Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mrs. Palin Goes to Washington....Illinois


It's not everyday that you have opportunity to go with your personal heroine to hear your political heroine speak, but Saturday, April 17th was such an opportunity for me, as my mom and I attended Governor Palin's speech in Washington, IL. If I were to say one thing, I would say it was definitely a barn burner of a speech, and in central Illinois, there are a heck of a lot of barns to burn!

To give context to the speech, it took place in Washington, Illinois, a small town of about 13,000 people in central Illinois just outside of Peoria. The town of Eureka, home of Reagan's alma mater, Eureka College, is just a short 10-15 minutes from Washington. The event was a fundraiser for Five Points Washington, the town's community center. Some of the funds raised were also to be used for a scholarship program as well. During the question and answer session following the speech, the Governor mentioned that she chose to speak at this event because she knows what a blessing such community centers bring to a town, referencing the sports complex built in Wasilla when she was mayor.

The topic of the speech was " You Don't Need a Title to Make a Difference" and was the inaugural speech in a series on Lessons from Leaders. In her own signature style, the Governor effectively wove this topic into the speech also highlighting her political platform, record, and worldview, all while truly making the speech applicable and personal to central Illinoisans. She brought up at least three examples of people who made and are making a difference without a title. She began her speech speaking of Trig, who is turning 2 years old today. She spoke of how he may never hold a title, but he wakes up everyday in applause, bringing perspective and joy to those around him. She also spoke of how Reagan saved 77 lives when he worked as a lifeguard on the Rock River in Illinois when he was young, before he had a "title". She had the words "Lifeguards Needed" written on her palm. She also spoke of how we, as Americans, can make a difference without a title through our voice, our vote, and our freedom.

Regarding leadership, she spoke specifically of three former Presidents: Washington, Lincoln, and Reagan. She spoke about Washington's leadership--how true leaders respect the will and wisdom of the people and often were reluctant leaders who did not seek office, but the office sought them. She spoke of Lincoln's use of his stovepipe hat as a "traveling office" and how if it was good enough for Lincoln to store his notes in his hat, it was good enough for her to use her palm for her notes. She spoke quite a bit about Reagan, calling him a "son of Illinois". She spoke of his politics of both personality and conviction when it came to foreign policy, saying also that America needs his "Midwestern common sense" and "relentless optimism". Governor Palin, in a jab at President Obama, spoke of how a Eureka educated politician plays better in Peoria than a Harvard educated politician. At one point she stated during the speech that the next Lincoln or Reagan may be sitting in the audience. In my head, I thought,"the next Reagan is standing behind the podium!"

On a local level, Governor Palin praised central Illinois for being people who "cling to guns and religion" and who understand what she meant when she says, "don't retreat, reload". Politically, she spoke of how Obama's policies are affecting the region. The construction machine company, Caterpillar, is based out of nearby Peoria and employs quite a few people in the area. Governor Palin spoke of how President Obama came to Peoria last year claiming that the stimulus package would prevent Caterpillar workers from being laid off, which was not the case. She spoke of how the "economically illiterate" health care bill will cost the company $100 million in the first year alone.

More broadly, she spoke of the problems of a quadrupled national deficit, a $3.8 trillion budget, and the "mother of all unfunded mandates": the health care reform bill. Governor Palin criticized the President for bowing to world leaders and alienating allies like Israel.During the question and answer session, she mentioned that the President's comments about America being a military superpower, whether we like it or not was the statement that had taken her most aback of anything during President Obama's administration. However, her political rhetoric was not limited to criticisms, but included a great deal of what she called "time tested" solutions. She spoke of how prosperity cannot be legislated from Washington D.C., but must be earned through hard work ethic and by government getting out of the way. Additionally, she mentioned that more every day people, not politicians, are needed in government.

In sharing such solutions, she was very effective in tying in her record as governor and mayor , highlighting several of the examples that she mentioned in Going Rogue. Specifically, she mentioned how she lowered taxes and improved infrastructure as mayor as part of a pro-business, pro-economic growth strategy. She mentioned the main principles by which she governed Alaska. Government must live within its means. Resource development must be expanded. Money must be saved for the future, and earmarks must be slashed. During the question and answer session, Governor Palin spoke of how important it is that politicians realize that they are spending OPM (other people's money), and she highlighted that she fired of the personal chef and the sold of the jet.

The Governor has an amazing way of connecting with the people with whom she is speaking. After the speech, my mom said, "it was like you were listening to your best friend. She talks to you, not at you." I concur with this statement whole heartedly. Governor Palin spoke with such conviction, sincerity and optimism. I was also struck by how often she used the word "blessed". She seems to see every opportunity and experience as a blessing. I was amazed how focused and personal she made it for the audience she was speaking to by pulling in Reagan's ties to the area and the effects of the Obama administration on a large local employer. It truly was a blessing beyond words to hear America's point guard speak with such optimism and conviction.

So, this begs the age old question. Does Governor Palin play in Peoria? You betcha!

To see more pictures, albeit not high quality, see here.
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