A decade ago, I was serving as the campaign manager for a successful Chicagoland businessman who was running for the Republican nomination for the governorship. Had we bested the two politicians and the Chicago establishment businessman who opposed us in the primary, we would have taken on Rod Blagojevich, the incumbent governor who wound up as a national laughing stock before he wound up in a federal penitentiary for corruption. Short years before, I had helped lead the intra-party revolt against a corrupt Republican governor, George Ryan. In Illinois, politics is a rough and tumble, bare knuckled and mostly corrupt business.
As we surged ahead of the establishment businessman and the downstate politician, we closed the gap with the veteran Cook County politician, a statewide Constitutional officer who ran as the favorite of the bipartisan forces of the status quo. My candidate told me that if we were successful, he would want me to serve as his chief of staff. I declined, reminding him that Springfield and Chicago were full of so many political skeletons that he should hire a chief who knew where to look for the bodies. I wished to be in charge of shepherding a reform agenda through a hostile legislature. It wasn’t to be. We came in a close second out of four.
An election cycle earlier, as an elected county commissioner, I challenged the incumbent state house Republican. He died during the campaign and was replaced by another veteran Republican who bested me 55% to 45% in the GOP primary. After the governor’s race, I was running Governor Huckabee’s Presidential campaign in Illinois. In a way, I was at the pinnacle of what had been a twenty-five year career in Illinois politics and public policy.
Life took another direction. We began our travels with TR.
In February 2008, my family joined me in an RV and we began a research and performance tour of the 48 continental states in honor of Theodore Roosevelt’s 150th birthday and the centennial of his final year in office. We researched Theodore Roosevelt, and I performed as the Rough Rider President for audiences of all sorts. We climbed where Teddy climbed and camped where he camped. We visited the National Forests, Wildlife Refuges, and National Monuments he declared and the National Parks he wrangled out of Congress.
In October 2008, as our tour returned to the Northeast, we received a call from the office of First Lady Laura Bush, and would my TR be available for a performance at the White House for President & Mrs. Bush and their guests? The event would be a celebration of TR’s 150th birthday on October 27, 2008, and it would be broadcast live on C-Span. We were on the eve of a Presidential election in which President Bush and his record were made some of the central issues of the election.
The night was amazing. I had a great fourteen minutes of fun on stage in the East Room and was so glad Jenny was able to join me.
Fast forward to January 2015, and we have taken our TR adventure to San Diego, California, nearby a United States Navy base that will soon be home to the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt (CVN71), the nuclear aircraft carrier dubbed “The Big Stick.”
My performances throughout the country continue to get better and better, and I am always hopeful that my TR will have just that right thing to say to inspire, to help heal, to call to action in some way that makes a difference.
I had such an experience this past Saturday evening in Dallas. I learned a great deal about the activities of the Dallas Safari Club and the Dallas Ecological Foundation in support of Youth Outdoor Adventure, including lessons for junior high and high schoolers on fishing, hunting, first aid, and survival. My TR implored the attendees of the big annual dinner to “…give of your time, talent, and treasure to this worthy cause.” I nailed the Man in the Arena, jumped off the front of the stage and into the midst of a very appreciative and boisterous standing ovation. The Dallas Safari Club press release that follows tells the story of what happened next.
DSC Convention Goers Raise $1 Million in 1 Minute
DALLAS – Responding to a heartfelt appeal for youth outdoor education, DSC convention goers on Saturday night raised $1 million in about 60 seconds.
The fast flurry of fundraising was a highlight of the 2015 DSC convention and expo, which wrapped up its annual four-day run on Jan. 18. Attendance and conservation funding totals will take several days to tally, but all signs on the show’s final day were trending toward new records.
“It’s been a tremendous convention, with sold-out banquets, lively auctions and heavy traffic in the expo hall,” said Ben Carter, DSC executive director. “But everyone is buzzing about the spontaneous $1 million outpouring of support from DSC members who are passionate about getting kids involved in the outdoors and conservation.
Following a brief but inspirational ask from a banquet-hall stage, 10 people from the audience stepped up and pledged $100,000 each, said Carter.
Their cumulative donation is earmarked to support Outdoor Adventures, a Texas-borne program that introduces students and their parents to a wide range of outdoor activities. The curriculum is now being taught in more than 170 secondary schools – many of them public – across Texas and in a growing number of other states.
DSC is a longtime sponsor of the program, administered by the Dallas Ecological Foundation.
About Dallas Safari Club (DSC)
Desert bighorns on an unbroken landscape, stalking Cape buffalo in heavy brush, students discovering conservation. DSC works to guarantee a future for all these and much more. An independent nonprofit organization since 1982, DSC has become an international leader in conserving wildlife and wilderness lands, educating youth and the general public, and promoting and protecting the rights and interests of hunters worldwide.