Jennifer Schubert-Akin: Freedom Conference is not ‘high-dollar’ event
August 20, 2018
I am writing in response to Steamboat Pilot & Today's editorial on Aug. 14 regarding Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke's recent speech at our 10th annual Steamboat Institute Freedom Conference & Festival. The editorial board characterized our conference as a "high-dollar event." Please allow me to correct that misperception.
The early bird registration for our event on or before June 30 was $325. After that date, registrations were available for $375. Here is what you receive for your $325/375 registration: breakfast, lunch and dinner on Friday (including the keynote dinner with Secretary Zinke), gondola ride to the keynote dinner, breakfast and lunch on Saturday, Coyote Gold margarita party on Saturday, admission to all five films in our film festival, and access to all speakers, panels and entertainers over the two and a half-day event, including Kay Coles James (president of the Heritage Foundation), The Sweet Columbines, Local American Legion/VFW Honor Guard, Jack Walsh, Chris Fenton (co-producer of "Chappaquiddick"), Kevin and Sam Sorbo (actors and film producers), Corbin Bernsen (actor and film producer), health care policy panel (Grace-Marie Turner of Galen Institute, Dan Mitchell of Center for Freedom and Prosperity and Hadley Heath Manning of Independent Women's Forum), university leaders roundtable (Rajshree Agarwal of University of Maryland, Brent Chrite of University of Denver, and Robert Pasnau of CU-Boulder), Jillian Melchior (Wall Street Journal), Wallace Loh (President of the University of Maryland), Jason Riley (Manhattan Institute and Wall Street Journal), Yaron Brook (Chairman of the Ayn Rand Institute), Steamboat String Quartet, Philip Wegmann (Washington Examiner), Melanie Sturm (Engage to Win), Dr. Sebastian Gorka (former White House advisor on national security), Tom Baker (retired FBI Special Agent), safe schools panel (Kelsey Harkness of The Daily Signal, Bob Schaffer of Liberty Common High School, Laura Carno of FASTER Colorado, and Ericka Andersen of Independent Women's Forum), panel on inspiring and empowering our next generation of leaders (Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens of Turning Point USA and Brandon Van Dyck of Lafayette College), Shannon Bream (Chief Legal Analyst for Fox News), Courtney Balaker (film producer), Susette Kelo (a nurse from Connecticut whose home was the subject of the landmark Supreme Court case on eminent domain), Jon Gibbs and Colter Christensen.
It is notable that these $325/375 registrations included retired schoolteachers, local ranchers, military veterans, Routt County government employees, local realtors, construction workers, retired journalists and numerous local small business owners – not exactly your "elite, high-dollar" crowd – but hard-working Americans who love their country and value individual freedom, free enterprise and equal opportunity for all.
It is also notable that three local residents who registered at the $325/375 rate apparently attended our event for the sole purpose of attempting to exercise the "heckler's veto" at the keynote dinner where Secretary Zinke spoke. While they were thwarted in their efforts to disrupt the secretary's speech, the third individual hid in a restroom (yes, you read that correctly) in a failed attempt to ambush the secretary as he boarded the gondola following his remarks. The registrations for these three local residents were all paid for by two individuals with Washington, D.C. addresses.
Given the hostility and ambush tactics of these three individuals and their Washington, D.C. financial backers, it would be unreasonable to expect any Cabinet-level official to wade into a crowd where there could be other such threats to his personal safety and well-being.
Finally, I was happy to personally help with arranging the interview with Secretary Zinke with a Steamboat Pilot & Today reporter. With each event we host in Steamboat Springs, we reach out to our local newspaper with opportunities for interviewing influential leaders on the national stage.
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Chairman, CEO and co-founder, The Steamboat Institute