Last weekend brought the 14th Annual Kennedy-King Dinner sponsored by the Eighth Congressional District Democratic Committee. Some five hundred staunch Democrats filled the ballroom at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center to enjoy an excellent crab cake dinner and, most important, to see and be seen.
The optimism was palpable. Eighth District Democrats were smelling victory not only at home, but throughout the country. Democrats being who they are, even the most positive analyses of the coming election were qualified with “but—.” Nevertheless, everyone was feeling pretty good.
Jim Moran opened with an impassioned speech, as only Moran can give. There is never a scintilla of doubt where Moran stands on the burning issues of the day. After updating us on every evil visited upon us by the current administration – including the war in Iraq, global warming, our faltering health care system, immigration policies, to name just a few – he introduced the much anticipated keynote speaker, former governor Mark Warner.
Warner left no doubt that he was running for president. He talked about his travels around the country and abroad preaching the Virginia message of policies that bring prosperity, a good education system with a 94% high school graduation rate, a governmental system that has been heralded as best in the nation; all this and a surplus, too.
Warner said that at no time in his life has the country faced more challenges on more fronts, domestic and international with a government in Washington that is getting virtually nothing done. He was highly critical of an administration that has succeeded in dividing our country and allies while uniting our enemies, cutting respect for our laws and eroding our freedoms, and failing to provide critically needed services for the American people. With regard to the latter, he particularly mentioned that we needed to have a comprehensive health care system – as does virtually every other major democratic nation.
He emphasized that he was not talking about left versus right or Democrats versus Republicans, but the future versus the past. We must look positively and creatively to the future versus the past. We must “take back our country.”
All in all, it was an excellent campaign speech. And he didn’t read a word of it. If he had a written speech either on the podium or in a hidden teleprompter, none of us could see it. The delivery was very natural and heartfelt, a major plus in a presidential campaign.
The closing speaker was our esteemed governor, Tim Kaine. Two major issues he mentioned were our growing transportation crisis, exacerbated by the failed special session of the General Assembly, and the so-called “marriage amendment.”
“I ain’t giving up,” he proclaimed to much applause when he discussed the failure of the General Assembly to come up with a solution to Virginia’s – particularly Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads – transportation crisis. And while he does support the theory that “marriage” should be between a man and a woman, the proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution would threaten to wipe away a huge number of completely legitimate contractual relationships between two unmarried individuals.
The dinner ended very happily after three stem winding speeches by three highly popular and effective political leaders – Democratic political leaders. Everyone left feeling very good about the future of the party and its candidates both in the 2006 elections and looking toward the 2008 elections.