NEW YORK, New York-Filipino-American businesswoman and philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis was awarded the Trailblazer of Democracy Award by The Eleanor’s Legacy organization at their Fall Luncheon on Oct. 24, 2011, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.
Eleanor’s Legacy, which is an organization focused on empowering women’s political candidates that follows in the footsteps of former U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, honored Lewis for her continued contributions to the empowerment of women in the political and public arena. Eleanor’s Legacy supports Democratic women who are aspiring for local and state offices in the State of New York. Eleanor’s Legacy connects candidates with political volunteers and experts, and teaches them about running campaigns.
Lewis was a supporter of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaigns, as well as the current Philippine President’s campaign in 2010, when she visited different U.S. states to campaign for then senators Benigno Aquino III and Mar Roxas. She also is a stern advocate of voter registration and mobilization, so that together, Filipino Americans can effect change in the U.S. electoral results and show power in their numbers. She also endorses absentee voting registration for elections in the Philippines.
“The triumph of Loida Nicolas Lewis’ life reminds us all that the real legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt is an obligation to think of ourselves as citizens of the world,” said New York Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson. “Loida has followed in the footsteps of Mrs. Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt was known as the first lady of the world, and Loida’s vision of a better world, where children are given a chance to learn, where giving young women a chance to lead is not contained to New York State.”
Also among the honored guests was New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who also spoke highly of Lewis while addressing the large conference of guests.
“Loida Lewis is one of America’s leading Filipina women,” said Schumer. “Fifteen years ago, when there was a desperate shortage of nurses in this country, and the talent of Filipina women to come here and be nurses was being blocked by the same kind of non-thinking approach to immigration that too many exhibit in Washington today. Loida led the charge to change. There are now thousands of Filipina nurses in America, and particularly in New York.”
Just as Mrs. Roosevelt stepped to the forefront when her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt fell ill during his presidency, Lewis stepped forward as CEO of her husband Reginald F. Lewis’ investment firm TLC Beatrice following his untimely death at the age of 50. Lewis, who was the first Asian woman to pass the bar exam in New York without studying in the United States, showed she was a capable businesswoman in her own right, eliminating the company’s debt while making a series of decisions that resulted in an internal return of 35 percent for stockholders.
“I accept this with great honor and humility, and I am honored to represent my fellow Filipinos,” said Lewis who is the first and only Filipina Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy awardee so far. During her riveting speech, Lewis was applauded multiple times when she shared her secrets to achieving success.
“Nasa tao ang gawa, nasa Diyos ang awa,” she said in Filipino. “God has been so good to me, he has given me so many benefits and advantages, we have to give back, we have to share and that’s what I’m doing.”
As a philanthropist, Lewis has contributed a considerable amount to a number of causes, such as The Lewis College in her hometown of Sorsogon Province, Philippines that gives scholarships to Filipino children from pre-K to university.
Meanwhile, in her late husband’s hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, students so admired Mr. Lewis that they selected his name as their public high school’s name, which went on to become the Reginald F. Lewis High School for Business and Law. Mr. Lewis’ Foundation supports the school by donating to the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship to teach students how to start their own businesses. For her own Filipino American community, Nicolas Lewis also inspires as she leads programs like the People’s Alternative Livelihood Foundation, which is responsible for lifting 20,000 families in the Philippines out of poverty through micro-financing.
Lewis continues to lead many political efforts and philanthropic organizations, including the U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG), which she chairs. Lewis is also a trustee of the Philippine Development Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides Filipino students with scholarships in science and technology, to promote social and economic development in the Philippines. (PR)