By: Liam Watts
Last week, four Oklahoma Wesleyan University students, Matthew Greenwood, Ian Stephens, Liam Watts, and Spenser White, flew to D.C. to assist the Family Research Council in the production of Values Voter Summit 2018. For those who don’t know, the Family Research Council is a non-profit public policy organization dedicated to advocating and defending faith, family, and freedom in the United States. Their website says, “Values Voter Summit was created in 2006 to provide a forum to help inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life, and limited government that make our nation strong.” This year the event was hosted at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on September 20-22. In this time, these four OKWU students set up, tore down, led tours, got lost, arranged signs, shook hands, and drank coffee, but they never slept.
Arriving close to midnight on Wednesday night, September 19, Matt, Ian, Liam, and Spenser started by touring the event venue. Here they learned that Values Voter Summit 2018 was comprised of two sections: speaking sessions and the exhibit hall. The speaking sessions included smaller breakout groups as well as larger speeches and panels, and they were scattered among the hotel’s various ballrooms, banquet halls, and forums. On the other hand, the exhibit hall was spread out across a sub-level and included 52 booths sponsored by various organizations including AMAC, And Then There Were None Prolife Outreach, Founders League, March For Life, FRC Action, Susan B. Anthony List, Trail Life, the NRA, and many more.
While no one had just one job, Matt, Ian, Liam, and Spenser each had an area of additional responsibility. Matt was the leader of the fun squad, tasked with keep energy high and spirits up. To hear him say it, “We focused on keeping a high morale among the exhibitors, staff, and attendees. Trying to make the Values Voters Summit one of the most enjoyable events despite the seriousness of the topics being discussed. In other words, our fuel was seeing everyone have fun!” On the flip side, Ian was the master of signage. He explained, “As it was my second year volunteering, I was given more responsibility and was able to lead a team dealing with directional signs and special projects.” Liam oversaw the promotion of FRC’s new app Stand Firm and helped provided tech support for anyone having issues with it. Amusingly, he said, “I was basically caught in a paradox of my own work. The better I did at promoting, the more problems I had to help fix and report. Essentially, I had to be my own worst enemy.” Last but not least, Spenser had the most important job of all: popcorn chef. As a gift to event attendees, FRC gave out popcorn at the entrance to the exhibition hall and it was Spenser’s duty to make sure the popcorn never ceased flowing. In his words: “I loved making the popcorn because I got to meet so many people who were usually glad I was handing them a bag of popcorn.” Usually, he said, because there were a surprising amount of people desperately attempting to quit this highly addictive substance.
This year’s Values Voter Summit 2018 also had an incredible lineup of speakers. The most prominent speaker, Vice President Mike Pence, rallied voters behind the positive effect his administration has had on the economy, law enforcement, and jobs; he urged voters to come out for the midterms. U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban development Ben Carson spoke over the effect of politics on reputation. He encouraged people to not shy away from politics for the fear that their character will be dragged through the mud. U.S. secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave an impassioned message about the impact he has been able to make for religious liberty around the world. He recounted the highly emotional experience of bringing home three falsely arrested
prisoners from North Korea. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell reassured listeners about Kavanaugh’s confirmation recounting stories of previous confirmations. Finally, our very own Dr. Piper hosted a sponsor breakfast and explained the idea that freedom can’t exist without fences.
Overall, Values Voter Summit 2018 was a huge success. Opening their doors for over a thousand “value voters,” the Family Research Council couldn’t have asked for a better turnout. Matt, Ian, Liam, and Spenser described it as “worthwhile, rewarding, and a whole lot of fun.” For those who were unable to attend or watch the event, all of the messages are archived on the Family Research Council’s website.