What a Day, and What a Night

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

10/9/2007 10:30:13 AM - Jackie Gingrich Cushman

For almost a year, my husband, Jimmy and I had been counting down to Sept. 29. Last October, Jimmy was asked if we would chair the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Garden of Eden Ball. Without asking me, he declined, due to our busy family life with two small children.

Later that month, while at Party City (picking up a few Halloween decorations), I ran into the ABG fundraising director. A few days later, Jimmy and I had agreed to chair the ball, honoring Jimmy’s grandfather, Philip H. Alston, Jr.. The ball was to be held Sept. 29, 2007. Remember, persistence often pays off.

A few weeks later, during one of our many conversations regarding the ball, Jimmy noted that “we will be closer or divorced when this is all over.” While this was said with some levity, I took to heart the idea that this would be an opportunity for us to learn to work better together.

Christmas came and went, and early this year, my father, Newt Gingrich, announced that Solutions Day would be held on Sept. 27 and 29. We now had an additional reason to look forward to Sept. 29.

The week before that fateful day began quietly enough due to all the advance preparation for both events. But this rapidly changed when dad announced that a committee would be formed to raise $30 million in pledges, potentially leading to his running for president.

During the week, I began prepping our children, hoping to give them enough ammunition not to be fazed by the thoughtless comments that I knew - from my experience as the daughter of a politician – that some people would say to young children whose relatives are involved in politics.

During one of our late-night talks that week, while we were both sitting on our kitchen counter, Jimmy said he would “support whatever involvement” I thought was best in my father’s endeavor.

Friday Sept. 28 was a whirlwind. It began with a 6-mile run with a friend (for the third day in a row, trying to maintain my sanity). I worked, went to the garden to cheer on the wonderful volunteers during lunch (I did fold a few napkins), returned home, called a radio show for an interview, met the children as they got off the school bus, picked up my ball dress and a T-ball jersey that had a child’s name silkscreened on the back.

Somehow it all worked out – I began to have faith that no matter what was thrown at us, We would attain the goal of simply getting through it one breath at a time – focusing on the present.

The morning of Sept. 29, Dad called around 9 a.m.. We chatted about the probability of raising the pledges and I told him that “I will support you,” and we discussed the fact that “we just have to live it out to see what happens.”

Our family stopped by Suntrust on the way to the garden for lunch. There, I ran into a friend who offered a pledge and her time to assist during dad’s testing the waters. But when I returned to the car, I had a voice mail from dad. When I called him back, he told me that, due to legal reasons, he was going halt testing the waters, and continue as chairman of American Solutions. Again, I let him know that I would support him.

Saturday evening, Jimmy and I greeted over 400 guests as they arrived for the ball. Once the guests were seated, Jimmy delivered the opening remarks, reminding us why we were all there; not only to have fun and contribute to a very worthy cause, but to honor his grandfather, Philip Alston, Jr, who had helped start the Gardens 26 years ago.

Jimmy recalled the two adages that his grandfather lived by, “nothing is impossible,” and “no man is an island.” They guided his grandfather’s life and helped create the legacy of the Garden.

“Nothing is impossible,” when we work together, we can accomplish what appear to be miracles. Only through listening and including others can we really begin to work together.

No man is an island. As much as we may try to get everything done by ourselves, our own way, it simply is not possible. We have to include and inspire others to get things accomplished with their help. We need to listen when we do not want to, especially when people do not agree with us, learning in the process and helping one another to move forward together.

Saturday night ended as I had hoped it would nearly a year before, when we had agreed to be involved. The band played for hours, with my sister, Kathy, and I dancing to our favorite songs, and at the end of the night, Jimmy and I walked out of the door hand in hand and returned home to our children, closer for having worked together on this event.

And what I remember from this day is, “nothing is impossible” and “no man is an island.”