Hundreds of celebrities, dignitaries, business leaders, family and friends gathered Sunday night in downtown Atlanta for a gala birthday celebration for former Atlanta mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young.
“I don’t think I’m going to blow out any candles,” the youthful Young quipped during a brief interview just before the event, held at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis and benefiting the Andrew J. Young Foundation. “I’ve got a few more things on my bucket list. Enough to keep me going another 20 years.”
That’s not enough for Lockheed Martin Vice President and General Manager Shan Cooper.
“Eighty-three more years!” she said when asked her birthday wish for Young, who she’s admired since she can recall. “Since my early days of childhood I can remember my parents talking about Andy Young. I’ve watched him my entire life. I consider him a role model.”
The event marked the inaugural Andrew J. Young International Leadership Awards. Honorees included Ava DuVernay, director of “Selma,” filmed largely in metro Atlanta.
“He was really instrumental in the making of ‘Selma,’” said DuVernay, who earned a best-director Golden Globe nomination for the project. Young was portrayed in the movie by actor André Holland and served as a consultant, but didn’t want any credit for his participation, DuVernay said.
“I hope he really drinks in all the love and respect he receives,” said DuVernay, founder of AFFRM is the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, a distribution collective of black arts organizations dedicated to quality black independent films. She is the first African-American woman to win best-director honors at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, for “Middle of Nowhere.”
She posted this great photo of herself and Young:
Other honorees were Shepherd Center co-founder Alana Shepherd, philanthropist and businessman Strive Masiyiwa, attorney Lucien Ebata and Warner Williams, retired vice president of production for the Chevron Corp.
Glowing tributes flowed throughout the evening.
“It’s been 25 years since I saw you in the boardroom of Howard University,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. “You were kind enough to take an interest in me when few people did.”
Looking out at the packed ballroom, Reed noted, “We see how many people from all over Atlanta and all over the country care about you. God bless you, Ambassador.”
The most touching comments came from Young’s wife, Carolyn.
“Most of you don’t know how busy Andy is and how hard he works,” she said. “He acts like it’s 1965 and he’s 33. He’s not 33. He’s 83, but Andy wakes up every morning with an agenda. He doesn’t have any money. He doesn’t want any money, He doesn’t even like asking for money for the foundation. That’s why all of you get calls from me!”
She noted her husband’s recent near miss when a cement truck fell over on his car last week.
“Thanks to everyone for your prayers and your outpouring of support,” Carolyn Young said. “We received a lot of phone calls and read all the comments on social media. That close call gave us a moment to pause.”
Andrew Young was taken to the hospital as a precaution and quickly released. (The truck driver got a traffic citation). Carolyn Young said the episode underscored the work God has yet for her husband to accomplish.
“If a cement truck can’t do it, it’s not supposed to happen,” she said, noting her husband’s reaction: “It’s obviously not my time to go. I still have work to do.”