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Hotdogs and politics: Council Race Heats Up
It was anything but politics as usual as the Venture family put their own spin on choosing a President for the agency’s Council of Advocates on August 22. All but one of the eight contestants took advantage of the candidate’s luncheon, to press the flesh and to make their case with the voters. With the primary only weeks away, a packed house at the Venture Select program room offered the perfect venue for an afternoon of campaigning.
Morning thunderstorms forced what was supposed to be a barbeque and pool party indoors and though the space was tight, spirits were, nonetheless, not dampened by the bad weather. Agency Executive Director Dan Lukens introduced the event and asked that the candidates observe the Town Meeting’s one-minute rule.
Candidate George B. was the first speaker. Sporting a suit, tie and bushy head of grey hair, George was the picture of mature, thoughtful leadership as he took the microphone first to make his case. Clutching the handbills bearing his picture, George told the group that he had the maturity and wisdom to lead. His words were well considered, if at times a little hard to understand, but the group responded to George with a warm applause.
Don R. reminded his audience of his tenure as past president and spoke directly but modestly of his accomplishments during his term of office. He talked about service and said that he would be pleased to represent the group again as their president. His message was not inspirational in either its tone or delivery but he spoke convincingly of his ability and qualifications.
Meagan R. introduced herself and told the group: “If you pick me I will always put people first.” Her presentation was smart, and her case, well stated and there was just enough reserve in her tone so as not to diminish the sincerity of her message. She outlined a platform that included more input on agency parties and events and a message of confident and thoughtful leadership.
Gary approached the microphone with his characteristic verve and opened with a booming if perhaps less than appropriate introduction. “I am the lady’s man,” he announced emphatically. “I am the lady’s man and I’m running for president!” Gary spoke clearly if not completely on message. He used his time to mostly talk about his romantic interests and closed to the applause of the group. It was not clear, however, whether that approval was for Gary’s candidacy or for the entertainment value of his performance. Either way, Gary was a hit.
Jeff bounced to the microphone and clutched it with what seemed a kind of nervous desperation. “I would like to be the vice president,” he said. He went on to discuss his aspiration in the frenetic tone of his introduction. “He closed with a loud “thank you” that echoed through the hall. (Note that the Council election ballot does not include a line for Vice President. Consistent with the group’s bylaws, only the President is elected. The president appoints the vice president and cabinet members.)
Ryan approached the front of the room wearing a pair of dress shorts, a shirt and tie and looked a bit like an official of the British Empire. Nonetheless, his appearance was neat and he spoke impressively. “The president should be a person who cares, who is loyal and who puts his people before himself,” Ryan said. “He is a leader who stands for peace- who helps his people to reach out to one another to do good. A president is someone who stands up for the little guy and who leads by his example.” The group clapped for Ryan enthusiastically.
Dan Lukens introduced the sitting president,Theresa P, as the last speaker. Taking a moment, Theresa addressed the group after a halting pause. “I want to help people who need help,” she said returning to the themes that had gotten her elected two years before. She talked about the need in the world but the emotion was not there. This was the same speech that Theresa had given on at least two previous occasions and the drama that it had imparted in the first telling had apparently faded. Nonetheless, the audience was polite and the campaign portion of the event gave way to the business of dancing and fun.
The Council’s Presidential Primary will take place at the agency’s residences in September and the ballot this year will include the eight candidates who have filed their candidacy petitions with Barbara V. who acts as the election supervisor. The two candidates who receive the most votes will face each other in a runoff election at the November Town Meeting.
Commentary: The Council Candidates all offered an articulate presentation of their qualifications, concerns and ideas to the group. Not one of the candidates disparaged any of their rivals and the contestants and their audience deported themselves with respect and civility throughout the event. And so, as the state of the American political discourse dissolves into the ranting thuggery of an angry mob around them, the Venture group remains an oasis of reason in a sea of hooliganism.
“It’s just not normal,” said Dan Lukens. “But isn’t it great. Ah, the things we might all learn from the Venture people!”
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