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February 25th, 2013

Notes and Thoughts on the Iowa GOP’s “Celebrate Life” Event

The Republican Party of Iowa held its first “Celebrate Life” event over the weekend, with 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee serving as the keynote speaker. The event brought many of the state’s conservative organizations under one roof, along with around 400 pro-life activists. Huckabee praised RPI for putting on the event.

“I’ve travelled all over the country and I’ve been to Republican Party events literally from Hawaii to the state of Maine, from Florida to California and everywhere in between. This is the first time I am personally aware that a state party has ever held an event specifically to emphasize and to celebrate our commitment to the dignity, the worth and the intrinsic value of every single human being and I want to say thank you to the Republican Party of Iowa for taking a stand,” Huckabee said.

Here are my thoughts on the event:

The setting: Point of Grace Church in Waukee is becoming a regular host site for conservative and Republican events. There is good reason for that. The auditorium-style seating, large stage and first-class video production elements provide a very professional setting. The event looked good, although for a “celebration” I would have chosen a different color than black for the pipe and drape that served as the backdrop. In fact, the pipe and drape probably wasn’t necessary at all.

One drawback to holding an event at Point of Grace Church is the size of the auditorium. Only half the seats were filled so it made the crowd look small.

The crowd: The Des Moines Register said there were only 250 people there and other media reported “a couple hundred”. RPI claimed more than 400. My head count is more in line with RPI’s. There were around 400 people there, which isn’t bad. It’s not great either, considering the headliner and the fact Point of Grace Church was offering free tickets to its members.

The speeches: Most of them were good. Along with Governor Huckabee’s, the three best speeches, in my opinion, were from WHO Radio’s Jan Mickelson, State Senator Ken Rozenboom and Iowa Right to Life President Marlys Popma.

Jan Mickelson got the event off to a strong start. He, and members of the audience, got emotional as Mickelson spoke. State Senator Ken Rozenboom’s was also very moving. Rozenboom delivered a shortened version of the passionate speech he gave on the Iowa Senate floor last week regarding his adopted son. You can view it here:

Senator Rozenboom also had a message for his fellow legislators: “As leaders in the state of Iowa, we can deal with the issue of abortion in a better way,” Rozenboom said. “Let’s stop using this as a political football. Let’s each of us ask ourselves if we’re part of the problem or part of the solution. Let’s stop asking who’s right and start asking what’s right. Let’s stop following the hardened lines of partisanship and find a new path, a path that leads us to a better place.”

Late in the event, Iowa Right to Life’s Marlys Popma delivered a great speech aimed at bringing the pro-life movement together. She shared the story of her own unplanned pregnancy and pointed out that “we disagree on process”, but not the ultimate goal. Popma pleaded with the audience to not make fellow pro-lifers the enemy. “The enemy is the devil,” she said. Popma received a standing ovation from the audience and keynote speaker Mike Huckabee praised her words more than once during his speech.

State Representative Tom Shaw also gave a powerful speech that earned a standing ovation. Shaw also let his anger spill out and he even criticized some pro-life organizations and fellow legislators, without naming them.

Tom Shaw is passionate about the life issue. That is obvious. However, at an event designed to “Celebrate Life”, the emotions perhaps could have been channeled differently than displays of anger. However, many attendees cheered him.

You can view Rep. Tom Shaw’s speech here:

Mike Huckabee: The 2008 Iowa Caucus winner and current cable news and radio host delivered a strong speech, as you would expect. As has been reported elsewhere, he did compare the 55 million babies lost to abortion to the Holocaust. It’s an apt comparison.

Huckabee warned Republicans that if they abandon the life issue, pro-lifers will abandon them. He also eviscerated the Democrats for spending significant amounts of time at the DNC convention last year celebrating taxpayer-funded abortion.

The former Arkansas governor spoke for a half-hour. You can watch it below:

The timing: The organizers tried to cram too many speeches and activities into a three-hour block. It didn’t work and the event ran more than an hour over. In particular, scheduling Rod Blum, Tom Shaw, Marlys Popma and Bob Vander Plaats in consecutive blocks and expecting all of them to speak for just five minutes each was ill-advised. None of them stayed within that time limit.

Overall: I applaud RPI for the idea and the effort. There is nothing more precious than the sanctity of life and it was good to see the state party recognize that. Overall, I thought it was a well-done event. There were some organizational troubles, but in all, RPI did well and should be commended.

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

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