Welcome Address: May 2016 Heroes of Conscience Dinner
The following is the text of Dr. Siegemund’s welcome address to the 2016 Heroes of Conscience Dinner.
Look around you
Everyone you see here is here because of one man, one man who had a dream, an idea, a vision. A man whose energy, intellectual firepower, courage, and sheer determination is – was – the force behind the American Freedom Alliance.
Everyone here is here only because Avi Davis took this idea and created an organization that is unique in its scope, focus and sheer audacity of purpose: to defend western civilization – our values, our principles, our civic structure – against a specific array of threats designed to destroy them.
We are here because Avi Davis – with the help of supporters and those who believed in him – created this organization that seeks to address those issues that each of us in this room feels is critical to our way of life. And we are here to celebrate all that he did.
And it’s an honor for me to be speaking to you tonight, as someone carrying on his work.
Many of you knew Avi – you knew his work, his passion, his kindness, his friendship – and we will hear from a number of AFA voices who were so blessed as to know him.
Many of you had been to various AFA events: the literary café’s, the cinema gateways, the conferences, or some other AFA event. I, myself, first heard of AFA when a friend forwarded an email about a Literary Café on the subject of leftist bias in our universities. As I was a university professor at the time, this was particularly intriguing to me, and the event was all I had hoped. Exceedingly well-informed and concerned people, discussing a book with the author in a conversation led by, yes, Avi Davis. What a find! And what a great introduction to AFA, for it only got better from there.
If you have ever attended any AFA events, then you know what I’m talking about, and why we’re here, why we mourn our friend Avi.
I wrote elsewhere that he was a miracle of a man. And it’s true.
During the years I knew him, I was astonished at all he accomplished. I had such great respect for the man, the intellect, the friend.
But in the months since he’s passed – oh, it’s still incredible that he’s gone – I’ve been steeped in Avi . And my respect for him has only grown.
Since taking on the chairmanship, I’ve had to dive into every aspect of the organization to continue its operation. And it’s been easy to get lost in the minutia of PayPal, emails, the IRS, the Secretary of State, bank stuff, all that.
But along with the annoying, mundane stuff, I have been so lucky to be able to immerse myself in his writings – just a tiny sample of which is in the Tribute book you have at your seat. He took on every issue with incredible passion and with the utmost eloquence. He was fearless in his commitment to the truth, and his need to educate, to spread knowledge, was unquenchable.
Avi was the light.
But when he died, there was concern that the light would go out, that AFA could not survive.
But several of us, many former board members, some AFA Fellows and others who had been participants and supporters for a number of years, joined together to ensure that the light that Avi created in the form of AFA did NOT go out. I’d like to introduce you to our Board of Directors – and when I say your name, please stand.
Our new president, Michael Greer; our First Vice President and also CFO John Hancock who will be speaking later on; our Second Vice President Joe Peterson; our Third Vice President Howard Hyde. Also Gary Aminoff, Bill Becker, Dr. James Enstrom, last year’s Hero of Conscience honoree together with his wife Marta. Rueben Gordon; Marcia Jacobs; Dr. Matt Malkan; Olga Matlin and Mark Shaw. You can read about each of us on the website, just to get an idea of who we are. Among us are authors, educators, business owners, founders of non-profit organizations, radio hosts, consultants, lawyers. We are a pretty powerful bunch, to be honest!
Each of us is committed to keeping this light burning – actually, to ensuring that it burns ever brighter, that what he built becomes even greater, more powerful – that we realize his vision with ever greater strength.
One of the many remarkable aspects of Judaism is that for every idea, from the simplest to the most complex, there is a word, a phrase or a parable. The idea of Tikkun olam- or at least as it was originally meant, not how it’s been corrupted and appropriated by too many– is “to heal the world” and while it’s odd to think of fighting as a means to heal, Avi did seem to embody both of these. A fighter, most certainly. For only through fighting can we overcome the forces that fight against all that is good, and only then can we heal.
Look around you, and what you will notice is that the community that Avi created is comprised of people also searching to heal the world, also engaged in the fight. Each of us here believes in the unparalleled force for good that is Western civilization, that is OUR heritage, whether we were born here or not . In fact, it’s so often those NOT born here who appreciate the value of this heritage, of the freedoms that we have, most strongly. Avi Davis is a perfect example of this.
Each of us here knows how precious it is, and how fragile, and we each believe that the American Freedom Alliance is one of the best vehicles for defending it.
And right now, when our political arena is so fraught with divisiveness and rancor, when the ugliness can be just breathtaking, I find AFA to be a haven for those of us with these concerns about our nation.
Why? Because we can come together over these issues – their importance is self-evident and beyond dispute. THIS, if nothing else! Is something we can agree on! If we focus on these threats, these ways in which our FREEDOMS are threatened, then working together we can make difference! And one thing I have learned over the years is that while we LOVE the idea of those in Washington solving our problems, the reality is, it’s UP to US – at LEAST to be informed enough to put pressure on those in Washington to do the right thing. An ignorant populace is a politician’s dream, and here in America, that is NOT how It’s supposed to be.
And Avi knew this: that at the core of what makes America great is our fundamental value of FREEDOM. If we use FREEDOM as the primary lens through which we look at, well, pretty much everything in civic life, we can’t be too far wrong.
You can read about our mission, our vision, our purpose, in the tribute books. These were Avi’s words. His mission, his vision, his purpose.
And we are committed to carrying on.
You will hear during the course of the evening voices celebrating Avi. You will hear how loved he was, how he inspired, motivated, and enriched us.
Then you will hear later about our plans for the future of AFA. We hope that you share our commitment and that you, too, believe that The best way to honor him, AND to heal the world, is to keep this light shining.