Ginny Wolfe reports live from Tampa, Florida at the Republican National Convention.
Tampa in August: walking outside is like trying to crawl through cellophane. It’s an environment conducive to lethargy, except for this week when delegates, big wigs, media and yes, the ONE team all descended on the city for the 2012 Republican National Convention.
You have to first get used to the weather and then find your way around a town that looks eerily like a war zone (and I have been in one) with all the barricades, law enforcement bike brigades and Homeland Security everywhere you look. It’s not easy to get places. Even my GPS is occasionally confounded.
So the tremendous turnout for the discussion panels that ONE cosponsored today with the International Republican Institute and USGLC was a real testament to the quality of our panelists and interest in our topic for discussion: The US Role in International Development—Legacy and Future.
You can read all about the panel, participants and find some great quotes in our news release. What I want to try and do here is share some of my personal impressions.
We were in a terrific old building in Tampa called the Centro Asturiano with a beautiful auditorium. Before the event, we hung out downstairs and caught up with old friends and made new ones. You can imagine that everyone has jam-packed schedules. That, combined with the aforementioned barriers to easy transport, made us a little nervous that people would be late -– but no one was.
A lot of the informal conversation was, understandably, about the speeches we all watched last night. Then it turned to the importance of international development assistance. I’m not normally in awe of much (well, maybe hurricanes, Mount Rushmore and a really good white pizza), but being surrounded by people who have done so much to help so many millions of people in the poorest places on earth was awe-inspiring. I thought about the great things they’ve accomplished and I thought about the great things that YOU have helped them accomplish. And that just as they remain committed, so must we all, regardless of our political persuasions.
Some things that stick with me from the panel itself:
- Prompted by a question from ONE Board member and former White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, Michael Gerson, Washington Post columnist, former senior policy adviser to President Bush and Senior Fellow at ONE, spoke of how “compassionate conservatism” is not dead. It’s really just showing American leadership. Former Secretary of State and ONE Board member Condoleezza Rice agreed, saying she doesn’t care what we call it as long as we do it.
- Congresswoman Kay Granger, (TX-12), discussed the amazing progress being made for treating people with AIDS, especially pregnant moms, so they don’t give birth to babies with HIV. She posited, with a prevention rate of nearly 98 percent, how could we not do it? She also discussed the importance of emphasizing that development assistance is less than one percent of the US budget.
- Constance Newman, who recently returned from Shanghai, discussed the China factor, and Dr. Rice noted that China is, in fact, present throughout the developing world, but not in a way that will help people and countries become financially independent. I paraphrase, but it’s pretty close: “Just as in this country we always want to see a path away from welfare into work and independence, so we also want to see a pathway from international assistance to self-sustainability in the developing world.”
Right now I am back in my hotel room dashing off this post and wondering which shoes will be least painful to wear tonight while pounding through the convention center on those unforgiving concrete floors. ONE friends Dr. Rice and former Governor Mike Huckabee will both speak tonight, and I am looking forward to hearing what they have to say. But I am also reflecting on the deep commitment I saw today to continuing America’s leadership in working with those so much less fortunate than we to improve their lives and make them less reliant on future aid.
I can’t finish without a big shout-out to the Tampa Police Department. We worked with some of their finest today. They have tough jobs and they are really good at them. Thanks all around to them.