With the G-20 Summit in progress as of yesterday, all eyes are on Pittsburgh. World leaders will gather to discuss environmental concerns, clean energy, and economic prosperity. Prior to the G-20 local media has been updating residents about security, traffic, and the army of protesters descending on the Steel City. My original plan, to stay the heck out of town, changed the moment I received an invitation to attend Wednesday’s G-20 Gala event at the Andy Warhol Museum organized by the U.S. Climate Action Network and hosted by Teresa Heinz and Senator John Kerry.
If you don’t live in Pittsburgh, you might not understand fully the ramifications of attending a gala during a national event like the G-20 summit. A triangle built on the confluence of three rivers with a big mountain in front of it, Pittsburgh is a difficult place to navigate on a good day. Throw in rolling road closures, the city’s entire downtown closed to anything but foot traffic, and multiple cops on every street corner, and navigation goes from difficult to nearly impossible. Which is how we got lost in our own city on the way to the Warhol.
Having finally arrived, we submitted to a brief security check and entered the main lobby of the Warhol Museum to the sweet sounds of New Orleans jazz. The birthplace of jazz was devastated in 2005 by flooding resulting from shoddily constructed levees. Climate change may also have been a factor, and organizers wanted to send the message that we as Americans have the chance to lead the world in a transition to a clean-energy economy. Like New Orleans, Pittsburgh has also gone through tough economic times. But thanks to embracing green building and clean energy, among other things, it’s enjoying revitalization.
We were surrounded by the leaders, movers, and shakers of not only Pittsburgh – Mayor Luke Ravenstahl welcomed the crowd and Steelers football hero Franco Harris pressed flesh – but also of Washington. Honorary hostess Teresa Heinz Kerry, formerly married to the late Pennsylvania Senator Henry John Heinz III, also has a strong Pittsburgh connection.
The evening’s theme was “Cool the Planet and Heat Up the Economy.” The hors d’oeuvres were hot, the local beer cold, and the cool was provided by the legendary Allen Toussaint, guitarist Tab Benoit, fiddler Michael Doucet, and saxophonist Donald Harrison. The evening was a wonderful tribute to the hopes and the spirit of the G-20 summit. As the program put it, “All of these leaders are here to reach agreement on actions that cool the planet, heat up the economy and lead to a new era of security and opportunity.” Let’s hope the summit goes as well as this event.