Republican National Convention kicks off

Published 10:03 am Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hurricane relief took center stage Monday during the first day of the Republican National Convention.

While conducting only minimal party business, Republican leaders turned the convention’s focus toward ongoing relief efforts for people of the Gulf Coast states affected by Hurricane Gustav.

“Our first priority for today and in the coming days is to ensure the safety and well-being of those living in the Gulf Coast region,” First lady Laura Bush said. “To all of those living in the Gulf states, please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

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She said she and President George W. Bush had planned to come to the convention, but with news of the hurricane, the president went to oversee relief efforts from Texas.

“When such events occur, we are reminded that first, we are all Americans and that our shared American ideals will always transcend political parties and partisanship …” Bush said. “We hope the people on the Gulf Coast know that we are here to do what we can to assist them.”

Cindy McCain, wife of presidential candidate John McCain, asked that everyone join together to aid the people in need.

“As John has been saying for the last several days, this is a time when we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats,” McCain said.

She and Bush directed people to a Web site,, where people can go to make donations to each of the states affected by the hurricane.

“Together we can accomplish so much to help those who have been affected,” McCain said.

“Americans are known for coming to the aid of their fellow citizens … ” Bush added. “Let’s work together to help.”

The speeches came after Republican National Convention officials announced Sunday a scaled-back schedule for the opening day of the convention.

Governors of Texas, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi delivered video messages to the delegates, sharing stories of unity and help toward others during similar times of natural disaster.

“I’ve seen neighborhoods come together to help each other in ways that bind communities for life,” Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said. “I’ve seen remarkable acts of compassion and charity. And through these storms, the collective greatness of our people shines through.”

Though Hurricane Gustav may challenge the Gulf Coast states, he said, it will not shake their will.

The governors thanked everyone around the country who is offering help to the people of their states.

“As one nation under God, we come together with prayerful hearts for our country,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan. “As we gather in Minnesota, a great storm afflicts our country, and, when one of us is threatened, we are all threatened. As Americans we rise to the challenge. We unite, we respond. We take care of our own.”

Minnesota 1st District Delegate Randy Demmer of Hayfield said though everyone is a little disappointed with the hurricane and its effect on the convention, he thinks “the priorities are straight.”

“It’s a great honor to be here,” Demmer said. “Quite honestly, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, you have to be happy this is taking place in our own backyard.”

It is important that the focus of the convention be first on the country, he said.

For party business, delegates adopted the 2008 Republican Party platform along with party rules.

Platform Committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California called the platform “the people’s platform,” saying it was completed after reaching beyond Washington and to people from all walks of life throughout the country.

McCarthy said the platform is guided by America’s principles and it helps offer solutions to the problems ailing the country and will help guide the nation forward.

“This is a platform we can all be proud of,” he said.