News Center

August 13th, 2012

The Family Leader Hits a Home Run with Inaugural Summit

The Family Leader organization held its inaugural “Family Leadership Summit” over the weekend and by all accounts, the event was a rousing success. Luring 2012 Iowa Caucus winner Rick Santorum, 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee, and Texas Governor Rick Perry to the event was quite a coup. Their presence resulted in a sellout crowd.

Perhaps even more surprising to me was the presence of Iowa Congressman Steve King and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley. Although they appeal to a lot of the same people, King is not exactly bosom buddies with Bob Vander Plaats, the CEO of The Family Leader. Grassley, often dismissed by the BVP crowd as an “establishment” Republican, delivered one of the strongest speeches of the entire event.

The Family Leadership Summit received another boost when Fox News made a late decision to air part Mike Huckabee’s weekly Saturday night program live from the event. That was due to Saturday morning’s announcement of Paul Ryan being chosen as Mitt Romney’s running mate. The nationwide publicity was another nice benefit for Vander Plaats’ group.

Here are some of my thoughts on event:

Unanimous Praise for Paul Ryan: All the featured speakers heaped praise on the vice-presidential hopeful. That’s not really a surprise. Ryan is beloved by grassroots conservatives and people like Steve King and Rick Santorum worked with Paul Ryan in Congress. They all obviously think very highly of the Wisconsin congressman.

Promoting Mitt Romney: Several speakers encouraged the crowd to get behind Mitt Romney. Some social conservatives in Iowa are having a hard time warming up to the GOP nominee-to-be, but Saturday’s event might have helped allay some of those fears.

Production Values: The Family Leader scores an A-plus for this. They put in a lot of effort into making the event look good. During each speech, pictures of the person at the podium were displayed on two of the large screens above the stage. It was a nice touch that greatly enhanced the visual aspect of the event. The package introducing the “Vote No on Wiggins” announcement was also very interesting and well-produced. Nice job to all involved.

Most Interesting Speech: I thought best-selling author Joel C. Rosenberg delivered a fascinating speech. It was funny, intriguing and thought-provoking. To hear how this man of Jewish ancestry became an evangelical Christian was extremely interesting. Rosenberg’s speech made me want to go buy some of his books, which was probably part of his goal.

Strongest Speech: Surprisingly, it came from Senator Chuck Grassley. Never a master of oratory skills, Grassley served up a huge helping of conservative red meat. For this audience, it was the perfect speech:

“We tend to be apologizing too often. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not going to be apologizing about the exceptionalism of America. I’m not going to apologize about the constitutional basis for America. Because if you have a living constitution, you have a dead constitution because if it’s always that’s always evolving, it’s a constitution that makes Congress and the president supreme and not the Constitution of the United States, the supreme law of the land.”

“Some basics that we must emphasize: Life begins at conception, without apology. Gun ownership is a fundamental right, without apology. Choice in education ought to be a right of any parent, without apology. Freedom of religion, yes. Secularism, no. Without apology. And any minister ought to be able to say from the pulpit in a constitutional way, and not violating IRS rules, to say anything and do anything that Jesse Jackson can do from the pulpit, without apology. We deserve ballot credibility. Voter ID, without apology. We do not have to apologize for America supporting Israel.”

There was more. And it was very good.

Most Provocative Statement: “The mark of the beast is not going to be 666, it’s going to be a rainbow.” – Jan Mickelson, WHO radio host, during a media panel

Funniest Line: “I was the frontrunner in the presidential campaign. I told some folks earlier today out at the state fair, it was one of the most exhilarating three hours of my life…” – Rick Perry

The “Vote No on Wiggins” Campaign: It’s no surprise that Vander Plaats would again take the reigns on an effort to oust one of the Supreme Court justices who thrust gay marriage on the state. He assembled a strong team again, including our new RNC National Committeewoman Tamara Scott and longtime activist Chuck Laudner, who played a crucial role behind the scenes two years ago. Rick Santorum also pledge to assist in the effort. They’ve got the right people in place to make it work, but it will be a more difficult fight this year.

Biggest Applause: By far, that was for Mike Huckabee when he was introduced. This crowd absolutely loved the 2008 Iowa Caucus winner.

Former presidential candidates: I thought all three delivered pretty good speeches. Not surprisingly, Rick Perry’s was the worst of the three. He’s just not a strong public speaker. Mike Huckabee’s was more of a Sunday sermon than a political speech, but it was well done. Santorum just shredded Obama’s recent policies, which subverted our Constitution.

Overall: There are plans to make this summit an annual event. The Family Leader will be hard-pressed to top the inaugural one.

Photo by Dave Davidson,

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

blog comments powered by Disqus