The superstar at the Any Baby Can 40th Anniversary Benefit Concert was not the magnetic musical acts, Charley Crockett or Shinyribs; nor was it the Cowboy Auctioneers, who raised many thousands of dollars for the nonprofit that provides support for families of children with medical needs or developmental delays, as well offering classes on parenting; nor was it the live or video testimonials that helped explain the Any Baby Can mission for those in the audience still left in the dark.
No, it was founder Emily Vargas-Barón, who talked to me at some length — while storms raged outside — about the firm foundation laid dhow for the group in scientific data-keeping, which reminded me of my grandmother, Val Keating, and her role mentoring LBJ during the Great Depression on that definitional subject, while she ran the Texas Relief Commission and he the state’s branch of the National Youth Administration, the junior version of the Works Progress Administration.
Vargas-Barón, who earned her Ph.D. in anthropology from Stanford University in 1970, was there with family members and old friends, including Alexandra Alfau, one of the longest tenured employees at the 40-year-old nonprofit. In the VIP room backstage at ACL Live, the founder didn’t recognize many of the current leaders, but that’s likely because she’s long been the director of the Washington, D.C.-based Rise Institute, which conducts studies and provides advice for policy planners on early childhood development worldwide.
In the high hall of ACL Live for the main activities, Vargas-Barón glowed with pride at any mention of Any Baby Can, a more geographically focused nonprofit that she helped foster four decades ago. To me, everything else was just noise.