Virginia Delegate-at-Large Shares Experiences, Insights From Her First National Convention
By Nancy Almasi, Virginia
It began with a pin exchange with an old friend who insisted that I get my very first NFRW convention pin from her. The pin was a clever take on a stiletto heel in the shape of the Florida peninsula. I gave her one of my Virginia pins – an outline of our Commonwealth in bright Republican red.
Great, I thought to myself, I’ve been here at the convention for all of 30 minutes and already someone is giving me jewelry. This is going to be fun.
This year was my very first NFRW convention and I was excited to be one of Virginia’s seven at-large delegates. I had heard about the state pin exchange, but hadn’t realized how effective it was in creating fellowship and an immediate bond with one’s fellow delegates.
Delegates exchanging their state’s pins is an NFRW tradition. It becomes a game to collect as many pins as possible on the lanyard holding your convention badge. “Do you have an Idaho pin?” “Ooh, I still need a Virginia one. Can I trade you a New Mexico for a Virginia?” “Look, New Hampshire. Can I have one of your pins?” “How many have you got so far?”
The more intricate the design, the better. That beautiful gold eagle encircled in red on South Dakota’s pin, is a good example. Minnesota’s pin featured a creative depiction of the suffragettes saying, “The Battle is Not Over.” The pins also link one delegation to the other, promoting unity and spirit of sisterhood that is characteristic of the NFRW.
Back home, I’ve been looking at the pins I collected on my lanyard and how people from each of these places contributed to making this an informative and enjoyable convention. I’ve been looking them over one by one as I remember my very memorable weekend in Oklahoma City.
Our convention hosts could not have been more gracious and welcoming, much like the adorable red elephant on their convention pin. The convention kicked off Friday night with remarks from Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd, Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell, and Governor Matt Stitt. We heard later via video from Senator James Lankford, who was hard at work playing beat the clock to keep the federal government from shutting down as the budget negotiations raged on Capitol Hill.
Hearing from these inspiring hometown leaders and the good work they are doing to serve the people of Oklahoma was a reminder to the delegates of what effective Republican leadership looks like.
The great state of Alabama has a well-deserved reputation for hospitality and world famous tailgates. The party you gave for NFRW secretary candidate Britney Garner with those amazing Yellowhammer cocktails was one of the nicest I’ve ever attended. And their cool pin with the eagles and the shield capped off a great evening.
Britney is a young Republican woman who’s truly going places. The Alabama GOP under her leadership as Alabama GOP’s Political Director had a clean sweep of its statewide offices and a supermajority in both houses of its state legislature. She was also key in passing the law banning men from competing in women’s sports. She’s well-spoken, friendly, and has a rock solid commitment to Republican principles. She’ll be a real asset to the NFRW Board as one of its Members At Large.
The ebullient Hawaii Federation President Jamie Detwiller (Hawaii’s lovely pin also included a lei) introduced the equally lively Tulsi Gabbard. The former congresswoman and presidential candidate walked away from the Democrat Party in 2022 after finding herself at odds with an increasingly radical Democratic leadership who did not appreciate her support for parental rights, opposition to Covid-19 lockdown regulations, and criticism of the left wing woke policies.
Gabbard, now an independent, closely resembles my fellow NFRW sisters in her eloquence and fierce commitment to thinking for herself.
There were many awards given out at the convention, but the Ronald Reagan Leadership Award is particularly special within the NFRW. Congratulations to the Texas Federation of Republican Women on their well-deserved win. Despite the Democrats best efforts to change Texas to a blue state, they are no match for this enthusiastic, well-organized, lively group of politically savvy women.
This accomplishment complements their lovely state pin with its diamond bright star in the middle.
NFRW members are concerned about the ever-growing influence of China on the world stage so having leading China expert and New Jersey native Gordon Chang speak at our Saturday session was very informative and timely. He spoke about China’s push to dominate in the technology sector, their alliance with countries such as Iran and Russia, and the CCP’s role in covering up the release of the COVID-19 virus from the laboratory in Wuhan.
Like the Rosie the Riveter pin distributed by the New Jersey delegation, Chang remains a champion of American values and its can-do spirit. He quoted his father who emigrated to the U.S. from China following World War II, “China is my birthplace, but America is my home.”
Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas, Illinois, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arizona
The NFRW continued to show its commitment to modern technology by allowing the delegates to vote electronically early Sunday morning of the convention. Voting over early morning coffee is very civilized.
Congratulations to the newly elected NFRW leadership team.
Julie Harris, President (Arkansas)
Martha Jenkins, 1st Vice President (North Carolina)
Karen Newton, 2nd Vice President (Texas)
Michelle Buckwalter-Schurman, 3rd Vice President (Illinois)
Keri Abernathy, 4th Vice President (Mississippi)
Heidi Parker Martin, Secretary (Louisiana)
Cindy Casaus, Treasurer (Arizona)
The applause almost blew the roof off the Oklahoma City Convention Center when Kentucky native and All American Collegiate swimming champion Riley Gaines took the stage. She spoke of her story of the challenges she and her teammates faced when having to compete with a male identifying as female swimmer, Lea Thompson, and the acute discomfort of having to share a locker room. Although she and Lea Thompson tied in the final competition, the forces of political correctness demanded that only Lea take the trophy home. Riley spoke of her fight to preserve the opportunities for women in sports. “This is more than just being hold a trophy,” Riley said, “It’s wanting to deny us the essential truth of our humanity.” She continued, “My generation and your generation need to link arms … your generation fought to get Title IX passed in 1972 and now my generation is fighting to save it.”
Thanks to Riley’s impassioned lobbying, 23 states have passed legislation making it illegal for biological men to compete in women’s sports. Nebraska’s Governor Jim Pillen signed an executive order called the Women’s Bill of Rights. “He told me that he wants these girls to know that they matter,” Riley said, ”and that women’s opportunities are for women, point blank.”
Like the beautiful thoroughbred depicted on the Kentucky delegation’s pin, Riley Gaines is a young Republican woman who is racing ahead and overcoming any obstacles in her path.
The other highlight of Sunday morning’s session included a rousing speech from Nick Adams, motivational speaker, conservative author, and the head of FLAG, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting American exceptionalism and promoting civics education in schools.
The Australian native, now proud American citizen and Florida resident, urged NFRW members to continue its fight against the increasingly radical policies of the political as they push to transform American society. “They want to transform the USA into a country that it shouldn’t be,” Adams said, “They want to change it into something that it isn’t, and something that it should never be.” He continued, “The war for the soul of America was one we didn’t start, but which we have no choice but to finish.”
While the Left may be organized, he said, we must not give up hope. “In my travels across America, I have seen patriots of the highest order in the most unlikely of places. And I can state for a fact that there are lot more of us than there are of them.”
I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, so I am naturally drawn to its bright red pin that commemorates its 100 years as a state federation. I so enjoyed talking with Pennsylvania Federation President Toni Gilhooley, trading stories about volunteering about various campaigns (my first volunteer job was at age 10 stuffing envelopes with my two aunts for Rep. Don Ritter’s re-election campaign) and our favorite places to visit in that beautiful state. It’s good to remember that NFRW members are not only political allies, but friends.
Virginia and Colorado
One of the best parts of the convention was the time I got to spend with my Virginia ladies. Fellow delegates Susan Cobb (and her stalwart husband Al), Bonnie Burkhardt, Chelle Davis, Nancy Russell, Paula Steiner, and Liz Updike not only guided me through the convention procedures, but they also proved to be hilarious dinner companions. Our table at the Mahogany Prime Steakhouse was filled with laughter and was an evening I won’t soon forget. I also want to give a shout out to two fun-loving Colorado delegates whom we met by lucky chance outside the restaurant and joined us for dinner. The Colorado pin is an elegant one, with its state flag (a red C with a blue and white striped background) and is one of my favorites.
Washington’s pin, with its stalwart eagle holding a quill in its beak, to me symbolizes the number of miles our outgoing president, Eileen Sobjack, has traveled in the past two years meeting with Republican women leaders across the country. Many thanks for your calm and measured leadership and for encouraging me to become more active in the NFRW.
The pins on my convention lanyard are not only beautiful and interesting, but they tell the story of a memorable convention that I’ll never forget.
One Final Thing
To the ladies from Indiana wearing their checkered race car style scarves, And the ladies from Maryland with their colorful flag, And the ladies from Kansas with whom I exchanged stories about the late Senator Robert Dole And Camille Harris, whose rendition of the National Anthem on Sunday morning was one of the loveliest I’ve ever heard, And everyone else …. I will see you in Orlando in 2025!
Nancy Almasi served as a delegate-at-large from Virginia to the NFRW 42nd Biennial Convention in Oklahoma City. Nancy is a member of the 2022-2023 NFRW Public Relations Committee and is a member of Colonial Mount Vernon Republican Women (VA).