There's a joke about a Republican walking into a bar, but I always forget the punch-line.
I haven't spoken publicy about politics and elections in a few years. I've turned down a few other opportunites, but last evening's invite was too good to pass up.
I was graciously invited to speak about politics at Drinking Liberally.
Drinking Liberally meets every Thursday at 6 PM at the 331 Club in Minneapolis. I spoke with Steve Timmer, the "host" of Drinking Liberally's weekly meetings about the group's history in Minnesota. Timmer said Minnesota's Drinking Liberally group was started in 2004 and the group will be celebrating their 10th anniversary in October.
Over the last ten years, Drinking Liberally meetings have featured an all-star list of DFL candidates and elected officials. I was only the second Republican to be invited to speak at Drinking Liberally - a badge of honor.
Last evening's event was held at a bar and the name of the event could easily confuse people about the goals of the organization. While the event is called Drinking Liberally – the "liberally" means center/left politics. I spoke about two topics last evening.
In January 2013, I was involved in a very serious car accident caused by my poor decision to drink & drive. I plead guilty to drinking and driving and for the last year, I have volunteered every month to speak to groups about the dangers of drinking and driving.
Jon Cummings, founder of Minnesotans for Safe Driving, attended last evening's event at Drinking Liberally. I requested a few minutes to speak on stage alone to talk about drunk driving and I recognized Jon for his dedication to making Minnesota's roads safer for everyone. He's been a great mentor to me.
I was later joined on the stage by Tony Petrangelo, who blogs at Left.MN, and we discussed the upcoming Minnesota DFL and Republican Party of Minnesota state conventions. We also answered questions from the audience about a variety of issues related to the 2014 elections. It was very lively and for being only the second Republican invited to speak in ten years, the crowd was respectful and kind.
Bi-partisanship has an important role in politics and the excerise of Democrats and Republicans getting together in social settings to discuss common goals needs to be repeated. I hope events like last evening become the norm, not the exception.
As I drove away last evening from my first political speaking engagement in almost three years, I remembered I promised someone I would call them as soon as I left the event. I dialed the first phone number I ever learned in my life and my mother answered.
She was staying up past her normal bedtime, just to hear the details of the event and to know that I was safe (mothers never stop worrying about their kids). I told her that I had a wonderful time talking about politics with Tony and the entire crowd at Drinking Liberally.
"Nobody was mean to you?", she asked in her over-protective voice. I assured her that I was treated very kindly, by a group of fiesty Democrats. She said, "good, because I thought about sitting in the back and watching." I told her I appreciated her concerns, but I had a wonderful night of talking politics with Democrats. As we ended our call, she could tell I was smiling through the phone. Yep, the night meant that much to me.
Picture source: Steve Timmer, Drinking Liberally, May 15, 2014