This week’s special episode of the Liberty + Leadership Podcast highlights TFAS’s 33rd Annual Scholarship Dinner in Washington, D.C. On July 12, supporters, alumni and guests honored today’s congressional and business leaders and supported our future leaders – the 2023 TFAS students.
Honorees and guests included 2023 Congressional Leadership Award recipient U.S. Senator Todd Young of Indiana, 2023 Business Leadership Award recipient Senior Executive Vice President for External and Legislative Affairs for AT&T Ed Gillespie, and 2023 Alumni Achievement Award recipient Congressman David Kustoff of Tennessee.
The evening also featured a special video message from former President George W. Bush and remarks from TFAS students, trustees and friends.
The transcript below is lightly edited for clarity.
Roger Ream [00:00:01] Today, I am excited to present a special episode of Liberty + Leadership. TFAS recently held our annual Scholarship Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C. This event gives us the opportunity to honor today’s congressional and business leaders and to support our future leaders, the 2023 TFAS students. We’ve put together a highlight reel of some of the best, most memorable moments from the evening. In this episode, you’ll hear from award winners: Senator Todd Young of Indiana, Congressman David Kustoff of Tennessee, a TFAS alum, and Senior Executive Vice President for External and Legislative Affairs at AT&T, Ed Gillespie. We hope you enjoy listening as much as we did, and we’re grateful to the countless organizations and individuals who joined us to support TFAS scholarships.
Roger Ream [00:00:57] Good evening. Welcome. Thank you so much for coming this evening. We are delighted that you’re able to join us. Thank you so much for your generous support of our mission and developing leaders who appreciate the ideas that sustain a growing and vibrant American republic. We pride ourselves at TFAS in finishing our dinners no later than maybe a few minutes after 9:00. But what really matters is what transpires in the next 2 hours. We’re going to make sure we not only present awards honoring some very distinguished recipients, but we have a good time, we have time to chat at your tables and hopefully a chance to talk to many of the students in our programs, who are here. We have almost 300 students with us this summer. They come from colleges and universities around the globe, but mostly from the United States. They are from all types of colleges and universities. We have Air Force cadets, cadets from the other academies. Yes, here for the Air Force. And students from large public, small privates and everything in between. At this dinner, we recognize individuals who appreciate the importance of our free enterprise system, and the key role business must play in the preservation of that system, and tonight is no exception in our honorees. Before I turn things over to our accomplished master of ceremonies, Kirk Blaylock, I want to recognize the members of the TFAS Board of Trustees. I first want to make mention of the passing of a TFAS trustee and a friend to many of us in this room. Last December we lost Juanita Duggan. Someone who has devoted her career to advocating for a free enterprise system, including as president of the National Federation of Independent Business. We certainly miss her on our board and miss her tonight because she always played a key role in the success of this dinner. Kirk Blaylock, the stage is yours.
Kirk Blaylock [00:03:10] Good evening. Great to see everybody. Lots of old friends. And I appreciate everybody turned out tonight for a very special evening. Just a personal privilege to say my few words about Juanita as well. I first got involved in TFAS in 2007 when Eric Tanenblatt, who was here, and I co-chaired the dinner honoring Saxby Chambliss. Juanita got us involved and I’ve been involved ever since, so I miss her dearly. Great friend to a lot of people in this room, and I just want to say that.
Kirk Blaylock [00:03:42] Thanks, everybody, for supporting this special evening, honoring our outstanding Congressional and Business leaders who’ve had a significant positive impact on our nation and its young people, and for helping us raise the funds that provide scholarships so that bright young student leaders can attend TFAS’s transformational Business and Government Relations summer program. In the audience tonight, as Roger said, there are about 50 of these exceptional students, and I’d like to ask all of them to please stand and be recognized along with their program director, Lainey Carlton. I would now like to introduce Fatima Morera, who will give tonight’s student testimonial. Fatima is a Tisdale Fellow who was interning this summer at the Computing Research Association, and she attends Michigan Technological University. Fatima.
Fatima Morera Lohr [00:04:25] Good evening, everyone. My name is Fatima Morera Lohr. I am a rising junior at Michigan Technological University. I have had the opportunity to be a part of TFAS in the Business and Government relations track. This past month has been an experience I could not have gotten anywhere else. TFAS has allowed me to build personal and professional relationships and has given me friendships that will last a long time. Being part of TFAS is something I did not think would be possible for me, since I spent the last year doing missionary work. Thankfully, God gave me the opportunity to to do both things, since my mission year ended less than two days before I started. I have been an intern at Computing Research Association (CRA), in the Government Affairs Relations. CRA is a nonprofit organization that invests in the computing research community. They inform the public and policymakers on what is going on and what is needed. Working at CRA has allowed me to combine two things that I like: computers and technology with policy. This opportunity has given me more a clearer path on what I want to do in my professional career. Since I had already done TFAS High School program through the Foundation of Teaching Economics (FTE), I knew this experience would be nothing short of a dream, but I did not know how many graces I would receive during the summer. Being part of TFAS has giving me a blessing in both my professional career and building friendships that I know will last a long time. I had just met some of my friends here, and yet they decided to stay outside of the E.R. when I had a medical emergency with a heart condition that I have because they wanted to make sure I did not feel alone. These are friendships one cannot just find anywhere. TFAS has not only provided me with a great networking experience, but with relationships that have now become friendships. Getting to know my professors and learning from them has given me so many tools for the future. Having the opportunity to hear from so many guest speakers has also brought in my view on different issues I did not know about. One of my favorite memories so far has been the Alumni Roundtable Dinner, since I got the opportunity to meet so many of TFAS alumni and see everything this program has done for them. Sure, why not? That has probably been the phrase that I’ve used the most this summer, which, as you might have seen by now, has led me to create so many great memories. Your generosity has given me and many TFAS students the opportunity to be here in D.C., this summer. This has not only allowed us to grow in our professional careers as everyone in TFAS would say, networking with others, but it has also allowed all of us to grow on a personal level. My time in D.C. has been nothing short of a dream. I’m grateful for all the mentors that volunteer their time to help us and all the donors who have helped us monetarily. Thank you to everyone who has made this a reality and thank you to all TFAS staff for this summer.
Roger Ream [00:07:42] Before we do anything further, I did want to mention when Fatima gave her testimonial and let us in a prayer, she mentioned having done an FTE program and I wanted to remember to say that in addition to 300 college students being here this summer, we started a program in Prague this weekend for 60 students and another program in Prague for journalism students, another 50 are there. We’re doing things around the world, Santiago, Chile and elsewhere. But this summer we are also running Economics for Leaders camps or programs around the country, on college campuses. We have over a thousand students attending our high school programs. We have over 1200 high school teachers, learning how to teach economics at our programs. We’re running just great programs everywhere and your support makes all that possible.
Roger Ream [00:08:46] If I can have your attention, I’m now going to present a very important recognition. It’s our Alumni Achievement Award, which we give out each year. It’s a person selected by our alumni council and nominated by our alumni. We have tens of thousands of alumni now in leadership around the world, and they are people who have achieved a lot. You know them, you see them and read them probably every day. David Muir, anchor of ABC News, is a TFAS alum. We have five or six writing for the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. We have alums who are leaders in business. We have three or four dozen working on Capitol Hill. They’ve served in the House and the Senate.
Roger Ream [00:09:33] We currently have two members of Congress who are alumni, and one is here tonight, and it’s my pleasure to present him with our annual Alumni Achievement Award. That award is going to Congressman David Kustoff of the eighth District of Tennessee. I’m not going to go into committee assignments and a lot of detail about David, but in addition to being a U.S. attorney and finding a law firm and being involved in public service and politics, he was elected to Congress in 2017. Whenever have we asked him: “Would you come and speak to students? Would you host a briefing on the floor of the House of Representatives for our students? Would you do a zoom for us with some group?” He’s never said no that I can remember. Occasionally a conflict, maybe, but he’s more than eager to do what people say is give back to this organization. We’re grateful for that. We’re proud of what he’s achieved so far in his career. So, it’s my pleasure to present our Alumni Achievement Award to Congressman David Kustoff.
David Kustoff [00:10:37] Wow. Roger, thank you very much. It’s really an honor to be here tonight. I’ve got to tell you, first, I want to talk to the students and maybe secondly, to the sponsors. So, I think back, Roger, or my time at The Fund for American Studies, in fact, I’ve told you this before, the part of the motivation for me to be part of The Fund for American Studies in 1989 was my congressman then Don Sundquist, who a lot of you will remember it as is a good friend, an awfully good man, was a member of Congress from 1982 to 1994 and then governor of the state of Tennessee. The message, if I could, for the students and I relate back to my own personal experience to those of you who are here. My advice to you is: let this all soak in, because I told you, I did this a long time ago. I can still remember certain meetings, my classes, speakers. I remember Roger one time one of our speakers was Robin Beard, who was a former member of Congress. I can remember to this day some of the things that he said in his remarks, but for you all, who are students here, and I imagine for most of you it’s your first big exposure to Washington. Taking classes, doing the internship. Ladies and gentlemen, this is an invaluable experience for all of you. I’m sure that you’re going to be like me, whether it’s a year or three years or five years later, or however long you’re going to remember a lot about this program. I can tell you that I don’t think that I would be a member of Congress today without the experience that I had with The Fund for American Studies in 1989. To the sponsors who are here and to those who aren’t here. Thank you very much. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your endowment because you make this possible. You know, years from now, there may be people who are here who have my job, Republican-Democrat or what have you. And they do it again, in part because of what they learned here and the experiences that they had here. It’s really, truly an honor. What I think, Roger, about the alumni who have gotten this award that I’m receiving today, it really means so much to me, and you all mean a lot to me. I will never forsake it. I appreciate the experience that I had. I’ll will always come back to do whatever TFAS needs me to do. Thank you all very much. May God bless you all. Thank you.
Kirk Blaylock [00:13:46] All right. Great. Thanks, Congressman. Congratulations. I also want to mention that former Congressman Mike Ferguson, who is a TFAS alum, is also here. So, I want to recognize him. Thank you for joining us. I’m honored to introduce our next speaker, my friend Jay Timmons, who is, as you all know, president CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. Jay will introduce tonight’s Congressional Leadership Award recipient. Jay leads up the largest manufacturing association in the United States and is leading advocate for the 13 million men and women who make things in America. Among many of the cool things that they do at NAM, Jay provides a platform for world leaders to work with manufacturers and the broader American business community to address global challenges, such as when he recently had Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speak to the NAM board of directors in February. I’ve known Jay a long time. Go back to when he was chief of staff, to George Allen in the House and the Senate. He has always been driven by the values instilled in him and his roots. Growing up in a small town in Ohio where his grandfather worked at a meat plant for nearly 40 years and Jay witnessed that manufacturing rise and carries that through today. I think Jay is most proud of his three children, Katherine, Ellie and Jacob, that he has with his husband, Rick. And just to point out, in 2016, Jay was also a recipient of TFAS Business and Leadership Award. So, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, my friend Jay Timmons.
Jay Timmons [00:15:32] Well, good evening, everyone, and thank you so much, Kirk. Congratulations to you, Congressman Kustoff. I have to say, tonight’s honorees truly represent the best to the best and to the students that are here. I encourage you to look to these outstanding leaders as examples as you start your own careers. To my longtime friend, friend Ed Gillespie, this recognition is so well-deserved. I admired you when we worked in the political trenches back in 2004 and beyond. I admired you when you and Kathy selflessly stood in the arena to run for Virginia’s highest office. And I admire you now for your leadership in the business community. Now, I’m sure everyone here has fond recollections of Ed, but for the two or maybe three people who may not have had the privilege of knowing Ed personally, let me tell you that Ed Gillespie is a man of honor, compassion, decency and empathy, and it’s great to be able to celebrate with you tonight. But before we get to that celebration, I have the honor of introducing an outstanding public servant, Senator Todd Young. He not only embodies Hoosier values, but Senator Young also works every day to advance the values that make America exceptional: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty, and equal opportunity. Senator Young is living proof that Washington, D.C., still works, that it is possible to hold fast to your principles in this town and to get things done. He’s been a model of dedication and service to our nation. Proudly wearing the uniform of the U.S. Marine Corps, putting himself through night school twice, first to earn an MBA and then a law degree. He has spent 12 years in Congress representing the people of Indiana. In every conversation through the years, Senator Young has impressed me not just as a thoughtful and talented policymaker, but also as a patriot and a profoundly decent person. And no accomplishment makes him prouder than the family that he and Jenny are raising. Tucker and Elise, Abigail and Ava. His priorities are in order. Manufacturers across the country call Senator Young a champion for our industry. He understands the incredible importance of making things right here in America. He listens to manufacturers stories, and he hears our concerns, and he acts devising and sponsoring legislation that helps strengthen manufacturing competitiveness on everything from tax reform or tax policy to permitting reform. Now, Senator, in your first speech on the U.S. Senate floor in 2017, you told your colleagues: “Let’s resolve whenever possible to fight together, because I know most assuredly, we’re fighting for the same people and we’re typically fighting toward the same ends.” We couldn’t agree more. This perspective is what has helped you reach across the aisle to be a voice for inclusion, to achieve compromise, and to deliver for Hoosiers and the American people. It will continue to serve you well as it serves all of us well. Senator, you’re truly deserving of this honor and rather selfishly. I probably speak for a lot of people here; I sometimes wish there are a whole lot more of Senator Todd Young’s throughout our entire government. Ladies and gentlemen, the recipient of the 2023 Congressional Leadership Award, Senator Todd Young of Indiana.
Senator Todd Young [00:19:26] Well, good evening, Jay, thank you so much for that generous introduction. Really appreciated. I want to than The Fund for American Studies for this distinct honor and the privilege of being with all of you this evening. America just marked another Independence Day. While we were celebrating with families, watching fireworks, raising the flag, a few commentators out there were already looking just three short years into the future. They were contemplating when our nation will turn 250 years old. There was, I think, understandably, a note of anxiety. A sense of heightened importance and planning just the right celebration for July 4, 2026. This no doubt reflects the difficult era in which we all live. You see, Americans, we’re told, are as divided as ever. You look at the statistics, two thirds of our country think so. Patriotism is on the decline. Increasingly, smaller numbers of Americans view pride in country as important. Faith in our shared institutions. Everything from the press to our business community to government are all on record lows. Now, the trends are obviously toxic. A republic whose people have no faith in each other, or vital public institutions are vulnerable from within, but also from without. This period of angst coincides with a global power competition between the United States and China with authorship of the 21st century at stake. You see, the Chinese Communist Party is busy writing its version. Wagering that our people are too divided in our political system too dysfunctional to meet this century’s most pressing challenges. How might you ask: “Do we prove them wrong?” I believe the answer is simple. Yet profound. We need to unleash the power of American innovation to our people, places and ideas. I’m here to argue tonight that we can meet this fulcrum moment by once again harnessing the creative power of the American people, that the future belongs to and will be governed by the values of the nation that innovates with the most urgency, that technological superiority separates great powers from those who were once great, that it leads to victories on the battlefield, prosperity at home and betterment of the human condition across the world. Just a generation ago, during the twilight of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan press forward with the development of a missile defense system. Against much opposition and derision. But Reagan knew that the technology required to build this missile defense system was beyond the USSR’s reach. The desperate reforms that Mikhail Gorbachev conceived of in order to encourage the Soviets to keep pace with American innovation, led in part to the collapse of the Soviet Union. If we’ve forgotten this history, China most certainly has not. You see, the CCP has invested $14 trillion in the frontier technologies that will shape our modern economy and decide who wins future wars. Technologies like quantum computing and robotics and artificial intelligence and hypersonic technology. Clearly the CCP sees a direct link between technological superiority and its much longed for power and influence. As for the United States, unlike in the past when technological superiority was dependent on access to finite resources like coal or steel. The raw materials for today’s technology are potentially infinite. They are the imaginations of over 300 million Americans. Unlike in China, where a small cadre of individuals govern the affairs of 1.4 billion people. In America, we enlist the imagination, the creativity, the unique perspectives of millions of free people to solve problems every day. In fact, America’s creative power is the one resource that gives us an upper hand that no country can match, but only if we dare to use it. Unfortunately, we’re not using enough of it. Since 2000, 94% of the nation’s job growth has been in urban areas. Across America, there are more than 3000 counties, yet a third of our nation’s gross domestic product comes from just 31 counties. This disparity of individual opportunity among Americans is a missed opportunity for our country and for our people. Another golden age of American innovation will require avenues for more Americans to participate, to find pathways to help meet some of our most pressing challenges. But the happy coincidence is that our ability to develop and ultimately commercialize new ideas is essential to our national power, but it will also create economic opportunity for many Americans who’ve been overlooked in recent decades. So, with faith in what the American people can accomplish with the right tools and without needless restraints, I believe the hour calls for a collective effort and effort that unleashes the dynamism that has appeared over and over again across our country’s history. In the same way our nation once unleashes the arsenal of democracy. Forgive me if I say we must now unleash an arsenal of innovation. The first step was put in place last year. Congress passed the Chips and Science Act, a bipartisan national security and economic development investment, with much of its funding going towards upskilling and reskilling rank and file Americans for the future. From semiconductors to hypersonic systems to A.I. and autonomous systems, the law invests in innovative research and development that will lead to meaningful careers, prevent future supply chain stoppages, and safeguard our military readiness, all while bridging the economic opportunity gap that divides too many of our citizens. Now the law is a significant first component of retooling our innovation arsenal for a second American century, but it’s only the first. We must lead the world in establishing rules of the road for digital trade and artificial intelligence so that these new frontiers of global commerce aren’t dictated by the power politics of the CCP. But instead reflect the values of the Declaration of Independence. We need to keep pace with China’s state sponsored entrepreneurs by encouraging our own innovators through competitive research and development incentives for job creators. America finally needs to bring its immigration system in line with its economic interests by welcoming high skilled workers who seek to immigrate here legally. So, listen, I’ll close with this. If we place faith in our people, if we invest in our places, if we unleash great ideas, we can guarantee that our military will be the world’s strongest, our economy, its most dynamic, our work force, its most talented and our people remain its friar, so that they might celebrate Independence Day for centuries to come. Thank you.
Kirk Blaylock [00:28:35] Congratulations. So, ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to direct your attention to the video screen. We have a special announcement for the next recipient that you may recognize.
[00:28:57] George W. Bush Video
Kirk Blaylock [00:29:08] It’s now my honor to introduce our next speaker. We’re joined tonight by my good friend and partner in crime for some time, Jade West. Jade really needs no introduction, as you all know. Most of you know her and those of you who attended last year’s dinner will know that she was an honoree herself and something that some of you may know but everyone may not know is that Jade is in her second week of retirement. That certainly doesn’t mean that she stopped working. In fact, today she just became The Fund for American Studies newest trustee. So, congratulations. For over 20 years, Jade was the chief government relations officer for NAW-D, senior lobbyist for them, as you all know, and coalition expert extraordinaire for the business community. In 2015, she was named the CEO Update Association, Lobbyist of the Year, the only the second lobbyist to ever receive that award. Before joining in NAW-D, Jade was a senior aide on Capitol Hill, executive director of the Senate Steering Committee and staff director for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee. For those of you that were here last year when she did receive her award, Leader McConnell was here and introduced Jade. And as I recall, Leader McConnell will embarrass Jade, but Leader McConnell said that he knew of no staffer on the Hill or off the Hill in the business community who had as much of an impact on the United States Senate as Jade West did. So, it is my pleasure to introduce my good friend to introduce tonight’s Business Leadership Award recipient, Jade West.
Jade West [00:31:03] You know, if I’d known I was going to get all of that, I probably would have declined even the opportunity to introduce Ed tonight. Congressman, Senator Young, congratulations. It was a pleasure working with you and I hope to not have that end anytime soon, despite the retirement. I can think of no better reason to come out of retirement, all ten days of it, than to introduce Ed Gillespie tonight as he receives the TFAS Business Leader Award. TFAS programs, as you guys know better than I do, or critically important, especially in today’s polarized world. Ed is a superb representative of the TFAS mission. His biography is way too extensive for me to even begin to cover in this introduction. If I’m going to leave him any time to talk and I worked in the Senate for a long time, I could probably talk right through. So, Jay almost gave my introduction of ED, so I can now talk and give that speech. Ed talents have taken him into the position to shape public policy on Capitol Hill, in the White House as counselor to President Bush in political campaigns too numerous to count, as an entrepreneur in his own company, as managing director and chairman of public affairs for a strategic communications firm and now a senior executive vice president for one of America’s iconic companies, AT&T. As impressive as all of that surely is, the on-paper resume does not tell you anything. It does not begin to capture who it is. He is a decades long advocate for freedom, free enterprise and economic opportunity. He combines a core set of beliefs with an almost legendary skill as a communicator. What sets him apart, however, is that he’s never separated the ability to communicate from the ideas that form those foundational principles, and he has advanced those principles throughout his extensive political career. Decades ago, he worked for a an admittedly quite short-lived presidential candidate, John Kasich, who, in Ed’s own words, he worked for because in Ed’s words: I liked his ability to connect with blue collar workers and the middle class. I liked how he talked about free market policies and lifting people out of poverty.” Ed carried that mission into his own campaign for the United States Senate in 2014, I did get the year right when he came within a hair’s breadth of defeating incumbent Senator Mark Warner. The political community was stunned by how close he came. But those of us, who knows of, and love Ed were not a bit surprised. He campaigned on a message of hope, opportunity, how a free-market economy works for everyone, not just the top, the dignity of work of entrepreneurism. Again, in Ed’s own words: “To me, it’s helping let people rise and having a dynamic economy that protects consumers and people, but at the same time allows for people to flourish and for upward mobility.” More significantly, Ed took that message to voters across the Commonwealth of Virginia. He took that message into places where Republicans, sadly, often won’t go. He took that message to voters of every stripe and every manner across Virginia, and that message sold. Sadly, too many times people with the bully pulpit fail to use them when they could to share the message of what a free market does. He came within 8/10 of a percent of beating Mark Warner for the Senate, and it would have been a remarkable electoral upset and he would have been a great senator, but he would have been great at whatever he does. Ed and I have been friends and colleagues for longer than either one of us is willing to admit. His accomplishment and his character continually set a high level of expectations for the next mission in his life, but no matter how high that bar is, what sets it apart from most others is that he never disappoints. It is my privilege to present to Ed, The Fund for American Studies Business Leadership Award.
Ed Gillespie [00:35:07] Thank you, Jade, for that incredibly kind introduction and thank you for your kind words. More importantly, for two decades of friendship. And I want to thank The Fund for American Studies for this wonderful honor. It is both daunting for me to follow my longtime friend, colleague, Jade West, as the recipient of the prestigious Business Leadership Award. Jade sets a high bar in anything she does, so I have a tough act to follow. It’s also a joy to be honored, along with Senator Todd Young, who is a principled, effective leader who served with distinction in our nation’s military and continues to do so in elected office today. I’m blessed to consider him a friend. The TFAS mission of developing courageous leaders inspired and equipped to protect and advance the ideals of individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic freedom in their communities and throughout the world has never been more important than it is now. Your programs teaching the principles of limited government, free market economics and honorable leadership are invaluable at a time when those principles are under assault from many different quarters, some of them surprising at times. This organization’s focus on younger generations is critically important when you consider that a Pew survey taken less than a year ago showed that Americans aged 18 to 29 have a more favorable view of socialism than capitalism. The twin pillars of economic freedom and personal liberty must be defended. Free market economics and protection of individual rights have lifted millions of people out of poverty, dramatically improved quality of life across the globe, and made the United States of America a beacon of hope and opportunity that has drawn freedom loving people to our shores for more than two centuries. My father was among them. Coming here from Ireland as a boy because his father found work in America. They followed a path that had been forged decades earlier by the millions of Irish who escaped a horrific famine. That massive wave of poor, starving immigrants in the mid 1880s came to the United States simply seeking survival and they had little idea what to expect when they arrived on these shores. To help them get a better sense of that, the Irish government posted bulletins and the galleys of the ships leaving ports like Dublin and Cork under the heading Advice to Irish emigrants, and they read in part: “In the United States, wealth is not idolized, but there is no degradation connected with labor in the remote parts of America, and industrious youth may follow any occupation without being looked down upon, and he may rationally expect to raise himself in the world by his labor.” The idea that physical labor was not looked down upon and that you could raise yourself up in the world by virtue of it was a foreign notion to them. They were leaving a country where if you were born poor, you died poor. Simple as that. Leaving that for America, where the circumstances into which you are born do not determine where you’ll end up in life. That Irish government bureaucrat who wrote those words of advice more than a century ago demonstrated an understanding of the benefits of a dynamic free market economy that fosters upward mobility and the dignity of work that sadly seems lacking in some of our fellow Americans today. The dignity of work was instilled in me at a young age in the small town of Browns Mills, New Jersey, by the owners of the GNC market, a mom-and-pop grocery store. GNC, where Jack and Connie, my mom and Pop. In our family on your 14th birthday, you got a cake and a present and a four-hour shift at the GNC market. Stocking shelves, sweeping floors and ringing up customers were experiences that served me well all my life and I inherited from my parents a spirit of entrepreneurship that led me to start three small businesses of my own. Today, I work for one of America’s largest employers, AT&T, an iconic U.S. company. Over the past five years, AT&T has returned nearly $78 billion to shareholders. Our company supports local communities. Our networks cover more than 99% of all Americans. We support over half a million retirees and employ over 140,000 workers. AT&T is also proud to be one of the country’s largest union employers. 42% of our employees are union represented. One of the liberties we cherish in this country is freedom of association, and that includes employees voluntarily joining together to collectively bargain. We recognize and appreciate the important role that Communication Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers play in the success of our great company. Fortune 500 companies like ours, entrepreneurs, small business owners like my parents, gig economy workers, angel investors and new startups all play central roles in our economy and our society. Innovating, hiring, training, paying taxes, contributing to our communities. They embody what Michael Novak dubbed the spirit of democratic capitalism. I am a grateful beneficiary of a political and economic system that allows for the next generation to do better than the one that came before. My parents were not able to go to college, but they insisted that my five siblings and I do, and they help pay for it as much as they could, but I had to work my way through school here in Washington, D.C., at the Catholic University of America. One of my jobs was as a Senate parking lot attendant, parking the cars for the staff on those big parking lots you see outside the Senate office buildings. That job led me to an internship on the House side of the Capitol, which I liked because it was inside a building. I want to share with the students and interns here tonight that my internship for college credits is what started my career in politics and government in business, and I hope yours does the same. I’ve been very fortunate to work for great Americans who fought hard for policies that foster economic growth, protect individual freedoms, and promote human rights around the world. Leaders like President George W Bush, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, RNC Chairman and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, and Senator Elizabeth Dole, among others. But my start was as an intern for a Florida congressman named Andy Ireland, who likes to say that he plucked me off the parking lot and after my internship, gave me my first professional job in his district office in Bradenton, Florida. I remain to this day, loyal to him and to those that I’ve worked for. One thing you’ll learn from your internships is that in politics you don’t change bosses, you accumulate them. Andy Ireland left Congress 30 years ago, and it’s been 40 years since I was his staffer, but if he texted me right now and said that his flight would be coming into Reagan at 9:15 and if I could possibly pick him up, I’d be circling the airport at 9:10. I want to conclude by sharing with you a little more about my grandfather, who immigrated here for work in America. That work was as a janitor, in a tall bank building in Philadelphia. His shift started at 6 p.m. after that bank closed and he would start on the ground floor and work his way to the top floor by floor by floor over an eight-hour shift. Sweeping the offices, emptying the wastebaskets, mopping the halls. He’d finish up around two in the morning with his last task being to polish the big wooden conference table in the boardroom overlooking the city. As Charlie John Gillespie polished that table, he had no way of knowing that someday one of his grandchildren would regularly sit in the boardroom of one of America’s greatest companies, or in the West Wing of the White House. But he surely knew that his hard work would mean a better life for him, and for his children, and for mine. He knew that he was raising himself in the world by his labor in a country that makes that possible. The jobs created, the opportunities allowed, and the wealth generated in limited government, free enterprise systems enable the next generation to do better than the one that came before. It is an indisputable fact that people living in free economies with democratic governance, governments that protect our liberties, live longer, more prosperous and more happily than those under autocratic command and control economies. The Fund for American Studies helps ensure that more people know that, and I thank everyone here this evening for supporting that important mission. Thank you all very much.
Kirk Blaylock [00:46:00] Congratulations, Ed. Now, it’s my pleasure to introduce The Fund for American Studies Chairman Randy Teague, who will offer some closing remarks for the evening.
Roger Ream [00:46:11] Look at him running for the doors back there. I knew that the staff of The Fund was quite serious this afternoon when they gave me the schedule at the bottom of the pages. His brief, is bold, is underlined, is abstract, and there are three arrows pointing toward. So, I will try to be brief. Let me pick up a few points at the table here. Your program says this is a 33rd annual dinner and it is, but we did not begin with this program 33 years ago. We began in 1967, which for the students here tonight, is an incomprehensible year, I am sure. In 1967, Lyndon Johnson was president of the United States. Richard Nixon would be elected the next year. Queen Elizabeth was not yet 41. So, it’s been a long time ago, but in the years a young kid by the name of Robert Allan Zimmerman in Minneapolis was about to change his name to Bob Dylan. So, we have had five plus decades of programs that have grown here Europe, Latin America, Asia, and it’s all been a wonderful experience for us. The students in this summer, those here today, this evening, come at the beginning of June, usually the first Monday, and we have an orientation last for an hour and a half or so. I do closing remarks at the orientation as well, and I tell the students what life was like when I came here in 64. I worked Longworth House Office Building, lived on Capitol Hill, and of course, being the youngest person on the staff, I did the hardest work right at 11:00 or so at night. I’d be walking down the Longworth corridors, going to the front door, and then over to the apartment. What sounds did I hear? I remember three sounds: poker chips, ice clinking and glasses and laughter. And that was what the Capitol Hill was like in those days and is not what it is like today. I think that while this program began in its 33rd year, if you look at the programs on your desk, on your tables, you’ll see that in the first several years, Dick Lugar, David Boren, others, we have prided ourselves in our bipartisanship, not because it’s bipartisanship, but because it expresses a certain American tradition of civility. George Will last week did a column in The Washington Post saying what this nation needs is congeniality. Now, there’s probably no writer in America that chooses his words more carefully than George Will did. But he obviously was not at my high school junior prom, when the Miss Congeniality selection was so notoriously debated that it was still going on in my senior year. So, congeniality maybe doesn’t quite fit, but I do think civility does. It doesn’t mean that you concede anything in your belief system, but as Roger Ream says to the students as we begin our summer program: “God gave you one mouth and two ears and he expected you to use him proportionately,” that there is indeed a need in this country for us to do that. See you next year.
Roger Ream [00:50:29] Thank you for listening to the Liberty + Leadership Podcast. Please don’t forget to subscribe, download, like or share the show on Apple, Spotify or YouTube or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you like this episode, I ask you to rate and review it. And if you have a comment or question for the show, please drop us an email at podcast@TFAS.org. The Liberty + Leadership Podcast is produced at kglobal studios in Washington, D.C. I’m your host, Roger Ream. Until next time, show courage in things large and small.
About the Podcast
TFAS has reached more than 46,000 students and professionals through academic programs, fellowships and seminars. Representing more than 140 countries, TFAS alumni are courageous leaders throughout the world forging careers in politics, government, public policy, business, philanthropy, law and the media.
Join TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 as he reconnects with these outstanding alumni to share experiences, swap career stories, and find out what makes their leadership journey unique. With prominent congressmen, judges and journalists among the mix, each episode is sure to excite your interest in what makes TFAS special.
If you have a comment or question for the show, please email podcast@TFAS.org.
View future episodes and subscribe at TFAS.org/podcast.