Kruse Control: WPC's Annual Dinner in Bellevue was a night of inspiration
A special excitement surrounded WPC’s Western Washington Annual Dinner. It might have been pent-up demand to socialize in person left over from the COVID shutdowns, it might be the excitement that comes from impending pivotal elections, it may have been the one-two combination of keynote speakers, the 70th Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and filmmaker Christopher Rufo along with emcee podcast star, Brandi Kruse. Or maybe it was a combination of all of those things and more. Whatever the reason, the sold-out crowd packed the ballroom.
Brandi Kruse, former Q13 Reporter and current host of “[Un]Divided” the independent hit podcast, emceed proceedings with infectious charm and grace, and kept the evening moving speedily along.
The first half of the dinner was marked by tributes to friends we have recently lost, and to 2022’s Champion of Freedom Award recipient, the late State Senator Doug Ericksen. Senator Ericksen was known for his deep interest in policy and freedom. He represented Whatcom County, and argued passionately for blue-collar jobs, tax relief, and free market principles. His legendary wit was related by his dear friend, former State Senator, now Spokane County Treasurer, Michael Baumgartner. I’m paraphrasing the tale, but to my recollection, Baumgartner relayed an incident when Governor Inslee was passing by Senator Ericksen and Ericksen asked the governor sign his copy of “Apollo’s Fire,” the governor’s book warning of climate change as an existential crisis. According to Baumgartner, the governor told Ericksen, “The problem senator, is that you haven’t read it.” Without missing a beat, Ericksen replied, “No, the problem governor is I have.”
When the Seattle City Council advocated the removal of the lower Snake River dams, and some Progressive legislators were following suit, Ericksen suggested Seattle start the process by examining how they might breach the Ballard Locks and return the waters surrounding the city to their natural state to set the example.
Baumgartner presented the award to Doug Ericksen’s wife, Tasha Ericksen, who shared her husband’s love of freedom, family, faith and country. She encouraged those present who wanted to remember Doug to give to the Doug Ericksen Community Legacy Fund.
After the dinner break, attendees were treated to a speech by the nationally known, local filmmaker Christopher Rufo. Rufo reminded attendees that when he began his work, he was told it was too controversial, he’d make too many enemies, the media would be against him, and he’d never get traction. He described how he refused to remain silent and pushed ahead. Truth was worth defending. And if we are afraid to stand for the truth, those who seek to obscure will win and that for freedom to survive, we must have a citizenry ready to speak out for what is true and withstand the headwinds of the angry virtual mobs and the caricature insults of the opposition. Rufo said the key was to “fight like Hell.”
WPC President and CEO Mike Gallagher took the stage to remind first-timers of what WPC is and why we exist. Why free market ideas are worth fighting for and why Washington state is too significant to surrender. He reminded that Washington is not only a remarkable place and nationally influential, it is also our home – and we do not surrender our home to policies that reduce its potential and make raising a family and owning a business more difficult. He introduced WPC Environment Director Todd Myers, who shared how WPC research staff receive many, many letters of anger and condemnation from opponents eager to convince the broader public not to read our materials or listen to our ideas. The reason they do this, from those in the governor’s office to random trolls on Twitter, is because they know WPC matters. WPC has an impact.
The final speaker of the night was the 70th Secretary of State and former CIA Director, Mike Pompeo. Secretary Pompeo spoke with surprising folksy charm, humor, and candid experience. He talked about the threats the United States faces abroad and the mounting challenges at home. He argued that many policies passed in his time in the Trump administration had bipartisan benefit. He also had harsh words for the Biden Administration for reversing policies he believed were proven effective, particularly those at the Southern Border. He argued that some policies can be measured by simple math – either the math shows they work or they don’t. But too many people are willing to abandon policies that work because their party didn’t implement them.
Pompeo had a sobering vision for the challenges facing the nation, especially when it came to China and Russia. But while he didn’t spare the severity of some of the financial and defense challenges facing us, he also had a vision of hope and provide ample cause for optimism.
When the dinner ended, the afterparty band was in full swing, smiles were abundant and attendees were marking their calendars to save the date for next year’s event.