The meeting went on as planned.
Since 2004, Reach Out America, an activist, progressive nonprofit, based in Great Neck, had been holding in-person general meetings once a month featuring speakers, often well-known, in politics, academia and the media, covering topics of current interest – voting, constitutional rights, environmentalism, social welfare, and diplomacy.
During the pandemic, this forum had become virtual.
But that did not dim the interest of membership or the draw of guests of consequence. At 12:30 on Wednesday, March 10, Tom Suozzi, 3rd District congressman and friend of the organization, was scheduled to address the group. It had been a momentous year and participants were eager to hear his thoughts and have their questions answered.
But it was also a momentous day.
The House was set to vote on the final version of President Biden’s important Covid relief package.
Nonetheless, Zooming from the Rayburn Room, Congressman Suozzi kept his date with Reach Out America. Viewers felt the palpable excitement of having a pipeline to power, the result of long years of proactive participation in the American democratic process.
The congressman did have a chance to address the meeting when all of a sudden an aide informed him that he had to leave immediately because the House session was underway.
He rushed into the chamber, took the lectern, not realizing that Nancy Pelosi was nearby, poised to speak; Suozzi then took a seat behind her, inadvertently “photo-bombing” the Speaker at a groundbreaking moment.
The image went viral. Newsday’s Rita Ciolli reported how Reach Out America, a small but mighty local organization, played a role in this significant historical footnote; the congressman’s fealty to a venerable Great Neck group ended up making him center stage at a most significant time.
As a result of Ciolli’s reporting, Reach Out America got well-deserved national attention.
Through the years ROA (www.reachout-america) has and continues to make history.