What were they thinking? Iowa Democrats rename J-J dinner "Fall Gala"

Dr. Andy McGuire announced at the end of tonight’s Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame event that after receiving “hundreds of suggestions,” the State Central Committee voted last month to rename the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner the “Iowa Democratic Party Fall Gala.”

Please, no.

When party leaders started down this road last year, McGuire said, “it is important to change the name of the dinner to align with the values of our modern day Democratic Party: inclusiveness, diversity and equality.”

What about values like remembering our history and standing for something? Any organization can hold an annual fall gala. The Iowa Democratic Party’s marquee event should honor a person or people who have inspired many of us to make political activism an important part of our lives.

Talking with others who attended tonight’s dinner, I heard zero positive comments about the decision. Neither did Pat Rynard.

State Central Committee members have time to reconsider. I favor replacing the J-J dinner with the H-H to honor former Governor and Senator Harold Hughes and former Senator Tom Harkin, but I’m open to other options. Surely among the “hundreds of suggestions” party leaders received, some were better than “fall gala,” which screams, “We were too afraid to honor an imperfect human being, so we fell back on the most boring name possible.”

P.S.-Tonight’s event ran smoothly, and Ryan McDaniel did an excellent job pinch-hitting for the keynote speaker who backed out at the last minute. But only two of the seven Hall of Fame inductees, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Iowa Federation of Labor President Ken Sagar, had a chance to speak while accepting their awards. In the future, the Iowa Democratic Party should give all the honorees at least a couple of minutes to address the crowd.

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How Julian Bond and Harold Hughes helped each other

Since I heard on Sunday that Julian Bond had passed away, I’ve been reading reflections on his life. Bond was one of the legends of the civil rights movement: an early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a longtime state lawmaker who had to take his fight to be seated in the Georgia House of Representatives all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In his later years, he led the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and was a strong voice for LGBT equality and against efforts to undo the Voting Rights Act.

I learned a lot about Bond from his obituaries; for instance, I did not know that he and John Lewis, both civil rights veterans from the 1960s, fought a bitter Congressional campaign against each other in 1986. Some personal reminiscences have been enlightening too. For entertainment value, you can’t beat Howie Klein’s story about the time he invited Bond and Strom Thurmond to speak on the same day of 1966 at the State University of New York in Stony Brook.

Stephen Carter wrote a wonderful column on “The beauty of Julian Bond’s voice.” Carter had known Bond since the 1970s, when his mother was one of Bond’s legislative staffers. Before I read Carter’s piece, I had no idea that a legendary Iowa Democrat and Bond were political allies.

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