Nostalgia mixed with a sense of new beginning. That's the best way I can describe last night's 10th Annual One Economy Gala at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Chairman of the Board and co-founder Rey Ramsey spoke with passion as he credited the many people and organizations that have made One Economy a global force, connecting low-income people to the power of communications technology and information.

The Gala also featured:

  • FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski receiving the Metcalfe Digital Opportunity Award for his leadership in the democratization of technology and the Internet
  • Four Digital Connectors receiving $2,500 Comcast scholarships recognizing their unique achievements
  • Comcast Digital Connector Amet Aljahmi (ACCESS, Dearborn, MI) receiving the Lisa Sullivan Horizons Award (see accompanying video), which honors a program participant for exceptional efforts to use technology to transform low-income communities, and
  • Rey's introduction of One Economy's new CEO, Kelley Dunne.

It was quite a night for the 400 in attendance, who also saw high-tech presentations by about 50 Comcast Digital Connectors from programs in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Springfield, MA and Washington, DC. In another special moment, Rey was surprised and clearly moved by his co-founder Ben Hecht, who announced that OE would create a new Rey Ramsey Award for Excellence in Mentorship.

Comcast was the proud title sponsor for the Gala. One Economy is one of our newest national community partners, and one with whom we already have a very deep relationship. We plan to have more than 50 Comcast Digital Connectors sites up and running in Comcast communities by the end of this year. By December 2011, we will have partnered with One Economy to train at least 1,500 students. These students are charged with spreading their digital knowledge among family members and throughout their communities.

Comcast Executive VP David L. Cohen told the audience, "We firmly believe in the core of One Economy's mission of broadband adoption." He also congratulated Chairman Genachowski on his award, recognizing him for doing more to promote broadband adoption and expansion than any Chairman before him.

In addition to presenting the Lisa Sullivan Award to Amet Aljahmi, David announced scholarships to Alexi Calderon and Jaime Salmeron, Comcast Digital Connectors at the Latin American Youth Center in Washington, D.C.; Bryant Wright, a Comcast Digital Connector at Volunteer Broward in Lauderhill, FL; and Noureldin Noor, a Digital Connector at the Boston Centers for Youth and Families.

These young people represent the future, and new CEO Dunne, a noted telecom innovator and entrepreneur, could barely contain his excitement about what's ahead.

"The last 10 years of One Economy have been about outlining the potential of what is possible, and the next 10 will be spent realizing that potential," he said. "One Economy is better positioned to harness and realize the potential of evolving technologies - domestically and globally - than any other organization in the world. I truly believe we are on the cusp of something incredible."

Rey recalled that he and his three co-founders began their work in the dusty basement of a Washington, D.C. office building. A decade later, more than 19 million people around the world have accessed One Economy's online resources. More than 350,000 people have been connected to broadband in 42 states. And 15,000 families have been trained by Digital Connectors to use computers and other technology.

"Technology cuts across all barriers," Rey said.