This past weekend, October 8-9, 2010, a Tea Party convention in Richmond attracted close to 3,000 attendees. Thirty-three Tea Party organizations from around the state comprise the sponsoring Tea Party Patriot Federation. The convention organizers and workers were strictly unpaid volunteers drawn from around the state who put together a professional line-up of speakers and educational programs for the two day event.
Keynote speakers, musicians, and films were presented in a large arena that frequently erupted in cheering and standing ovations from the crowd. The meeting began with a stirring convocation by Bishop E.W. Jackson on Friday morning and wrapped up with a speech from award winning television journalist Lou Dobbs Saturday afternoon. Providing substance and education was the stated goal of the organizers.
Other keynote speakers included award winning filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon, political consultant Dick Morris, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, Congressman Ron Paul, and talk radio host and former president and chairman of Godfather's Pizza, Herman Cain.
The Tea Party is not just about men, mothers are an important moving force of the party. Jenny Beth Martin, a key organizer, left her career to build a family. Virginia Thomas gave up full time employment at Hillsdale College to help citizens to discover a viable path to activism.
Virginia congressional forums were notable for the candidates who weren't there, including Congressman Eric Cantor. The national policy forum included two Virginians, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and former governor and Senator George Allen. They were joined by Congressman Steve King from Iowa and former Congressman Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania.
A line up of fifty-one breakout seminars featuring such topics as intellectual property rights, how to organize your own tea party, the Virginia state budget, illegal immigration, the right to bear arms, and climate change, to name a few, were often standing room only.
Optimism, patriotism, and a determination to have their voices heard were recurring themes throughout the two day event. The election of citizen legislators that will listen to their constituents rather than career politicians who shun the Tea Parties for being out of the political mainstream is one goal of the Tea Parties. Another is to hold all elected officials' feet to the fire and be a moving force beyond elections.
Support of every bill sponsored in Congress being required to state the specific constitutional authority for the bill was strong. Lou Dobbs asked the question on everyone's mind, "Will the people be working for the government, or will the government start working for the people?"