Tuesday, November 12, 2013

2013 Blair Democrats Fall Banquet

I'm just going to start with one of the highlights of my evening...

My husband and I with fmr. Congressman and ret. Admiral Joe Sestak

I would have thought that on an off-year things wouldn't be terribly exciting, but our speaker line-up this year was excellent.  Our keynote speaker was Admiral Sestak, but we'll get to him in a minute.  Our first guest was State Representative, and former Centre County Commissioner, Scott Conklin.

Have you ever heard Scott Conklin speak?  I hadn't either before Sunday evening and I don't want to play favorites and truly all of our speakers were great, but I think Scott Conklin's five minutes may have been my favorite five minutes of the evening.  Conklin is a vocal supporter of LGBT equality, and Planned Parenthood reports that he supports family planning services and birth control.  However, he was one of the Democrats who voted in favor of HB818.  You may recall I wrote about HB818 in a piece called "Vagina Control".  I have to admit, that my fervor is somewhat quelled by that particular vote.  Planned Parenthood gives him a 100% in family planning and prevention but I don't feel particularly inclined toward anyone that's in favor of curtailing my ability to control my own body.  Let's say Conklin were to run for a statewide office though, would I support him?  I might.  I would push to be sure that he fully supports a woman's right to choose her own way, but I would probably support him.  

Speaking of people running for statewide office, someone who is definitely running for statewide office is fmr. Congressman Mark Critz, who was also at our event.  Critz was a great guy, good speaker, and he's the successor of the legendary Jack Murtha.  Mark Critz is definitely pro-life  on a federal level and that is not cool.  Can you be pro-life for yourself?  Yes.  When you start legislating your beliefs onto other people especially as a man who can never ever really understand the position who has to consider abortion, then I have a problem with you.  Mark Critz also doesn't have a great record on LGBT equality.  Am I going to have other options when it comes to Lieutenant Governors, though?  Mark Smith from Bradford County is apparently running, but I know basically nothing about him.  I know...I'm starting to get a little depressed too.
Our next speaker is almost incapable of disappointing if only because he hasn't run for any office (yet) and his father was a Republican, so as a Democrat he's already looking better to me.  This would be Jay Paterno.  As a Pennsylvanian, as someone who grew up in a Penn State household, I was thrilled to hear Jay Paterno speak last year and absolutely didn't disappoint.  This year was the same as he was the official warm-up act for our keynote speaker.

From left to right: Frank Rosenhoover,
Jay Paterno, Joe Sestak
Our keynote speaker is one Democrat that I can endorse wholeheartedly and without reserve.  Fmr. Congressman and ret. Admiral Sestak has a 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice and has been quoted as saying "Regardless of my religious beliefs, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe vs. Wade that - as a nation - the United States should offer every woman the right to have a legal and safe abortion, if that is her choice. I support that decision."  I support that statement.  Finally, someone who understands that his beliefs don't need to be legally mandated.  I love it.

Admiral Sestak talked about the dichotomy of America, about our rugged individualism and our simultaneous sense of community.  He said that we all work together to build ladders so that individuals can have the courage to climb them alone.  That's his definition of American Exceptionalism, and I think it may be my favorite definition.

He told several stories from his military career, one which featured prominently a female service member who performed an extreme act of heroism, a story which certainly underlined Admiral Sestak's commitment to true equality for the women of America.  I don't think we could do better for the next Senator from Pennsylvania than Admiral Joe Sestak.

I know it's pretty early to start talking about 2016...pause for laughter...but I honestly can't wait to replace Pat Toomey.  He's awful.  He's spiteful.  He's got his head so far up the Tea Party's collective behind that I bet he doesn't even remember what the sun looks like.

So after a magical evening, the shine may have worn off a couple of the speakers, but I'm still all in for Sestak and like so many people am hoping that Jay Paterno decides to run for something...anything.