Convention Day 3: Service

Each day, there is an assigned theme and that is the focus of the groups and speeches for that day.  The first day was Service, and due to the truncated event as a result of Gustav, all efforts were focused on the relief efforts for the Gulf states.  Day 2 was about Reform and everyone focused on how McCain is different and will make changes in DC.  And yesterday was Prosperity, and while the speeches focused on reducing taxes, improving the economy and reforming government and spending, the real work done by the delegates was SERVICE.  I along with many, many, many other delegates spent much of the day packing care boxes for the folks down in the Gulf region.  I wanted to share with you some photos, very brief snapshots of those efforts:

Assembly line relief efforts

Assembly line relief efforts

Boxes filled with food ready to go to the Gulf

Boxes filled with food ready to go to the GulfA fellow Illinois delegate putting together care packages

It was amazing to see you how so many people could do so much in such a short amount of time.  I haven’t heard the final numbers, but there were Target and Fed EX trucks lined up waiting to be filled with boxes.  I also had the opportunity to hear Senator Brownbeck and Michael Steele speak at a conference discussing the role of religion and faith in a politician’s life.  Michael Steele moved the audience (including some to tears) in telling the story of his own adoption and his gratitude to his natural mother for choosing his life. 

Here I am with Sen. Brownbeck (excuse the glare)

Here I am with Sen. Brownbeck (excuse the glare)

I had some time to kill before the big night.  It was Sarah Palin’s big night and she spoke along with Steele, Romney, and Guiliani.  Where do I begin?  The excitement and the secuirty were at an all-time high and Guiliani kicked it off by attacking the attacks on Palin’s family.  Sarah truly was, even by the New York Times account, “electric”.  It was so exciting to be on the floor for her speech even though I could only best see her on the jumbotrons around the arena.  Nevertheless, she hit a home run again (so far she is batting a thousand) as she took on questions of her experience and Obama’s directly.  She was charming and to the point and even hinted at her own ability to handle foreign policy based on her proximity to Russia.  I think we will see her depth more and more as the weeks come.  No doubt she has sealed her support in the Republican party and has demonstrated she can cross partisan lines. 
So far, for me this convention has been indescribable.  The warmth and sincerity of each person I meet and their committment, not only to getting McCain elected, but to the work they do back home is incredible.  Everyone is down to earth and approachable, even the seemingly remotest of celebrities.  I want to conclude by adding a picture with Karl Rove taken the other night who on the floor with us was friendly, unassuming, generous with his ear, thoughts and time and hilarious!  I wish more than anything America could see the Republican party I see.  We are here to do work and we love this country but we love our families and communities even more by the work we do everyday in home.  Away from the cameras and the lights and the glitz, each person – celebrity, pundit, politician, delgate, volunteer or journalist – really cares about how our lives will be shaped by these efforts and events. 

I wish you could see what a warm and sincere man he is.
I wish you could see what a warm and sincere man he is.

I am truly humbled and honored to be here this week. 

My Journey

In early 2007,  with the encouragement of a friend on the Illinois McCain Finance Committee, I signed on to support Senator McCain.   The Senator was strong on so many of the issues I care about:  national security and defense, lower taxes, pro-life and the committment to support non-activist judges.  It seemed early to pick a candidate since there were so many different choices out there but it was a great opportunity to commit to the right person at the early stages of a campaign.  Back in the spring of 2007, through the summer and even in the fall, it looked like it was going to be Guiliani or Romney , with everybody waiting to see what Thompson was going to do.  What a long way since then.  In September, I was asked by Julie Brady, another McCain delegate and the real workhorse in the Illinois vounteer efforts, if I would like to be on the ballot as a delegate.  Because I live in the 9th Congressional district, heavily gerry-mandered to be very liberal/Democrat, I sometimes wonder if it was because the campaign had to find at least one interested Republican in the district.  Little did I realize what that was going to mean!  Again, because of the very strong liberal presence, I had to get creative about how I got signatures for my petition.  Most of the time, I was pleasantly suprised by the support from friends, neighbors and strangers from the other side of the aisle.  But there was always the surprising “There is no way I would support the Republicans” even from people I knew.  I wasn’t even asking for a vote!  It made me realize that politics run deep, even if you are just asking to be on the ballot.  The best part was having the opportunity to learn more about Evanston and the rest of the district and meet so many incredible people.  Out in Des Plains and Park Ridge, I met some of the warmest and truly committed people and that reenergized my committment to be involved, however possible. 

The next few months were pretty quiet since the liberal candidates were more popular in a relatively liberal district.   But then the national tide turned and McCain quickly became the front runner.  By the Illinois primary in early February, it became McCain’s race to lose and the momentum in Illinois and the district really picked up.  Even though the campaign was way behind in dollars, the philosphical support was rolling in.  The excitement of watching the primary results that Tuesday night, along with the other delegates, was incredible.  All of a sudden it was all McCain.  It wasn’t just whether a pledged delegate won the district, but there was friendly competition among the delegates in the same district as to who got more votes.  I know that I benefited tremendously by not only being pledged for McCain, but also having my name first on the ballot  It did not hurt either that Karen Berkowitz, in the Evanston Review had published the week before a really nice interview with me and my family.  (See “Delegates Hope to Make History”, January 31, 2008, Evanston Review, www.PioneerLocal.com)

So that is how I came to be a delegate.  The real fun and work has already kicked in.  I have had some great opportunities to participate in local events but the real start was the Illinois Republican Convention, in Decatur, IL in June.  Decatur, by the way, is the birthplace of the Republican Party, started by none other than Abraham Lincoln.  It makes being an Illinois Republican extra special and extra authentic.  The convention was not only a great place to learn and participate in the work of the state party, learn about its goals and mission, but to meet other active Republicans – delegates, committeepersons, office holders, fundraisers, the whole gamut.  Although I have come to know well many of the Evanston Republicans, who are starting to come out of the woodwork, it was great to meet others, even from Cook County and the city of Chicago.  Yes, there are Republicans in Chicago.  It is quite clear that the state party is committed to putting forth strong, honest office holders and to end the corruption and even appearance of it within the party and state government as a whole.  There is a lot of work to be done, but it is not impossible.  The party clearly is working to support new, hardworking (and conservative!) candidates and is focusing on the integrity of the person.  Aaron Schock, the state representative from Peoria, and Brendan Appel, running for state rep. in Glenview are two that come immediately to mind  I have to say that attending the state convention has re-energized my own personal committment to being an active Republican and to supporting my local officials as well.  We have so many extraordinary young bright and ethical people waiting in the wings and it is exciting to be part of that.  If I feel this way after the state convention, I can’t imagine what will happen in September in Minneapolis/St. Paul.