Long was the list of symptoms and simple was the cure, said those attending a conservative conference Thursday in Coeur d’Alene: less government and a return to traditional values.
Before it’s too late.
“The rank and file of decent citizens is outraged,” said George Dunn, a retired chiropractor from Amity, Ore. “We need to protect our children and families.”
Dunn was among the invitation-only crowd of nearly 700 people - business owners, farmers, nuns, ranchers - who came to the conference on values and education Thursday. It has drawn people from throughout the West to rally for the conservative cause.
Syndicated newspaper columnist Cal Thomas spoke Thursday night to an enthusiastic audience.
Thomas said morality does not start with political leaders; it starts at home.
“You cannot have trickle-down morality,” he said. “Don’t look for the kingdom of God to arrive on Air Force One.”
The crowd reacted with resounding applause throughout his presentation.
Thomas also told the crowd that not only is the public school system broken, but it also cannot be fixed.
“We have to separate ourselves from the thought-controllers and force them to shut down. That’s called competition.”
Thomas pointed out that Christian books are available in school libraries in Russia but not here.
“Seems to me we’re adopting the playbook of the team we just defeated in the Super Bowl,” he said.
Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed headlines the speakers as the meeting continues today.
The conference is sponsored by Hillsdale College, a small Michigan school known, among other things, for its refusal to accept any government funds. It also publishes Imprimis, a monthly conservative journal.
“I think there’s a wave shaking the bushes, even on college campuses. People are questioning government, how much we need,” said Dr. Stu Pritchard. He retired to a Montana cabin after working in Olympia for 40 years.
In Olympia, Pritchard said, he watched the Washington state government outgrow the Capitol building, expanding into a growing circle of office buildings.
“It’s mushroomed,” he said. “Buildings all over the place.”
He said seminars like the one in Coeur d’Alene help ideas such as limiting government and strengthening property rights trickle into the public consciousness.
“They will begin reading,” he said. “Many things will be passed out here.”
Among those reading were Frank Ceserani and Annabel Eisele, both of Spokane. Both admire Hillsdale College for its take-no-government-funds stance.
“No government bureaucrats are telling them what to do,” said Eisele. “They (the college) should be supported.”
She said she wasn’t surprised at the conference’s draw. She said there’s a growing sense the country is on the wrong course, and needs to be righted.
“It’s back to tradition, back to values, and back to belief in God,” she said.
Dunn said he feels Hillsdale College serves as a beacon,
“What we take home is renewed confidence that we’re correct,” he said. “We’ve got to salvage this country, or we’re done.”
Dunn is troubled by what he views as a general decay in society.
“Homosexuality, sex without marriage, gangs, dishonest politicians - it’s all fulminating into sort of an avalanche,” he said.
He said he came to hear accounts of the struggle from those on the front lines.
“The media lies for their own purposes,” he said.
In some ways, Dunn said, the struggle reminds him of his time in the Air Force during World War II.
“I knew what I was fighting for,” he said, “and I’m doing it again, in a different way.”
, DataTimes MEMO: ID headline: “Values begin at home, conservatives told”