November 11, 2008

The Martha Stewart Center for Living Gala

Last Wednesday, I attended a really wonderful gala held at the beautiful Pierre Hotel in New York City.  It was actually a fundraiser benefiting the Martha Stewart Center for Living at Mount Sinai Hospital.  This amazing facility is devoted to promote healthy and independent living in the elderly population, and you may recall that I dedicated the Center to my beloved, late mother, ‘Big Martha.’  In fact, at the podium that evening, I made a toast to my mother and also showed a video clip of her appearances on my show throughout the years.

There were other interesting speakers, including Gail Sheehy, the writer and lecturer, most notable for her books on life and the life cycle.  There was also a silent auction of really fun items and services so very generously donated.  Even the bonsai centerpieces were auctioned off at the end of the evening.  The bonsai is the symbol of the Center and the centerpieces were donated by the Shanti Bithi Nursery, located in Stamford, Connecticut.   I am very proud of this Center for Living and would like to thank everyone for all that they have given to help make this place a success.

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Here I am with Chevy Chase

For a video, including clips of 'Big Martha' and more information on the Martha Stewart Center For Living Visit Here

My Speech

Martha Stewart
Center for Living Gala--Remarks
November 5, 2008

Thank you, Gail [Gail Sheehy].

And thank you all for joining us here this evening.

I am great admirer of the living art of bonsai, which refers to the training of a regular plant to grow on a tray in miniature, mimicking the shape of a larger tree.

Bonsai is an ancient art first conceived in China, where it became popular by the beginning of the 9th century. A Chinese diplomat introduced the practice of putting “trees in pots” in Japan where it was quickly embraced and became a very precise art form.

Part of the beauty of a bonsai is that, unlike a painting or a sculpture, it is a work of art that is never finished. As the American bonsai artist Jack Douthitt observed, it continues to grow and evolve over time.

This makes the bonsai a fitting symbol for the Center for Living. Indeed, the tiny potted plant with graceful gnarled trunk and leaning boughs embodies our feelings about aging. When properly tended, bonsai can thrive and flourish, growing even more interesting and appealing with age. It’s worth noting that the older ones are often the most desirable.

The Center is dedicated to my mother, Martha Kostyra or Big Martha, as my family called her. Mom passed away nearly one year ago at the age of 93. She had lived a full and productive life and was in good health almost until she died.

Like bonsai, my mother became more interesting with age. Once she was free of the everyday demands of raising six children, she had the time to pursue her own interests and develop new ones. She read The New York Times everyday, enjoyed traveling and drove her friends around town to all their appointments.

Mom was an incredible inspiration to me. Though she can’t be here with us tonight, I’d like to share with you a tribute video that captures something of her intelligence, her sense of humor and her passion for living.

I learned so much from my mother. She taught me about the importance of home and history and family and tradition. She also taught me that growing older need not mean narrowing the scope of your activities and interests or a diminution of the great pleasures to be had in the everyday. In fact, the very opposite was true for her! These valuable lessons are very much in keeping with the center’s mission.

The center is not about aging. It’s about living—living gracefully and healthfully with energy and enthusiasm even as we grow older.

How do we accomplish that? That is, in part, up to each one of us.

In her autobiography, A Backward Glance, the great American novelist Edith Wharton wrote, “One can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.”

I heartily agree with Mrs. Wharton’s prescription for longevity. My own motto is, “When you’re through changing, you’re through.”

But older Americans, like bonsai, require special care. That’s where the Center for Living comes in. The best way to understand the Center and its mission is to see it and to speak to our extraordinary staff and our doctors. Since I can’t take you all on a tour of our beautiful facility, I’ve brought along a video we made when the Center first opened a year ago.

With the Center for Living, we hope to accomplish great things.

We hope to help the older members of our society remain nimble in mind, body and spirit.

We hope to encourage their continued involvement in activities they enjoy. And we hope to support them as they discover new and interesting pursuits so that they may continue to learn and, as important, to teach. We have much to learn from them!

An active mind, a healthy body and a passion for living—these are the values at the very core of my life and my work. And they are the underlying mission of the center: to provide the finest medical care along with alternative solutions to ensure that we remain strong and vibrant even as we age.

I thank you all for joining us in this mission.

My friend, the late and great actor Paul Newman, once said, “I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out.” Tonight, all of you have helped to nourish the soil for those who cared for us when were young and for future generations who will help care for us when we are old. Together, we can make a profound and lasting difference in the lives of older Americans and their families. Thank you!