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posted: 4/16/2014 12:25 PM

Gold Medal Gala introduces literacy initiatives

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  • Robert Barnett

    Robert Barnett

Waukegan Public Library submission

It has been almost one year since it was announced that the Waukegan Public Library was a prestigious Institute of Museum and Library Services National Medal winner. To celebrate, the library will host a Gold Medal Gala at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at Glen Flora Country Club in Waukegan.

A silent auction will benefit new and existing literacy initiatives at the library. The evening will begin with a cocktail reception where guests can mingle and bid on the auction items, followed by dinner and a program that briefly introduces "Literacy 2020," the library's plan to increase literacy levels by 25 percent by the year 2020.

The featured speaker is Robert B. Barnett, leading attorney for premier authors, government officials, and major corporations. Barnett graduated from Waukegan Township High School in 1964. He joined Williams & Connolly LLP in 1975 and has been a partner since 1978.

Now he's ranked first on Washingtonian magazine's list of "Washington's Best Lawyers" and as one of "The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America" by The National Law Journal. He was also named one of the 100 most powerful people in the entertainment industry by Entertainment Weekly Magazine.

"For me, the Waukegan Public Library meant Story Hour on Saturday mornings at the Carnegie Building on Sheridan, getting a library card and having access to books, the Bookmobile at the shopping plaza on Lewis Avenue in summer, and, most of all, the wonder, adventure, delight, and inspiration found in books," Barnett said.

"I am thrilled to be returning to the place where I discovered my love of reading."

During his 30 years of practice, his clients have included Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Hillary Rodham Clinton, James Patterson, Barbra Streisand, Mary Higgins Clark, McDonald's Corporation, General Electric and Comcast.

Barnett has worked on nine national presidential campaigns, focusing on debate preparation, and played the Republican in practice debates with Geraldine Ferraro, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Joe Lieberman, and John Edwards.

The gala is being planned by the Waukegan Public Library Foundation Board, a nonprofit organization that encourages voluntary financial support for the Waukegan Public Library.

The purposes of the foundation include focusing public attention on library services, facilities and needs in the Waukegan area.

The gala is a celebration of the library's accomplishments, but also a collaborative initiative for the foundation board to promote early learning, the campaign for grade level reading, college and career readiness, the creation of a dynamic workforce, and lifelong learners, said Verna Wilson, foundation board and gala committee member and the district's literacy coordinator for Waukegan Public Schools.

"The ability to read affects everything from graduation rates to employment, as well as crime, health care, and our overall standard of living. At the library, we are committed to creating a community of readers with our 'Path to Learning and Literacy'. When our residents are successful, our city will be successful," said Richard Lee, executive director of Waukegan Public Library.

Tickets are $100 for individuals and $800 for a table of eight. The library is also looking for donations of silent auction items. Contact Kim Vander Yacht at (847) 623-2041, ext. 244, or

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