by Rod D. Martin
December 8, 1990
(Delivered to the 1990 College Republican State Convention on behalf
of outgoing two-term State Chairman Rod D. Martin
by his First Vice Chairman)
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I wish to make my deepest apologies for not being present among you today as you gather to choose the leadership which will carry you into the next year. As many of you know, I am currently in Cambridge, England, at the University which bears that city’s name. Nevertheless, you are all very much in my thoughts and prayers on this very important day, and I send you my deepest greetings; you, the representatives of the organization to which I have now given a rather large part of my life.
Those many of you who have battled alongside me over the past several years hardly need to be reminded of the tremendous achievements of that time. You have been there as we took a good organization and made it a great one. You have been there as we instituted training programs both in and out of state so as to make the broad numbers of our membership literate in the art and the technology of politics — you determined with me that we would never again be a group of kids or hacks, but that we owed it to our ideology to learn and practice the means to win, and that that knowledge should be for the masses and not just for the leaders. Through two fieldman schools, three national conferences, countless Morton Blackwell seminars, and endless campus visits by myself, Robert Rudolph, Leah French, and many others, we made that goal a reality. You have been there as we doubled the number of our clubs — with our greatest growth in the First District, where in at least one county, Lawrence, we are the only Republican presence at all. You have helped me as we reached out to the black community as never before, with our greatest successes at Henderson, UAPB, and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. And in all the many things we have done together over the past several years, we have never, ever lost sight of that goal above all goals, the very reason for our work: the creation of a strong two-party state. That state is indeed now here.
“How can that be?” you may ask. “We lost all our state-wide races!” Yes, indeed we did, and a terrible shame it was, even more so considering the tremendous work so many of you put into some of those races. Yet the Revolution I have been preaching so long finally came, and as I hope some of you read in my recent editorial in the Daily Siftings Herald, it came in the very areas Republicans have always desperately needed but have never been able to secure.
It came in the local races.
Across the state, yellow-dawg Democrats switched over in the one area where they never have before: races for city council, Justice of the Peace, Mayor, County Judge, County Sheriff, County Treasurer, and on and on and on. Be sure to call state Republican headquarters for a tally of the results: they were truly phenomenal. And that is, friends, more than anything else what we have needed and worked for; because unlike the Democrats, who like Winston Bryant and Ray Thornton move around between offices at will by means of their vast network of good ol’ boys, the GOP has always been deprived of the most important tool in politics: the ability to rise through the ranks. And unlike the Democrats, who upon taking a state office could enforce their policies down through their county machines, even when there has been a Republican Governor as great a Winthrop Rockefeller his power has been rudely cut off at the door of the Executive Mansion. Now though, we have met the enemy and he is ours. We have fielded candidates on the local levels, and we have won. The Revolution is here! We have made Presidential Republicanism into real Republicanism, and the yellow dawgs’ packs have noticably thinned.
What does that all mean? The most important thing it means is that we have broken down the idea that you are “spitting on pappy’s grave” if you vote for a Republican candidate, and that we are therefore for the very first time a legitimate Second Party. It also means that a greater and ever increasing number of candidates will be willing to carry our banner — on all levels — since we’ve finally shown that a Republican can win. But above all it means simply this: if we are going to follow up on our successes, if we are to carry through the Revolution we have clearly begun, if we are to throw off one-party rule and actually elect Governors and Senators and Attorneys General next time around, then the activist stand which has dominated over the past few years must continue. Those who believe that the Republican Party can be run from Little Rock and that county committees can be safely neglected, those who believe that a youth campaign is not a canvass and a precinct organization and a get-out-the-vote campaign but rather a beer party and a few guys in Little Rock whose names go on someone’s campaign roster, must be left behind! For those of you who believe, as some in our organization’s past have before, that activism doesn’t count, that internal party politics is all that matters and that “you’re going to get your share of the pie,” I say to you right now go take part of someone else’s pie, let us lead the Republican Party to the leadership of this state! And to those of you who have stood with me for so long, and to those of you who would have, had you been here a little sooner, I say just this: the future of not just the Arkansas Federation of College Republicans but in a very real sense the Republican Party of Arkansas is in your hands. Lead it boldly, lead it actively, and lead it to victory.
My days as a College Republican are now at an end. . . .when I return my career as a campus politician will be long over. Many of you soon face the same end. I encourage you as you face that to remember the ideals for which we’ve fought these past years. The decade to come will be a great one for us, as we advance conservative solutions in areas we haven’t before, such as civil rights, welfare reform, education, housing, inner city decay, and many other fields in which the liberals — or should I say socialists — have so badly failed: these are all areas where your active support and involvement will be crucial. I promise you I shall never leave the struggle we have together taken up; I urge you to join me yet again as you leave your college days in the fight to reshape our nation and our state.
And for those of you who remain in school a few more years, let me say just this: College Republicans can and should be the most important single organ of the conservative movement, truly the “vanguard of the Revolution.” It can only be such, though, if you choose to make it so. Build on what we’ve done together, branch out into new fields we’ve never thought of, grow, expand, recruit: but never leave your conservative, activist roots.
I bid you all farewell. You have all given me so much, and in many ways you have been my life. God bless you all as you carry on, and as the torch is finally passed.
Rod D. Martin has served for the past two years [1988-1990] as a member of the Executive Committee of the Republican Party of Arkansas and as Chairman of the Arkansas Federation of College Republicans. He also served this year as Co-Chairman and Editor of the state GOP Platform Committee. A native of Arkadelphia, he is currently a consultant to the British Conservative Party for youth affairs and a history student at Cambridge University.