The club held its first meeting with President Scott Gray.
The Republican Club of Longboat Key met Jan. 12 for not only its first meeting of the new year, but also the first meeting of President Scott Gray’s term.
Members mingled around the Harbourside Ballroom, catching up on the holidays and the year to come before finding their seats for dinner and the night’s speakers.
Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge (CWVC) sponsored the meeting and attendees heard from Andrew Lourake, an Air Force veteran who was the first above-the-knee amputee to return to full flight status in the nation, about the program. CWVC provides environments for researchers to study wounded veterans in challenging environments, the findings of which inform treatments, orthotics and prosthetics for veterans with traumatic brain injuries, PTSD and other injuries. They mainly focus on sailing, mountaineering and SCUBA challenges and have worked with Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium’s SCUBAnauts in the past to plant coral.
Like most organizations, CWVC has been hit hard by the pandemic, unsure of when they can host their next challenges and where funds will come from. Former club president Joe McElmeel inspired a campaign to match his $500 donation to the organization, and in a matter of minutes the club had pledged about $4,000.
After dinner, Longboat resident, historian and author Gene Kopelson took the stage and discussed a few main points from his 2016 book, “Reagan’s 1968 Dress Rehearsal: Ike, RFK and Reagan’s Emergence as a World Statesman.”
“We're going to go back in time,” Kopelson said. “I have to pick out only a very small segment of my research to present.”
Kopelson brought back rarely heard audio tapes of Reagan from the 1960s to illustrate the beginnings of the novice politician's career. Reagan was quietly guided by Dwight D. Eisenhower, who once wrote the Californian a multi-step political plan in which he encouraged “common sense.” By 1968, Eisenhower included Reagan in his list of potential Republican candidates for presidents.
“(Eisenhower) had mentored Ronald Reagan from a novice politician into a potential president of the United States,” Kopelson said.