Published Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Several at dinner have ties to governor

From STAFF REPORTS

news@newnan.com

Whitley Caver was unique among the attendees at the Salute to Georgia Giants dinner in Rome this weekend.

There were several people there who knew Ellis Arnall, who was honored as as Georgia Giant by the Floyd County Democrats at the Saturday event. Caver, a 2011 Newnan High School graduate, was the only person, however, to have attended Ellis G. Arnall Middle School.

The school is named for Arnall, a progressive Georgia governor who served from 1943-1947. Caver plays basketball at Berry College, where she is majoring in Spanish.

Ann Pullen, whose husband, George, is the chairman of the Floyd County Democratic Party, lived in Newnan as a girl. Several others attending had met Arnall, a longtime Atlanta attorney, professionally or knew him as a political figure.

Michael Thurmond was the keynote speaker for the Salute to Georgia Giants dinner. Thurmond, an attorney, is a former state legislator and state labor commissioner who was the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 2010.

State Rep. Barbara Massey Reece introduced Thurmond, calling him "a Democrat's Democrat."

Thurmond encouraged the crowd to focus on the positives, speak up for Democratic values and make sure Democratic voters make it to the polls in November.

"We tend to spend a lot of time talking about the challenges or the difficulties that we face. We tend to spend a lot of time talking about what we don't have," Thurmond said.

"As Democrats, we need to count our blessings," he said. He said Democrats need to use "asset driven decision making" rather than "deficit driven decision making."

He pointed out there is a Democratic president and that the Democrats hold a majority in the U.S. Senate. Thurmond also said polls are showing "the Democrats are getting stronger."

Thurmond exuded optimism about the current election season. "I'm very energized. I'm more excited than I've ever been in my life," he said.

Thurmond said the margin of victory in elections may come from looking in unexpected places – a college campus, an ethnic neighborhood. "We've got to move from our comfort zone," he said.

Thurmond said sometimes voters are written off as prospective Democratic voters "not because of what they are thinking but because of what we think they are thinking."

He said Democrats are right to stand up for health care access and quality education for all citizens. "At the end of the day, when the chips are down, I stand for right," Thurmond said. "Don't you give out. Don't give up, and don't give in."

Thurmond noted the diversity in the group attending the Georgia Giants dinner, and said that kind of wide acceptance is the key to a better tomorrow. "If we as Americans will continue to work together, to sit together and – most importantly – to pray together, we'll build a new state – one great Georgia for one great people," he said.

"Together as one," Thurmond said, "there is no challenge we can't overcome."

Meredith Lilly, Georgia director for Obama for America, expressed similar thoughts. "We definitely need each other," she said. "We can all do this together."

The FCDP Chairman's Awards went to Gary D. Harrell, a Rome community activist who is running for a Floyd County Commission post, and Jo Ann Thompson, who did not cast a vote until she was 30 but has become an energetic and dedicated voter registration advocate.

Hilda Curtis, who has been active in the Floyd Democratic Party for years, received the 2012 Hall of Fame Award. Alan Guyatt and Ruth Demeter, who moved to Rome from Canada and became U.S. citizens on Sept. 14, were honored as the Democrats of the Year.

George Pullen also presented a certificate to Thurmond naming him an Honorary Floyd County Democrat. "You are forever a Floyd County Democrat," Pullen told Thurmond.

Barbara Penson, the clerk of superior court in Floyd County, said the Salute to Giants dinner, was "a good opportunity for us as Democrats to come together and support one another."

The dinner was held at the Partridge Restaurant in downtown Rome. The restaurant is located a block from First Presbyterian Church where Woodrow Wilson, later a Democratic president, met his first wife, Ellen Axson.

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