2016 Gala Speakers
Senator Joni Ernst, Iowa
Senator Joni Ernst has dedicated her life to Iowa and her country, serving in the military for over 23 years and now in the United States Senate. In November 2014, Joni was elected as the first woman to serve in federal elected office from the State of Iowa and also became the first female combat veteran elected to serve in the U.S. Senate. Joni serves on four Senate committees of major importance to Iowans: Armed Services; Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. As a mother, soldier and independent voice, Joni is committed to bringing to Washington the Iowan values instilled in her on a family farm in Montgomery County: hard work, service and sacrifice.
Representative Mia Love, Utah’s 4th District
Recipient of the Marilyn Musgrave Defender of Life Award
Mia was born in Brooklyn, New York and eventually moved to Connecticut. Mia recalls both parents working hard to earn a living, her father at times taking on second jobs cleaning toilets to pay for school for their three children. On the day of Mia’s college orientation, her father said something to her that would become the ethos for her life:
“Mia, your mother and I never took a handout. You will not be a burden to society. You will give back.”
After graduating from the University of Hartford with a degree in fine arts, Mia moved to Utah with her husband, Jason. She served two terms on the city council of Saratoga Springs, one of Utah’s fastest growing cities. As City Councilwoman and eventually Mayor, Mia led the city through a period of 1700% population growth in a decade. Under her leadership, the city was able to successfully navigate the drastic transition from agricultural fields to a booming residential community. When the citizen growth necessitated fire and police services, Mia fought to make sure the city’s first ever residential tax implementation would only pay for those essential services, and she structured it in such a way that the tax decreased as a percentage of property value.
Mayor Love is best known for her conservative positions on limited government, increased citizen liberties and limited restraints on business. She believes the best thing she can do as mayor is stay out of the way of business and out of the lives of citizens. She advocates a return to the personal responsibility and reduced government dependency engendered by her father.
Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas
Recipient of the Distinguished Leader Award
Elected to serve as the 48th Governor of State of Texas, Greg Abbott has a strong record of conservative leadership as Texas’ longest-serving Attorney General.
A husband and father, Governor Abbott has spent his career fighting to preserve Texas values like faith, family and freedom for future generations. As the state’s chief law enforcement official, Governor Abbott made protecting Texas communities the focus of his tenure as Texas’ longest-serving Attorney General.
Shortly after taking office as Attorney General, Governor Abbott established a Cyber Crimes Unit to arrest criminals who use the Internet to prey upon children; a Fugitive Unit to arrest convicted sex offenders who violate their parole; and an expanded Medicaid Fraud Control Unit to crack down on elder abuse and waste of taxpayer dollars. During his time serving as Attorney General, he has collected more than $31 billion in child support for Texas children. In 2014, his office was recognized as the nation’s best child support program by the National Child Support Enforcement Association.
Prior to serving as the 50th Attorney General of Texas, Governor Greg Abbott served as a Justice on the Texas Supreme Court and as a State District Judge in Harris County.
A native Texan, Governor Abbott was born in Wichita Falls and raised in Duncanville. After graduating from The University of Texas at Austin with a B.B.A. in Finance, he received his law degree from Vanderbilt University Law School. Shortly after graduating from law school, he was partially paralyzed by a falling tree while jogging. Governor Abbott and his wife, First Lady Cecilia Abbott, a former school teacher and principal, have been married for 33 years. They live in Austin with their daughter, Audrey. He is an avid sportsman and hunter.
Mona Charen, Political Analyst
Mistress of Ceremonies
Mona Charen, a syndicated columnist and author, is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
She is a graduate of Columbia University and the George Washington University law school. Ms. Charen began her career at National Review magazine where she served as editorial assistant.
Ms. Charen served as Nancy Reagan’s speechwriter and later as Associate Director of the Office of Public Liaison. Later in her White House career, she worked in the Public Affairs office helping to craft President Reagan’s communications strategy. In 1986, Ms. Charen joined the presidential campaign of then-Congressman Jack Kemp.
Ms. Charen launched her syndicated column in 1987. It is featured in more than 150 newspapers and websites. She spent 6 years as a regular commentator on CNN’s Capital Gang and Capital Gang Sunday, and has served as a judge of the Pulitzer Prizes. She is the author of two bestsellers: Useful Idiots (2003); and Do-Gooders (2005).
In 2010, she received the Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism.
Ms. Charen is the co-host, with Jay Nordlinger, of the weekly podcast Need to Know, and is a frequent guest on television and radio public affairs programs.
President, Susan B. Anthony List
Marjorie Dannenfelser is an original organizer of the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List), and is the organization’s President. In this role, Marjorie directs the mission of SBA List and serves as its primary spokeswoman. Under her leadership, the organization has grown to more than 365,000 members nationwide.
Marjorie appears regularly as a commentator on news shows such as Fox News in addition to appearances on “The O’Reilly Factor,” “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” “Fox & Friends,” CNN’s “John King Live,” EWTN’s “The World Over” and CBN. Her list of recent op-ed placements includes FoxNews.com, The Weekly Standard, The Hill, Human Events, The Washington Post, The Washington Examiner, AOL Politics Daily and WORLD Magazine. Marjorie is a regular contributor on RedState and Townhall.com. She has been interviewed or cited in an array of national print, radio and online outlets, some of which include the Associated Press, Politico, United Press International, MSNBC.com, ABC News, National Public Radio, Focus on the Family, the Janet Mefferd Show, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, American Spectator, Catholic News Agency,Congressional Quarterly, The Hill and Roll Call.
Marjorie was recently named one of Newsmax’s top 25 Most Influential Republican Women and one of Newsweek’s top ten “Leaders of the Christian Right.”
She serves on the boards of the Alliance Defending Freedom, Constituting Culture Foundation and Chosen Families, a ministry to families who have special needs children. Prior to launching the Susan B. Anthony List, Marjorie served on Capitol Hill as staff director of the Congressional Pro-life Caucus. Prior to her work on Capitol Hill, she worked at the Heritage Foundation. She is originally from North Carolina and is a graduate of Duke University. Marjorie lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Marty and their five children, ages 12-21.