Chairman’s Corner by Scott McGraw

This is the text of a speech that Chairman Scott McGraw gave to open the Lincoln Tribute Dinner on June 23, 2018.

Thank you all for coming to this year’s Lincoln Tribute Dinner – a celebration of the Kalamazoo GOP’s history and a tribute to our favorite president Abraham Lincoln. It’s fitting that Kalamazoo has such a long history with this event. This is the 123rd time we have celebrated Lincoln in this county. The Republican Party was formed a few miles down the road in Jackson in 1854. As you look through tonight’s program, you will find the words of Lincoln’s speech that he delivered right here in Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park on Aug. 27, 1856. It was his only speech that he gave in Michigan during his lifetime.

But tonight is not only about Lincoln, but about this great party and political organization. Much of our history can be seen tonight right in this room. I’m proud to see former Chair Tom Newman here. He has the longest tenure as chairman in our county’s long history. My mother Mary McGraw served as Vice Chair with him for many years and I’m proud my father Gene is here tonight, as well. And my friend and another Chair alum Al Heilman is here, too. I’ve been known to spend a few hours in Al’s Man Cave reminiscing about the old days. Dedicated individuals like these and many more have made the KGOP a great organization.

We will also honor tonight the great strides made by women here in Kalamazoo County as they have blossomed into important roles within the leadership here in Kalamazoo and in Lansing. Our speaker Liz Cheney is a great example of how women can make a difference on the national stage in Washington and beyond. I’m proud of the roles our local women have played in our government. They are making a difference in our lives and the lives of all Michiganders.

But one of the things I have been most proud of in the past four years as your chairman, is the involvement we’ve been able to see in our youth. We have nearly 60 young people here tonight that have been avid volunteers on campaigns and are becoming very active in our community. In fact, two of them are on the executive committee of the KGOP, Ben McLeod and Evan Oudekerk. The College Republicans at WMU have built their numbers up from just a handful to around 50 students meeting weekly on campus to educate and learn about a vision of this country that they will not learn in school.

So we are celebrating the past tonight as we honor Abraham Lincoln. But we are also celebrating the achievement of women as we recognize the strides local women have made in leadership roles in our county and state. And we celebrate the future with the many young people you see sitting around us tonight. I think the future of the GOP is looking bright despite what you see on television these days. The simple values of the Republican Party – less government, lower taxes and personal responsibility – shall no doubt move forward with these future leaders and volunteers. Thank you for coming and I look forward to an enjoyable evening with you all.