Bloomberg

February 7, 2017

RFK Jr. Defends Environment as Sotomayor, Rubenstein Serenaded

By Amanda L Gordon

 

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-07/rfk-jr-defends-environment-as-sotomayor-rubenstein-serenaded

 

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who last month talked of working with President Donald Trump on vaccine safety, took a more combative stance Monday night.

At an art auction benefiting Waterkeeper Alliance, a clean water advocacy group, Kennedy criticized Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency as well as his plans to cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Actions like these are marks of a totalitarian regime and don’t represent American values, he said.

 “For me, it’s 33 years of my work are being dismantled in a number of days,” Kennedy told guests as he leaned over a Sotheby’s auction lectern. “We’ve got to start fighting.”

Art and nature are entwined in American values and character, Kennedy said, citing Hudson River School paintings, and invoking his uncle John F. Kennedy’s presidency.

“He wanted to make Washington a wellspring of arts and culture,” Kennedy said, adding it’s why he invited Robert Frost to read at his inauguration and why, after his assassination, the Kennedy Center was built as a memorial to JFK.

The keepers of the flame at the Kennedy Center, including its chairman David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group, turned out Saturday night for the 75th birthday party of banker-turned-philanthropist Adrienne Arsht, held at the Plaza Hotel in New York.

On how Trump’s first weeks as president were going, Rubenstein said in an interview it was “too early to tell,” noting that when he worked for President Jimmy Carter, the first few weeks were also complicated.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Blackstone Group’s John Studzinski, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, billionaires David Koch and Richard LeFrak, and actress Julianna Margulies were among the assembled.

“The turnout here is a turnout very few people in New York or Washington could really generate,” Rubenstein said, referring to Arsht’s involvement in both cities. “Adrienne’s very popular and beloved. She’s had a big impact.”

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Arsht, a board member of the Kennedy Center and New York’s Lincoln Centerwho recently sold her Washington mansion to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, crafted an evening around the performing arts. A sampling: “Cry Me a River” performed by “Hamilton”-bound Amber Iman, opera’s David Pittsinger with “The Impossible Dream” and tap dancing by Jared Grimes. The artists performed as a gift to Arsht, who said she’d thank them by donating $10,000 each to their favorite charity.

The lineup was a distraction from politics, as was the decor: rose vines climbed the ballroom pillars and snaked through the chandeliers. Each guest received a rose-shaped cake for dessert. The motif embodied Arsht’s rosy outlook.

“I have always brought people together for no purpose except the betterment of us all,” Arsht said in an interview.