Lessons From Wilberforce: Gala, Part 1

It's never a bad time to review a great event, so even though there have been a lot of diversions recently, we wanted to share some highlights of our Annual Gala for those who could not attend, or those who wanted to reminisce a bit. More than 600 pro-life, pro-family, pro-traditional values people, including many current and former legislators and statewide office holders, attended The Family Foundation's Annual Gala November 15 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Not only was it a large crowd, it was energized and enthusiastic. Dozens of pastors, including many from our new Pastors for Family Values, joined blacks, whites, Hispanics, Protestants and Catholics. As keynote speaker Eric Mataxas said, there were more people of faith in the room than he could find in all of Manhattan, where he lives. The evening's musical performers were great; the invocation by Bishop Gerald O. Glenn, chief apostle of PFFV, was inspiring; and Gwen Williams, anchor/reporter at WRIC-TV/8, was outstanding.

Another highlight was the presentation of the 2007 Legislator of the Year Award to Delegate Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg). Del. Byron has fought passionately for several years on behalf of the unborn. This year she patroned one of our highest priorities, a bill that would update the informed consent laws to comport with technology, and require abortion clinics to provide an ultrasound and offer a viewing to women in crisis pregnancy. Along with being a co-patron of the legislation that brought the Marriage Amendment to the ballot, she also has carried a bill that would have protected the religious liberty rights of pharmacists who choose not to distribute drugs that cause abortion. Del. Byron has been a tenacious advocate for our values and we were pleased to recognize her hard work and determination, a perfect current day example of what was to be shared next.

That came from Metaxas, author of Amazing Grace: William Wiberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, the companion book to the critically acclaimed movie Amazing Grace released earlier this year. His speaking style, a combination of edgy wit, charm, inspiration, evangelization, thoughtfulness and historical narrative of lessons learned and values by which to live, took the crowd through laughter, pensiveness, inspiration and motivation. He spoke about the life and mission of Wilberforce, who almost single-handedly reversed a culture not unlike ours, simply by applying his Christian faith to his vocation (Member of Parliament, Great Britain) at a time when acknowledging one's faith at all led to ostracization.

Wilberforce's life not only was a struggle with his faith (he went through phases of believe, doubt and the insecurity of believing but not proclaiming) but the virtue of patience in the struggle for what is true, right, noble and larger than self. First he led the successful campaign to abolish the slave trade, which took years; then took action on issues such as health care and poverty, and led England from the depths of Godless depravity into the Victorian Age.

The feedback on the entire night was tremendous, with unsolicited compliments calling it the best gala ever. That sets the standard high, but we look forward to putting together another quality event next year. If you could not attend, you can still support The Family Foundation, and we hope you plan to attend next year's gala and other events throughout 2008.