Wellington T. Mara Honored at Sixth Annual Proudly Pro-Life Awards Dinner
By Richard W. Kimble
The grand ballroom of New York City's historic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was packed with pro-lifers on April 21, 1999, as the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund hosted its sixth annual Proudly Pro-Life Awards Dinner. They were gathered to honor and pay tribute to Wellington T. Mara, president and co-chief executive officer of the New York Football Giants.
Mara was honored for his strong support of the pro-life movement, including his role in establishing Life Athletes, an organization of professional and Olympic athletes who teach and inspire others to respect life and live lives of virtue.
The Proudly Pro-Life Awards Dinner set a record by raising more than $1 million. The proceeds will be used to further support National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund's educational publications, products, programs, and services.
Mara, who avoids publicity and was reluctant to receive the award at first, said he did so in the name of Life Athletes and with deep humility.
"God has blessed me with a long life.... During that lifetime I have formed a clear perception of the absolute sanctity of life and the unshakable conviction that, of all God's gifts, it is the most precious - - and is becoming the most tenuous," he told the crowd of more than 700 people.
Mara, who was inducted into the National Football League Hall of Fame in July 1997, went on to say, "We live in an age when mankind, in its arrogance, seeks to abrogate to itself the right to limit or to deny life to the afflicted and the unborn. That is the challenge of our generation. The challenge and the shame.
"It is a challenge that must be met, a shame that must be expiated," Mara noted. "It cannot be met by act of Congress alone but by the will of the people, motivated by the informed youth of America who reassert the values that were the cornerstones of the foundation of our country and who want to embrace again the sovereignty and beneficence of God. That is the capability of Life Athletes, to give the youth of America the ultimate means with which to confront and vanquish the Culture of Death which threatens them."
Mara was introduced by Dan Reeves, executive vice president of football operations and head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, who coached the Giants from 1993 to 1996. Reeves, who served as honorary chairman of the dinner, said he has "great respect" for Mara and called him "a role model."
"What we need so much in this country is for parents to be role models for their kids, so they have someone to...believe in and emulate," he said.
Chris Godfrey, executive director of Life Athletes, praised Mara as "a man who has spent his life building a culture of life."
"I'd like to thank him for being the man of integrity that he is," Godfrey said. "But, more importantly, I'd like to thank him for asking me to walk alongside of him to build a culture of life, which, in the bigger picture, is far more important than winning a Super Bowl."
Godfrey showed the video Champions for Life, which was made after the Giants won Super Bowl XXI over the Denver Broncos in 1987. Mara called six of his Giants together to create the video, which helped spark the creation of Life Athletes. Four of those players were able to attended the dinner - - Chris Godfrey, Mark Bavaro, Jim Burt, and Phil McConkey. The remaining two, Phil Simms and George Martin, regretted that their schedules prevented them from attending.
For the second consecutive year, actor, law professor, and writer Ben Stein served as general chairman and master of ceremonies. While entertaining the crowd with his humor and sharp wit, Stein also delivered thought-provoking comments:
"We are rightly concerned about the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women, and children in villages far, far away with names we cannot pronounce," he said. "But here at home, the same government that is outraged at what's going on in Kosovo is using every trick, every lie, every device possible to allow the current ongoing killing of almost 1.4 million totally innocent American children every year in places with names we know very well, like Los Angeles and Dallas and New York and Miami."
Stein added, "It seems to me that there is something deeply askew in our point of view. Just yesterday [April 20] the country was transfixed and horrified, and should have been, when two high school students killed...a dozen or so of their classmates in a horrible, horrible tragedy and we all want to know why? And I keep thinking, well, why? What do these children learn about life that could have led them to do this? What are all these children that are killing in schools learning about life? Maybe it's because we are teaching... Americans that if other Americans are inconvenient, or are not the right age, or not the right color, or not the right sex, or if it's before they're born, we can just kill them. Or we can teach if people are not healthy at a certain stage of their life, we can just kill them...we teach people in our popular culture that human life is meaningless."
Among the prominent pro-lifers attending this year's dinner were actress Patricia Neal; Marilyn Quayle, wife of former Vice President Dan Quayle; Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza; and Virgil Dechant a former honoree who serves as Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.
Richard Kimble is NRLC's major gifts development director.