An Army of Stars Shines in Pasadena
EXCELLENCE–Commissioner Robert Watson presents the Evangeline Booth Award for Excellence in the Arts to Reba McEntire.
by Robert Docter –
The “stars” in the NAOC Friday evening program Army of Stars were individuals selected by Army leaders and the National Advisory Board for their commitment to and support of strong positive value systems. They were feted with all the glamour and glitz of a Hollywood “Oscar” night–laser light shows, magnificent music from a large orchestra, singers and dancers, celebrities, and old-time movies in which the Army was portrayed. It was truly a “red carpet” evening.
Jayne Meadows introduced the audience to the “Evangeline Booth Award” by examining the kinds of values this daughter of the Founder possessed. Prior to her election as the Army’s fourth international leader she led the Army in this country for over 30 years. Meadows stated: “Perhaps, of all the Booth children, she best replicated the strong qualities of both parents–superior intellect, unswerving commitment, boundless energy and dogged determination. She truly cared about people and worked to make their lives better through social and spiritual change.”
Host Steve Allen introduced the award recipients. The first was Martha Williamson, producer of the hit series “Touched by an Angel.” Allen said: “The entertainment industry of the United States not only shapes America’s image through the world, but, also, the image we have of ourselves. In our motion picture theaters, on our stages, from television, radio and the record industry, we get messages of what we value, think and feel. It often forces social norms on us. It conditions us toward new attitudes and behaviors. It is pervasive and unavoidable. The quality of values that message sends varies significantly. Within the productions of Martha Williamson, however, we see a consistent high moral tone that portray human values at their best.”
The national commander, Commissioner Robert A. Watson, presented the “Eva” to Williamson. “Tonight, The Salvation Army joins a distinguished array of denominations and organizations which have sought to honor one who proclaims her faith in an industry seemingly more comfortable expressing its doubt.” Watson then noted the media’s responsibility to the nation as underscored by the events in Littleton, Colo. Speaking directly to Williamson, he added: “You have said that you pray that ‘God will help you do the best job possible.’ Obviously, he has answered in the affirmative.”
Williamson, in responding to the award, said: “I always ask God what to say when I speak to groups. Tonight God said to me, ‘Martha, you’re not the star–you’re the servant.’ It’s not me–it’s Christ in me. It’s a privilege to be a friend of The Salvation Army.”
In introducing Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, the second honoree of the evening, Allen said: “In a true community each knows the answer to the question: “Who is my neighbor?” It demands a response that is genuinely inclusive–that leaves no one out. Such is the case in the community service of Jerry Jones.”
Outgoing National Advisory Board Chair Steven S Reinemund presented the award and noted Jones’ significant community involvement and his work with the Army in the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Center for Children, a model program for low-income families. “On behalf of the children to whom you strive to teach community in everything you do, I have the honor to present to you the Evangeline Booth Award for Excellence in Community Service.”
Jones, lifting the “Eva” in the air, said: “This feels like the Super Bowl trophy.” He noted how much pleasure he and his family received in partnering with the Army in several projects. “On Thanksgiving day, during the half time show at the Cowboys football game, we get to tell the world that The Salvation Army are our heroes. We’re privileged to be a little part of the Army team. Thank you.”
Grammy winner Reba McEntire received the Evangeline Booth Award for excellence in the Arts. In presenting it to her, the national commander stated: “Reba McEntire balances wisdom and maturity with youthful exuberance and curiosity. When one listens to her sing, it is immediately evident that she loves what she does. The fact that she has sold over 40 million records indicates the public loves it as well. We enjoy her voice and identify with her spirit, her vitality, her commitment to her art, and her love for humanity.”
McEntire replied: “I’m such a fan of The Salvation Army. They are my heroes. I’ve gained so may friends by being associated with The Salvation Army. Thank you.”
Allen identified Joan Kroc as the recipient of the Evangeline Booth Award for philanthropy. In presenting the award to her, Commissioner Kay Rader said: “Joan Kroc knows what it takes to build a person. Her generosity to community reveals a vision of a better world that has inspired and challenged us all. This past year she provided $80 million for the design, construction and on-going operational support of The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center in San Diego, California.”
“I’m deeply honored and greatly humbled to receive this award” stated Kroc. “I’m inspired by the kindness of deeds and the loving spirit that pervades everything you do. I am here to serve, and it is an honor to do it with you. Thank you very much.”
In announcing the recipient of the Evangeline Booth Award for lifetime achievement in spiritual leadership, Allen noted that the list “could be longer than we might think.” He noted the many persons around the globe who labor long and well on behalf of humanity and said: “We honor them as well tonight. He then announced the Reverend Billy Graham as the 1999 recipient for his unique contributions over 50 years of ministry.
A specially prepared videotape examined the dimensions of that ministry, and George Beverly Shea, who was with Graham for the entire period as a vocal soloist, then sang “How Great Thou Art,” a song closely identified with him over the years.
In presenting the award to Billy Graham and The Billy Graham Evangelistic Organization, General Paul Rader said: “The name Billy Graham is synonymous with evangelism. He has preached to millions in most of the world’s great stadiums. His message is simple and consistent–if we believe in the name of Jesus, and if we confess our sins to him, we shall be saved. With that message, he has worked to win thousands to Christ.”
The evening concluded with Reba McEntire presenting her song “What If?” which she has dedicated to The Salvation Army. What if everybody reached out with one hand–sang out with one voice. What if everybody cared with just one heart–tried to light one spark–we could make it better–we could make it better.