The event is free, and apparently about 140,000 people show up every year, according to their website.
So I thought it would be a relaxing event, stroll around to a few speakers, buy a few books and get some free stuff.
I was mistaken.
The attendees of this event are NOT kidding around. We discovered that you could order tickets for the panels ahead of time. We had not done this. THEY had.
There were serious lines for some of the events. Outside of the first panel I saw a line of about four people. That wasn’t so bad for an event about to start in ten minutes. But what I had yet to learn was that there were actually the stragglers. And in emergency-state-like fashion the volunteers almost let us in, then sent us back out, then told us to go in, then told us to wait because people with tickets deserved to get it. People with tickets held them up in the air, waving them around like they just don’t care. The tickets were golden. Golden tickets.
In the end, we got in. But clearly, we were way out of our league with these people.
The first panel was titled “Moments that Shaped America,” with Douglas Brinkley, Michael Eric Dyson, Edward Humes and Bruce Watson. All of these men had very interesting, thoughtful things to say. But Michael Eric Dyson just blew the crowd away. His cadence of speech is mesmerizing, and the thoughts he has to share profound. His words are a mix of part minister, part poet and part rapper. He is one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard, if not the best. In one answer, he quoted both Jay-Z and Martin Luther King, Jr. I am buying his book tomorrow.
The next panel we went to was “Campaign ‘08” with David Frum, Garrett M. Graff, Hugh Hewitt and Robert Scheer. Of course, Bob Scheer got a loud round of applause when introduced. The others—not so much. David Frum is a former speechwriter for Pres. George W. Bush, and now a journalist. Graff is editor of Washingtonian Magazine, a professor at Georgetown, and founding editor of Fishbowl D.C. Hugh Hewitt is a radio talk show host, and executive editor of Townhall.com. Bob Scheer, fittingly sitting to the left of these other men, is the editor of Truthdig.
The debate brushed on several topics including Obama’s electability, McCain’s age and Hillary’s predicament. I found it very interesting to hear to opinions of Republicans on the current Democratic Party situation. Many said that Obama is a risk. But some also admitted that it will be very difficult for McCain to win this race.
One main point the more conservative speakers made was that people located in liberal urban areas are stuck in a bubble, believing only their opinions to be the beliefs of the entire country. This was met with severe booing. But when a woman in front of me, thirty years my senior, started heckling the speakers, I was severely disappointed. Here is this woman refusing to even hear the other side out. Why is she even attending this debate?
She was the perfect example of what these men were talking about: people who refuse to even entertain the thought of other viewpoints. Not whether those points of view are right or wrong, but that they do exist. This country is a mosaic of beliefs and opinions, and we’d all be better off if we could just see that for what it is.
Hugh Hewitt, David Frum, Garrett M. Graff, and Robert Scheer.