By Laura Walsh
The Georgia Republican Party’s 2015 Chairman’s Dinner in Atlanta was attended by a handful of GGC students thanks to the generosity of Senator Don Balfour. The prestigious event was hosted by Georgia Republican Party Chairman John Padgett, Governor Nathan Deal and many other elected officials. The Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center came to life with the flood of distinguished guests, grassroots leaders, and elected officials dressed perfectly in conservative dresses, tailored suits and patriotic accents.
The students blended well in their best attire and were greeted warmly upon entrance in the lobby by U.S. Representative, Tom Price. Sen. Balfour provided the students with VIP access where they were able to mingle with the politicians and donors over hors d’oeuvres before the dinner began. Governor Deal spoke briefly with the student attendees and joined them in a group photo during the VIP reception. He warmly welcomed the students and encouraged them to stay involved in politics. A loud hum buzzed through the lobby as attendees caught up with friends, donors, colleagues and rivals alike.
Others, like the students, scanned memory and surreptitiously read nametags in an attempt to find familiar names and faces and build connections. The dinner opened with the pledge of allegiance by Debbie McCord, GAGOP Second Vice-Chairman, and a heartfelt prayer in true form to the conservative values of the GOP. Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, John Padgett, kicked off the dinner by celebrating victories of the Republican Party over the last year and the fundraising contributions received.
The victories of 2014 included “re-election of Governor Deal, the election of David Purdue, securing our House and Senate Seats, and replacing John Barrow with Rick Allen in Georgia’s 12th Congressional district,” said Padgett. “Thanks to the outpouring of support from hard working Republicans throughout the state, the Georgia Republican Party is equipped for battle,” said Padgett, who urged everyone to continue grassroots efforts to knock on doors, meet the voters, and welcome all new voters and minorities to “the party of freedom.”
“We absolutely must put a Republican president in office if we hope to turn this country around,” said Representative Tom Price, “and the only way to do that is unified.” Price was the first to speak as he was flying to Washington D.C. that evening to “continue fighting for the people.” Political pollster and “public opinion guru,” Frank Luntz was the keynote speaker for the event, and his loose-fitting button up shirt and white sneakers stood out among the tailored suits and ties. “If you’re looking at me and thinking ‘this is a mess,’ said Luntz gesturing to his attire, “I cleaned up for you [and] this is as good as it gets.” Luntz opened his speech by forsaking the podium and stage and beginning his talk from the back of the room.
While he spoke, he wandered between the large round tables laden with plates of half-eaten prime rib and danced over the chair legs that met between the tables. “How did the kids get to sit at the front table?” Luntz stopped mid-sentence to ask of the GGC students. “Who did you pay off?” The students laughed and pointed to Senator Balfour, who Luntz then thanked for bringing the young adults. Luntz then spoke out against the politics of his recent interviewee and 2015 presidential candidate, Donald Trump, saying “we have to put principle into politics because how we treat people does matter.”
One of the student attendees, Cadet Alicia Griffiths, was recognized by Luntz for her military service and was later thanked by Chairman Padgett and many other individuals. “Receiving so much recognition from distinguished leaders made me really proud to be able to serve our country in a way that is so respected,” said Griffiths. The event concluded with a short Q&A session in which Luntz responded to comments from Bernard “Bernie” Marcus, co-founder and first CEO of Home Depot, and many other g