Though the turnout was sparse, the Huguenot and New Rochelle Historical Association held its annual fundraiser Friday, honoring Fox News political analyst Juan Williams.
Williams received the In The Spirit of Thomas Paine Award and spoke about getting back to the roots of journalism, that people like Thomas Paine embodied.
“This award matters to me,” he said. “The notion of Common Sense (referencing Thomas Paine’s book) is a fire that we need to protect and shield from winds of intolerance and political correctness and the pressures that come from political interest groups, that gets people to shut up.”
In his speech, Williams spoke about the need for journalists to get back to going where the silence is and getting back to the roots of journalism.
Organizers were sorry that Williams’ talk wasn't heard by many people.
“I am just disappointed at the small turnout,” said John R. Wright, director of the association. “It’s a fundraiser for the cottage that is struggling in these conditions, and this show of so few people begins to become an embarrassment.”
The award presentation was a part of a 1940s big band era swing dance and silent auction event that was supposed to help raise money for the Thomas Paine Cottage Museum.
“This is an annual fund raising event,” said Dr. John Jacoby, who has been a board member of this association for 25 years. “And because of our small budget we hold this event to raise money for the cottage.”
The funds that are raised at events like this help improve the cottage and the museum. Jacoby said that through fundraisers they raised money to have the cottage repainted to its original color.
Despite the low turnout, a live band, David Patterson & the New Rochelle Jazz Revue, put on a top-notch performance.
“I think it’s really great they have things like this,” said Jason Peterson, the band’s drummer. “It’s cool for me because I’m a band teacher in the New Rochelle district and I am glad to see this (association) promote this big band style.”
The small crowd didn’t deter guests from dancing to the swing-style music and enjoying the night overall.
“We need more cultural events like this,” Jacoby said. “It helps make this city less vanilla.”