This commentary is by Myers Mermel, president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He resides in Manchester.
On Wednesday, May 31, the Ethan Allen Institute’s Thirtieth Anniversary dinner gala was held in South Burlington. The dinner was a smashing success from a number of perspectives.
First, we were able to assemble a large crowd, over 225 people to hear America’s favorite political columnist George Will. The group was evidence that Vermont’s fiscal conservatives, as championed by the Ethan Allen Institute, have provided a common ground for Leahy Democrats, liberal Republicans, and social conservatives. The crowd was in a jovial mood, and the feeling was more like a reunion than a lecture. The food was excellent, which only provided more energy to the room. Everyone seemed to recognize friends: talking and laughter were at high levels.
Second, we were honored by the attendance of Governor Phil Scott. Once he was announced in the ballroom, the assembled crowd sprang to their feet and gave him a prolonged and raucous standing ovation. It looked like our humble Governor was taken aback, but it was clear that Ethan Allen supporters are fully behind Governor Scott. Governor Scott came to the event a bit early, talked with dozens of well-wishers, and then had a long conversation seated next to George Will during dinner. One nice aspect of his visit was that the Governor stayed for the entire program. That’s a big deal as governors, as a rule, are busy, and generally don’t stay anywhere for long. This hospitable and kind act of staying present was remarked upon in private to me by at least a dozen people. It was yet another sign of how Governor Scott is a model for Vermont values in a politically divided world.
Third, we were excited to bestow the EAI Lifetime Achievement Award upon Mr. John McClaughry. The award was presented to recognize John’s public policy work in the service of Vermont and her people. We were honored to have Mr. Chris Demuth, the former long-time President of the American Enterprise Institute, provide his assessment of John’s formidable career. Mr. Demuth had previously worked for John at the beginning of his career before they both joined the Reagan Administration. (Mr. Demuth’s full speech honoring John can be found as a separate item in this June Newsletter).
Fourth, the George Will speech was a hit. In the talk, Mr. Will clearly laid out reasons why he felt why the conservative movement was important in a place like Vermont. Peppered with references to historical facts and baseball anecdotes, his speech educated and entertained the crowd. At its conclusion, he took three questions. As many know George Will is no longer a member of the Republican Party which gave him a remarkable vantage point for his observations. The audience reacted to his insights with attention and often laughter. Mr. Will made a point of saying that conservative viewpoints are being sought out now in Vermont as it has become clear the progressive solutions have failed. His presence in Vermont attracted a large amount of interest, before and after the festivities, from print and television reporters.
Lastly, the dinner was a success because the generosity of sponsors will now allow us to fund continued policy work. So, we owe profound thanks to our Platinum Sponsors, composed of Casella Waste Systems and Mr. Bruce Lisman. Our Gold Sponsors, composed of Mr. Milton Eaton, Mr. Francis Jones, the Vermont Fuel Dealers, and an Anonymous Friend. Our Silver Sponsors, composed of Mrs. Carol Breuer, the Caledonian-Record, Mr. and Mrs. Chris and Susan DeMuth, Mr. and Mrs. John and Anne McClaughry, and the Law Firm of Pajcic & Pajcic. Our Bronze Sponsors composed of Mr. Tom Cabot, Catherine Clark, Esq., Mr. and Mrs. Jeff and Ann Gelfon, Mr. John Haugsrud, Mr. and Mrs. James and Michele Perkins, Mr. and Mrs. Tom and Leslie Salmon, Mr. and Mrs. Myers and Jennifer Mermel, and Mrs. Wendy Wilton.
Thank you to all who bought dinner tickets and attended. If you missed us this year, please join us next year for our annual dinner and program.