Yes, I know I said I wasn’t going to do a look back post, but I should clarify that I had in mind a retrospective of the whole year. Since, on balance, it was a really good one for me, I quickly realized that the post would end up simply staggering in length and would require far more time than I had since I was leaving Pennsylvania for Virginia the next day.
Now, though, safely ensconced back home in Indiana and recovering from a temporary dental crown procedure today, (yes, I’m a complete wimp, I know, but I don’t need a lot for an excuse to veg out on a wintry night), I’m in the mood for a softball blog. And this fits the bill perfectly. Besides, by tomorrow, we will really be a good ways into January and there is a diminishing utility to 2009 reminiscences with each passing day.
Forthwith, here, in no particular order, are my 10 favorite things about 2009:
1) CPAC 2009 (the Conservative Political Action Conference) was tremendous, even though we were, at that point, still enduring the media-imposed honeymoon-style glow of the Barack Obama inauguration. But seeing Rush Limbaugh give the closing speech on Saturday, February 28, topped everything else the three-day extravaganza had to offer. I have been a big Rush Limbaugh fan ever since I first tuned the car radio to his show as an 18-year-old in 1993. As 22 million Dittoheads have come to expect, Rush more than delivered, giving a 90-minute speech when he was scheduled to speak for 20. The capacity-only crowd ate it up. (If you are not a Rush Limbaugh fan and don’t understand how anyone COULD be…click here. Matt Lewis gives as good an explanation as any I have encountered on why he and I, as well as millions of others love Rush.)
2) This last year, I purchased the Live Nation megaticket for the 2009 country concert series. I found something to enjoy in each show, but the evening with the King of Country Music, George Strait, is in a league all its own. With little to no razzle dazzle special effects, simply backed by a solid 9-piece band, George performed magic on stage at the Verizon Wireless Center in Noblesville, Indiana on July 24. I have never seen anything quite like it.
3) While we’re discussing entertainment, I became one of the legion of fans of the indie-film-turned-monster-hit “Slumdog Millionaire.” Pam and I went to see it on Valentine’s Day weekend, Friday night, February 27. We were both charmed by Jamal and Latika.
4) I don’t remember ever hearing of the grassroots organization, Americans for Prosperity, prior to 2009, though they have been in existence since 2004. But they really came into their own this last year. I attended AFP’s Right Online Conference in Pittsburgh from August 13-14, where I was exposed to a whole new level of networking with conservative activists , beyond anything I had witnessed up to that point in my life. It was at Right Online 2009 that perhaps the biggest long-term change of 2009 began to impact my life…
5) TWITTER!!! I had a Twitter account prior to August 13, 2009, but had perhaps Tweeted 3 times. That all changed overnight. David All, Emily Zanotti, Adam Bitely, John Hawkins, Chris Malagisi and others all gave us tutorials and Powerpoints on the necessity of social networking and proved to those assembled that, beyond a doubt, Twitter was on the cutting edge of it all. Over the ensuing 5 months, my political networking universe has been expanded by Twitter beyond anything I could have imagined 6 months prior. I have interacted with Karl Rove, political strategist Mike Murphy, RedState.com editor Erick Erickson, Oak Ridge Boys members Joe Bonsall and Duane Allen, Sean Hannity’s producer Elisha Krauss, California Senate candidate Chuck DeVore and his wife, Diane, their communications director Joshua Trevino…and many, many more. But just as meaningful as the celebrity Tweets are the daily Twitter convos with fellow activists across the country. I just passed 500 followers over the Christmas break.
6) Americans for Prosperity sponsors another annual conference in Washington, DC. This one is in the fall and is known as the Defending the American Dream Summit. I enjoyed renewing acquaintance there on October 2 and 3 with some of the people I had met in Pittsburgh, as well as hearing radio host Laura Ingraham for the first time in person, as well as CNBC host and Wall Street prognosticator Larry Kudlow, Senator Jim DeMint, Congressman Mike Pence and other conservative stalwarts. I stood behind Ronald Reagan’s OMB Director, Jim Miller, in the Starbucks line on Saturday morning and was able to tell him how much Reagan had meant to me as a young teenager, leading ultimately to my presence there at that conference. Mr. Miller was very gracious, even though he had probably heard similar sentiments multiple times over the last 20 years.
7) My employers at Indiana Wesleyan University were gracious enough to partially cosponsor my participation in the 2009 Hoosier Congressional Leadership Policy Series, hosted by our Republican Congressmen in Indiana, as well as the Indiana Family Institute. Where the sessions at CPAC and AFP’s gatherings have connected me with others across the country, HCLPS schooled me on events and personalities in the Indianapolis area. I looked forward to our monthly gatherings from April through November; we had a different area of emphasis each month and would hear from speakers and panel sessions who were authorities on the topics in question. Congressman Mark Souder, of Indiana’s 3rd District, got the series going several years ago. His intent was to build a network of conservatives in Indiana who will carry the movement forward. Our group of 15 or so was certainly diverse; we were comprised of a number of denominations, Protestants and Catholics, and a variety of vocations, but we had all become good friends by the time the series concluded.
8) On Thursday nights, from April or so and then on through the summer, I met at a Kokomo Starbucks with three friends (Jed Hutchison, Danny Bryant and Mike Jones) to discuss Cleon Skousen’s book The 5,000 Year Leap: 28 Ideas that Changed the World, about the genius of America and the Founding Fathers’ vision. Our discussions were wide-ranging and stimulating and I came away with a greater understanding of life from the perspective of three close friends. The book is fantastic, as well. (Speaking of books, I also made it through Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism and Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man this year, both of which I found highly enlightening.)
9) I finished my MA in Religion with Liberty University on Sunday, October 18. Pam finished her Bachelor’s in Accounting with Indiana Wesleyan University on Wednesday, November 25, the day before Thanksgiving, and walked across the Luckey Gym stage at IWU to receive her diploma on Saturday, December 19. I was so proud of my wife’s accomplishments, while raising 3 children, one of whom has extensive special needs. In other family-related news, Carli, our 6-year-old, learned to read this year. Our now almost-4-year-old (on Jan. 11, 2010) Olivia’s vocabulary dramatically increased. And Maddy, our 1 ½ year old, made huge strides in behavioral development after she was put on a feeding tube in January last year.
10) Our church, Kokomo First Church of the Nazarene, serves as the backdrop for so much of the social activity in our lives. I love many things about our church, but singing in the choir under worship pastor Liz Robinson’s direction has to be at the top of the list of what I enjoy. The two musicals we do for the 4th of July and Christmas are not only fun, but varied and interesting. And this last Christmas, our church sanctuary filled for 3 nights of tunes of the Season of Christ. What a great way to end the year.
This year did include more than family, friends, politics and entertainment…but at the end of the day, those are the pursuits that fire my cylinders and made 2009 a banner year for me. On to 2010!