2019 Lincoln Day Dinner: Awards & Rewards

Seated Lincoln

‘Seated Lincoln’ Newark, NJ by Gutzon Borglum

Montclair Republicans successfully resurrected their historic Lincoln Day Dinner at the Montclair Golf Club on March 28 (in partnership with Essex County NJ Republican Women). Guests and volunteers enjoyed the evening thoroughly. New friends and old mingled, dined and enjoyed a rich and rewarding program.

 

Following an open bar cocktail hour with passed hors d’oeurvres, Montclair Republican Club president John Van Wagner introduced special guest and 1st Amendment Award winner, Mark S. Porter. Porter, a 1971 Montclair High School graduate, served as editor of The Montclair Times from 1998 – 2016.

Van Wagner’s introduction of Porter:

Lincold Day Dinner 2019 2nd Amendment Van Wagner Porter

John Van Wagner & Mark Porter, 1st Amendment Awardee

It’s the unsung heroes who hold things together, who take on the hard, thankless tasks,  simply because it’s right to do so,  because accomplishing them makes the world a more civilized place.   These folks are the precious few among us who put values over expediency, thoughtfulness over pride, and generosity of spirit over everything.   We’re proud to honor one such man at our upcoming Lincoln Day Dinner, for his contributions not just to his chosen field of journalism, but to his service to the Montclair community on multiple levels as an oasis of reason and measured ideas in a environment often plagued by rancor and distrust. 

Mark Porter led our flagship newspaper, The Montclair Times from 1998 to 2016.    When he took the job he probably wasn’t imagining that the diplomatic skills he’d need to bring to bear to his work would better qualify him to be the lead Ambassador to the Gaza strip.   Taking the helm of the paper as Montclair’s march to the extreme political left achieved critical mass, he was tasked with the Sisyphean feat of pleasing the ascendant, and powerful, political vanguard, while quietly creating a space for neutral, balanced, and factual reporting.    It’s probably easier to achieve a fossil-fuel free world in twelve years than do what Mark has done over the last eighteen. 
I came to know Mark soon after I took over as President of the Montclair Republican Club.   Having little experience with reporters I was wary at his first call, in which we discussed the state of the town council election of 2012.  But his questions weren’t probing as much as they were genuinely curious.   My nervousness melted away within the first minutes of our talk, and I found myself expounding on thoughts and ideas about the town, its political direction, the hopes of my organization for a saner fiscal state for the community, Montclair’s intense creative energy, and the necessity of diverse ideas to power political life.
Mark listened with patience, and responded eagerly to my suggestion that political differences are healthy, indeed necessary.   He never played ‘gotcha’, he never argued.   He listened.    And when he reported it was with honesty, insight, and respect, though he must have known I was green, and may have said things that could be taken out of context and used to undermine my fundamental positions.   Mark had the one quality that sadly  eludes most everyone in his profession, one that can make the work of journalism transcendent:   he was kind. 
He was also an incisive and insightful writer, with an economy of phrase that informed even as it gently coaxed.   He was never a flamethrower, though he didn’t back down from saying things that needed to be said.   His editorials always added to, and stimulated, the collective conversation, and reflected the warmth and creativity that undergird Montclair’s zeitgeist.  After our first conversation I trusted Mark implicitly, and regarded him as an asset to our club if not an adherent.   He remained a apart from us formally, politically, but his interest in, and sympathy for, our unique position in an increasingly hostile town always infused his reporting on our activities.  Mark Porter is a man who understands his community, and his time, and the synthesis between the two.   We miss him as our central voice of sanity and tolerance, and are delighted to honor him with our 1st award at this Lincoln Day Dinner.    
Porter’s reflections:

* Your freedom to establish and practice a religion.

* The right to speak your mind.

* The ability for people to gather peacefully.

* Your right to express grievances to the government and seek remedies.

* And, the First Amendment affirms, Congress cannot usurp the freedom of the press.

As a longtime editor of The Montclair Times, I maintained a professional and personal doctrine that we’re all equal.

Within the limit of 300 words, every Montclairite had the opportunity, really the right, to express her or his opinions in The Times’ Editorial section. 

The number of people who disagree with your dogmas should never crush your right to express them.

The Montclair Times, during my editorship, always published letters written by conservatives along with centrists, liberals, and so-called “lefties.” 

In Montclair, registered Democrats far outnumber registered Republicans. Independent voters in Montclair tend to veer left. 

As Gov. Christie can recall, Montclair wasn’t a town that his campaign staff counted on.

As the editor, I penned editorials endorsing Barack Obama and other Democrats for president. And governor.

But I posit that The Montclair Times’ integrity required it to print letters by people of all political persuasions. 

It was critical that The Montclair Times provide a platform for conservatives to express their views and exchange political broadsides with fellow letter-writers.

Why?

Fundamentally, we can cite the First Amendment.

Just as important: We’re all United States residents.

Reflecting this Lincoln Day Dinner, we citizens together should share an appreciation for what Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and many other Americans dedicated their lives to. 

It’s to preserve and strengthen the United States Constitution, including the First Amendment.

Following a dinner of petite duet of filet of beef and salmon with bordelaise and beure blanc, salad and rich carrot cake, Joan Furlong, Montclair Republican and Vice-President of Essex County NJ Republican Women, introduced and presented the evening’s 2nd Amendment Award to former New Jersey governor Christopher J. Christie.

Furlong’s introduction:

MRC ECNJRW LINCOLN DAY DINNER 2019 2nd Amendment Furlong Christie 1000

Joan Furlong & 2nd Amendment Awardee Governor Chris Christie

Many years ago a notorious gun control group in Montclair got permission from the Board of Education to distribute a flyer advocating for a piece of gun control legislation before the state assembly.

My kindergartner brought this home in his backpack, and my husband and I, both law-abiding citizens and gun owners, saw this as a partisan misuse of our public schools.
So we asked permission to distribute a flyer advocating against the legislation and were denied. And with the help of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, of which we were members at the time, we took the Board of Education to court, and 4 years later got permission to distribute flyers that advocated for educational events for youth, women, and everyone else on the proper use and safe handling of firearms.
At the time I was a registered Democrat. But the people who came out of the woodwork to support us were mostly Republicans. In fact there is someone here tonight (Maureen) who called me one afternoon out of the blue to offer her support. She didn’t know me at the time, and had no reason to reach out to me other than to let me know we were not alone.
And, coincidentally, that was when I first met Mark Porter at The Montclair Times, when we showed up at his office one Monday morning to challenge an unfair piece about us that had been published in The Montclair Times. He immediately recognized the First Amendment implications of our lawsuit.
Well, Governor Christie, by the time you won the primary in 2009, I was a die-hard Republican. And throughout your tenure I saw your advocacy on behalf of all New Jersey citizens and proponents of the 2nd Amendment as a God-send.
But I think the President of the New Jersey 2nd Amendment Society, Alexander Roubian, said it best: that you “did more for Second Amendment rights in New Jersey than all other governors combined,” and he praised you with these words:

”Governor Christie is a beacon of hope and a saving grace for those who were unfairly and discriminatorily terrorized by New Jersey’s draconian gun laws. NJ 2nd Amendment Society witnessed first hand how he personally saved many from unfair prosecution and years in prison. Governor Christie’s pragmatism and fairness are greatly missed.”

We here in this room second that sentiment.

So, it is with great honor and gratitude, on behalf of the Montclair Republican Club and Essex County New Jersey Republican Women, that I present you with our first 2nd Amendment Award.

Governor Christie responded to the award and the subject of the right to bear arms with many stories from his administration, but mostly the human ones — those where he pardoned &/or commuted sentences of good people who had gotten caught up, unwittingly, in the state’s extreme limitations on travel with legally-owned firearms, for example, Brian Aitken, Shaneen Allen.  He introduced his Attorney General, Chris Porrino, who was essential to the work done during his tenure to rationalize New Jersey’s gun restrictions in order to protect lives, especially in response to the 2015 murder of Carol Bowne of Berlin, New Jersey.

Christie went on to regale the audience with humor, excitement, and the upfront attitude he’s known for. Here are some of his thoughts:

On visiting Montclair, where he “didn’t get the warmest reception at Montclair High School:”

On his 2010 visit to MHS:

  • If you’re a leader, you go everywhere
  • You’ve got to show up
  • It’s harder to hate up close
  • Want to turn off the antagonism? Stick to the issues

On New Jersey’s big issues:

There is no discussion of the big problems…pension & healthcare, for example. Instead, we talk about recreational marijuana. The hell with property taxes. If you’re high all the time, maybe you don’t care.

General thoughts:

  • You have to have relationships with Democrats.
  • DeBlasio is a cautionary tale
  • Our state has gone overboard
  • We were not created to complain. We were created to act.
  • When you get done with Murphy, you’re going to think Jon Corzine was Thomas Jefferson.

In an unusual twist of fate, Mark Porter, who, during his career, had interviewed every New Jersey governor since Brendan Byrne except Governor Christie, finally got the chance to do so, however informally. Others’ comments:

“Chris Christie was my favorite part of the evening.”

“Sports, politics, family – I can’t wait to hang out with Chris Christie again.”

Five guests won copies of Christie’s new book, ‘Let Me Finish,‘ among other amusements.

To donate to the 2019 Lincoln Day Dinner Fund using PayPal or credit card, click HERE.

For more information on Montclair Republicans or Essex County NJ Republican Women, email montclairrepublicans@gmail.com &/or ECNJRW@gmail.com.

 

MRC ECNJRW LINCOLN DAY DINNER 2019 GROUP 1 Porter

 

 

 

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