Graham Sells Personal Story As Parable of Capitalism

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY NOV 18, 2019

As South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham spoke to a crowd at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota he said the Statesman of the Year Dinner was “unlike any dinner I have been to before.” The Republican leader came to town as a guest of the Republican Party of Sarasota, where he helped sell out the ballroom for the hotel.

He shared the story of growing up poor at his father’s bar and taking care of his family when his parents died unexpectedly. As he shared a stage with U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, who grew up the child of a single mother, he characterized his tale as a capitalist moral.

“Only in America can this stuff happen,” he said of the chance to rise from poverty to a position of political power.

His parents created a work ethic that has taken him to the United States Senate, Graham said. “My mom and dad woke up every morning and went to work, and if they didn’t open up the store they didn’t get paid,” he said. He also learned the value of well-humored conversation and friendly service, skills that have also served him well in politics.

Graham delivered some political jokes and zingers. He called Bernie Sanders “the most honest guy in the Senate; he really does believe this c*!p!" 

And he joked about getting off to a “rocky start” with President Donald Trump, the leader of his own party. “But I found common ground,” Graham said. “I’ve come to like him and he likes him.”

Beyond a speech that floated between between affable promotion of conservatism and aggressive derision of socialism, he also characterized Democrats’ efforts in 2020 as going beyond hatred of Trump, something he said was proven by the treatment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Graham’s comments drew alternating laughter and applause from the room, where virtually every Republican official in the region was in attendance. U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Greg Steube both gave speeches, as did state Sen. Joe Gruters. Developers Pat Neal and Carlos Beruff also held the mic at points. The dinner was the first such event with acting chair Jack Brill at the helm of the Republican Party of Sarasota.

The Statesman of the Year honor has become quite a draw for major speakers to come the region. Banners at the dinner listed former winners, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Vice President Dick Cheney, Scott, and two-time winner Trump, who won the honor twice before his election to the White House.

Photo by Jacob Ogles: Lindsey Graham speaks to Sarasota Republican leaders at the 2019 Statesman of the Year dinner.

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