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Attendees greatly benefit from NRLC conventions but so, too, do convention organizers, speakers, and staff

by | Jun 12, 2013

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research

Gary Cangemi and "Umbert the Unborn

Gary Cangemi and “Umbert the Unborn

I have every confidence that everyone who attends the upcoming National Right to Life convention in Dallas will come away more inspired and better informed. In a convention that is ever-changing, that is a constant.

But did you know that those of us at NRLC who set up, manage, and do the workshops at these conventions get something out of it too?

We do! And in so many ways.

Of course, it is a wonderful time to see and catch up with old friends, people we’ve been seeing every summer for twenty, thirty, and even forty years. They come from all over America, and it is a particular blessing for us to see how their kids have grown and themselves gotten involved in their own pro-life outreach. This second generation is assuming its places, assuring that the greatest Movement for social justice of our time is continually refreshed and reinvigorated.

The social interaction is great, but it’s much more than that. Others at NRLC would have their own list, but, for me, I think I’ve identified at least four things that we get out of every convention:

#1. It offers a chance for Examination

Working on the issues every day, it is beneficial to be able to take a step back, and see how the landscape has been altered over the last year. Putting the conventions together, coming up with a program, a convention Yearbook, a theme, bringing in those special speakers, preparing those dozens and dozens of workshops and general sessions—all of this and more, help us put what we’ve been doing in perspective not just for attendees but for ourselves. (No one person can know everything.) The learning process is more assuredly two-way. We learn as much, if not more, from the people who will attend. (See #2.)

What has been happening in the legislative arena? What new abortion techniques are on the horizon? What new information have we gained about the sociological, psychological, and physical effects of abortion? What were the most and least effective strategies in the last election? How have efforts to legalize assisted suicide in the states advanced or been halted?

It’s a good time to evaluate where we are as a Movement, to see, looking back at the past year, over the last several years, what we’ve done, how far we’ve come, and what remains to be accomplished.

#2. It is Educational for us. People attending our workshops will learn what Planned Parenthood is up to, the latest shenanigans at the U.N., the promise shown by adult stem cells rather than embryonic stem cells, the ins and outs of campaign finance laws, practical ideas for organizing and fundraising, the use of social media, and so on.

Those are all important topics, and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot if I sit in a few workshops myself.

But one thing we gain as staff members is important information about what is happening out in the grassroots, the creative ideas, the P.R. campaigns, the legislative strategies, the outreaches that are working, that are changing minds, hearts, and actions.

We’re all involved in our local communities (we don’t live in the Washington DC inside-the-beltway bubble), but we know that often the best ideas come from the heartland.

Sometimes, we’re able to take what we hear is going on in one state and put it together with what we hear is happening in another to begin to discern a pattern, to identify a national strategy that abortion or euthanasia advocates have launched.

We read the national newspapers and watch the news, but sometimes a pro-lifer encounters an article in the local paper or on the local TV station that is more revealing about the abortion industry’s plans than the packaged statements coming out of national spokespeople.

We provide a lot of information at the convention, but we are recipients as well.

#3) We find it Energizing. Quite frankly, it can be a little discouraging to wake up and go to work every morning with Roe v. Wade still the law of the land, hearing our president bless Planned Parenthood, and knowing another three thousand or more babies will lose their lives that day.

But when we are out on the NRLC Convention floor it’s an encouraging reminder that we are not alone in this fight and that we are having an impact.

We love hearing about thriving chapters, closing clinics, successful school programs, effective pregnancy care centers, and thoughtful pro-lifers getting into the political arena.

It means so much to us to encounter women who have found healing from abortion, who have convinced others to choose life, and to meet children whose lives were spared because of something a pro-lifer said or did.

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We find the wisdom of longtime pro-life stalwarts a great help, the enthusiasm of the teens infectious, the smiles of the babies a wonderful reminder of why we’re all here.

I can honestly say that I come back from every convention recharged and ready to take on another year in this critical human rights battle.

#4) Yes, it’s Entertaining. Given the gravity of our subject matter, the people who never attend these conventions would probably be surprised to hear that there is much at these conventions that NRLC staff finds entertaining and even relaxing.

I don’t know that I’ve ever had as much fun I did at Gary Cangemi’s workshop on “Umbert the Unborn,” his comic strip defender of the right to life. He’s going to be back again this year, with more amusing and insightful strips and maybe even another quiz game with prizes!

Over the years, different speakers have made me laugh, cry, or made me think in a new way. I’ve enjoyed conversations with priests, with interns, congressmen, the families of speech contest winners, vendors at the booths, and Americans from across the country.

I’ve taken in several baseball games over the years on our free nights with fans I see each year at the convention, visited the world’s largest mall, and enjoyed a paddleboat cruise and show with my wife. We’ve seen some beautiful cities, enjoyed some great regional food.

I don’t know what we’re in store for in Dallas, only I’m sure it will be good.

So, I’m looking forward to this year’s convention and expect to have a great and productive time. Like everyone else on staff, I look forward to meeting and talking with you.

Categories: NRLC