Cheney's remarks were relatively brief. The former Vice President sounded tired. His voice was gravelly, but resolute. He thanked the audience for their generosity, and he thanked members of law enforcement for their service. He told a story about how one of his Secret Service agents had grabbed his belt and his shoulder and forcibly removed him from the White House and taken him to an underground bunker on the morning of September 11, 2001.
"I've never forgotten what Jimmy did that day," the former Vice President said (he has told this story before). He also spoke about how the Secret Service saved President Gerald Ford's life during an assassination attempt.
The Vice President, who has had five heart attacks, many "cardiac events," and a heart transplant, also wanted to make another thing clear: "My presence and my ability to perform…was made possible by the wonders of American medicine."
He added, "I didn't come here to make a political speech, but it's essential…that as a nation, we protect and preserve that."
Dr. Oz then took the stage. His speech seemed to be about trying to get ordinary people to connect with law enforcement's mission.
"You stabilize," Dr. Oz told the law enforcement officers in the audience. "You play a remarkable psychological role, a remarkable, comforting role…Law enforcement is always there."
During the course of his speech, Dr. Oz showed slides. One was this photo that he described as "my office." He showed photos of a cat on a couch, an open Bud Light sitting next to the pet. He also showed a clip of Charlie Sheen appearing on his show. It reminded me of a few emails my grandmother has sent to me.
"So I thought I'd have Charlie Sheen on in front of a law enforcement group for a variety of reasons," Dr. Oz said, as the audience laughed. He didn't mention those reasons, but continued, "You talk to a gentleman like this who has had his share of run ins, and you see how complex he is, and he's a very bright man…The question is, why do very smart people do foolish things?"
Around a minute later, Dr. Oz showed a picture of a healthy lung, and a picture of a smoker's lung stricken with emphysema.
"I don't bother telling people who smoke to stop smoking, because they know that," Dr. Oz said. "What I do is, I show them what it does. When you see what's happening to your body when do you don't care of it, you don't have to say a lot more words, because you take in whats up here, you take intellectualization and you made it a visual awareness of why it matters."
"The equivalent exists in law enforcement," Dr. Oz said, referring to the two photos of lungs. "We just have to find a way to tell that story."
A few more people spoke. Then the former GOP mayoral candidate and billionaire, John Catsimatidis, introduced Commissioner Kelly. "We all urged Commissioner Kelly to run before we did," Catsimatidis said.
The Commissioner accepted the award on behalf of the more than 50,000 men and women who make up the NYPD, and spoke for less than five minutes. "We're all in this together," he reminded the audience.
After Bobby Valentine spoke (Tommy Lasorda was supposed to speak but couldn't make it) the lights came up. GOP Rep. Peter King shared a word with Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. Entrepreneurs mixed with the heads of the police unions. Lunch was served: roast chicken and gravy, with glasses of Hess Select.