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Author and Activist Stacey Abrams Keynotes Annual Luncheon

Erikson Institute honored two dynamic and accomplished women at its annual luncheon on October 27. The event theme was “resilience” and both honorees, Stacey Abrams, and Bela Moté, exhibit that trait in their work that benefits children, families and communities. A short video on early childhood and resilience was shown during the program.

Over 450 people attended the event, chaired by Erikson Trustee Jenni Sorensen and her husband, John Holmes, chief executive officer of AAR Corp, a leading aviation services provider. More than $1 million was raised, which will support the institute’s academic programming, clinical services, policy and research initiatives.

Abrams, a nationally known advocacy leader, business owner and best-selling author of books for both children and adults, received the 2023 Erikson Institute Equity Award for her work in advancing justice, exemplifying visionary leadership, and elevating the field of early care and education. These values are central to Erikson’s mission. She spoke about what made her resilient as a young child by sharing stories about her parents who confronted systemic racism but never gave up instilling their values and drive in their children. Abrams’ remarks were followed by a short Q&A session with Erikson’s Board Chair Eric Adelstein.

Bela Moté, President and CEO of the Carole Robertson Center for Learning, received the 2023 Erikson Institute Advocacy Award for her long and impactful career as a leader of high-quality programs for children and families in Chicago communities that have seen systemic disinvestment. Moté described the ongoing need for advocacy to advance family and child wellbeing.

In her remarks, Erikson Institute President and CEO Mariana Souto-Manning, Ph.D., described how resilience is essential for young children’s development, and how resilience is learned in the context of relationships.

“At Erikson, we know that nurturing growth, strength, and resilience begins in the perinatal period, including infancy. It’s then that children begin to develop their earliest relationships with the adults in their lives,” Souto-Manning said. “Through our programs, partnerships, and advocacy efforts, we work to cultivate and sustain more resilient systems and a more resilient society, where individuals and communities are equipped to navigate challenges and achieve their full potential and where obstacles and inequities are interrupted and upended.”

An impromptu 95th birthday celebration for Erikson co-founder Barbara T. Bowman made the event even more special. Bowman’s daughter, Valerie Jarrett, CEO of the Obama Foundation attended the luncheon, as did U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. Visit our 2023 Annual Luncheon page, which will be updated with links to photos and a video of the full event program soon.

Stacey Abrams speaking at Erikson Institute's 2023 Annual Luncheon

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