Thursday, February 12, 2009

Americans for Prosperity Dinner in Richmond

On February 10, the grassroots activist group Americans for Prosperity held a full day of briefings, rallies, and lobbying at the state capitol in Richmond.

The day was capped with a gala dinner featuring former Governor (and Senator) George F. Allen as its keynote speaker. Members and friends of AFP also heard from Delegates Ben Cline and Brenda Pogge, former Delegate (and AFP-Virginia chairman) Paul Harris, Americans for Prosperity national president Tim Phillips, and former Circuit City CEO Richard Sharp. The theme of the dinner was "Defending the American Dream."

I captured most of the pre- and post-dinner speeches on video. Some segments are a bit shaky because the staff at the Richmond Marriott continued to serve dinner courses during the early speeches. (This, I guess, was the organizers' way to keep everything running on time, accommodating the many activists who arrived in Richmond early in the morning on buses from all corners of the state and who wanted to get back home at a reasonable hour.)

Here are Delegate Brenda Pogge's opening remarks. She is introduced by Ben Marchi (as are most of the other speakers).

Delegate Ben Cline was the next to take the stage. His remarks included news about what was happening in the General Assembly, including the news that his bill calling for better budget transparency had passed the House of Delegates and was on its way to the state Senate.

Pogge and Cline were followed by Tim Phillips, the national president of Americans for Prosperity, whose home is in Virginia even if his office is in Washington, D.C. Phillips took aim at Capitol Hill in D.C. and spoke about AFP's efforts. He specifically mentioned the 305,000 signatures on a "stop the stimulus" petition that had been gathered on that web site in about 25 days. (Between Friday and Tuesday, the number of signatures grew from 69,000 to 305,000. The number must be even higher by now.)

The leaders of AFP -- Marchi, Pogge, Cline, and Phillips -- then took time to recognize Suzanne Curran as "Volunteer of the Year." Curran accepted the award and encouraged AFP's other 13,000 members in Virginia to "keep up the work."

After dinner, the lights were dimmed and a short video about George Allen's years as governor was shown. (It appeared to have been prepared for use during Allen's 2000 campaign for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Chuck Robb.) Then Rick Sharp gave some introductory comments and Governor Allen -- with all the energy of a politician in full-campaign mode -- delivered his stump speech.

Allen's remarks are divided into four parts.

Part I includes Sharp's introduction, as well as Governor Allen's acknowledgment of many friends and supporters (the "A-Team") in the audience:

Part II continues Allen's remarks, beginning with a Ronald Reagan quotation, "If not us, who? If not now, when?":

Part III includes Allen's comments on the state of the U.S. economy:

In Part IV, Governor Allen concludes his remarks, with an emphasis on the importance of energy:

(It is in this segment that Allen answers the question, What are Americans addicted to?)

Finally, AFP-Virginia Chairman Paul Harris, who once held the same seat in the House of Delegates that had previously been held by George Allen and Thomas Jefferson, rose to present former Senator Allen with -- what else? -- the 2009 Thomas Jefferson Award from Americans for Prosperity. Before presenting the award, Harris asked former First Lady of Virginia Susan Allen to join them on stage.

The dinner ended shortly before 10:00 p.m. and several hundred local, grassroots political activists went home happy but tired from a long day of participating in the political process.

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