On Saturday, Oct. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at Alcoa High School, the Blount County Democratic Party held its Roosevelt Dinner. This dinner is held in honor of our nation’s 32nd president for his ideals and contributions to our nation and our state. The dinner serves as a reminder to the party, which suffered a dramatic defeat in last year’s presidential election, that the principles and values the party was built on are still relevant today.
Franklin D. Roosevelt served an important role, not only as a leader for our country during the difficult era of World War II, but also as a beacon of hope and change for America during the Great Depression with the implementation of his New Deal domestic agenda, development of the New Deal Coalition leading to the Fifth Party System, and leading the way in defining American liberalism during most of the 20th century.
For the state of Tennessee, his innovative plan to bring the country back and prevent another depression included the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Works Progress Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Added to his accolades would be his contribution to the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a haven for all people to enjoy for generations
The Blount County Democrats have held dinners commemorating Roosevelt in previous years, but this is the first dinner held in his honor since 2011.
Ashley Maynard, Vice-Chair of the Blount County Democratic Party, oversaw the dinner this year.
“While we have held the dinner in previous years, it had been awhile since the last one,” Maynard Said. “I felt now was the right time. ”
This year, the dinner had around 170 people in attendance, including five candidates for Democratic races and several guest speakers. Dr. Jay Clark, adjunct professor of biology at Maryville College, who is running for the state seat currently held by Art Swann, House of Representatives in the 8th District attended the dinner. Dr. Joshua Williams and Renee Hoyos, both running for Congressman Duncan’s Congressional seat, the Honorable John Litz as a representative speaking on behalf of Governor candidate Craig Fitzhugh, and Anne Davis, wife of Gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean also attended.
The dinner also honored two women, Jackie Hill and Dorothy Mitchell-Kincaid, with awards for Blount County Democratic Party “Democrats of the Year.” Guest speakers for the dinner included Maryville College Associate Professor of History, Dr. Aaron Astor, and the Rev. Harold Middlebrook.
Astor spoke about why Franklin Roosevelt was important to us as Tennesseans.
“The Roosevelt Dinner was important as a way for Blount County Democrats to stand up and be heard and to learn about candidates running for local, state and Federal offices,” Astor said in a recent statement written in The Daily Times Newspaper. “The Blount County Democratic Party has always represented a minority of the voting population here, so it is especially important that Democrats ‘plant the flag’ and let the community know that an alternative to the dominant Republican Party is ready to compete for votes.”
He stated his role at the dinner was to give a brief historical address on the importance of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt to the Democratic Party in Tennessee and to discuss the ideals behind the modern Democratic Party that emerged in the FDR age of the 1930s – equal justice under law, fair and affordable wages for workers, a working health care system and respect for the dignity of all people. Astor also pointed out how these principles were forged here in Tennessee and were not imported from other states.
“These are not just Democratic values, they are Tennessee values,” Astor said.
Middlebrook, who was an active member in the Blount County Democratic Party in the late eighties, was a friend to Martin Luther King, Jr. and was with him when he was assassinated. He gave a rousing “call to action speech” to close the dinner.