Syndicated columnist and author Molly Ivins was honored with the Eugene V. Debs award for her contribution to journalism by providing her readers with information for Democratic participation Saturday evening at the Debs Foundation Annual Award Banquet. Ivins uses humor to educate her readers on critical social issues and political hypocrisy.
Master of Ceremonies and Executive Vice President of the Debs Foundation Noel Beasely described Ivins as one of our weapons of mass clarification in his greeting to the 720 attendees gathered in Hulman Center. After a round of applause and laughter had died down there was a moment of silence to remember Debs followed by the crowd reading the foundation's creed which is a quote by Debs; "While there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
After dinner was served, Indiana State Univeristy Interim Provost Jack Maynard welcomed the large group on behalf of ISU faculty, staff and students because the campus values it's relationship with the foundation. Not only because many faculty members are involved in the foundation but also he is proud of what goes on campus. There is also a strong connection between the foundation and campus because Debs' home is located beside ISU's schools of business and education.
President of the Wabash Valley Central Labor Council William J. Treash and Ben Ramsey, representative of the Indiana AFL-CIO, also had turns at the podium to welcome Ivins and the attendants.
Debs Foundation Secretary Charles King stated that he was happy to see everyone there to support the foundation because if it weren't for the high attendance there wouldn't be a foundation. He also said that the event was originally scheduled in the Heritage Ballroom but due to the overwhelming response due to Ivins' appearance it was moved to Hulman Center.
The crowd was then entertained wuth music by Anne Feeney, a former lawyer who turned into a folk singer and activist. Feeney's eight recordings are known nationally and internationally. Her breed of folk music are referred to as songs of labor and life. She said, "I was afraid I couldn't sing loud enough to fill this arena but I guess 30 years of being on a picket line is good for something."
Keynote speaker and former Debs Award winner Michael J. Sullivan introduced Ivins saying it was an honor to introduce the author and most interesting person from Texas who had given him many smiles and laughs. He ran down her career highlights which included job positons at newspapers in Minnesota, Texas and The New York Times, being a three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and the author of several books and a syndicated column that runs in 200 newspapers.
Ivins addressed the crowd by saying she was moved by receiving the award and standing in the fantastic company of past winners as well as Debs. She shared some her favorite Debs quotes and spoke of "professional patriots" that bully everyone into patriotism during times of war. She talked about her most recent books about George W. Bush entitled "Shrub" and "Bushwhacked".
Ivins states,"I'm never above a bad pun. That's my motto."
She then launched into stories about the research she did around the U.S. for "Bushwhacked" which is based on the war on workers. Ivins said she was in search of "average Americans" but she didn't find any because they were all tough and funny. She also shared tales she had experienced with her friends while freedom fighting. One of her friends, John Henry Faulk, had served as her mentor and whose dad had served as Debs' campaign manager for four years. Ivins said that she believs that those who fight freedom hold hands through history and that Debs continues to touch is today with his words and work today.
She bashed "the lovely people running our country" all evening. She said of President Bush, "You cannot get re-elected president if you were never elected in the first place."
She also encouraged the audience not to get so scared of some menace like crime or terrorism because then someone will become so scared that we will be less free but not safer, just less free. She then said that we need to remind ourselves in addition to trying to save the nation from the people running it that we all need to work at having fun while fighting for freedom or we will become bitter and synical and because if you don't win, this may be the only fun you will have. "With beer and imagination everyone can have a good time," Ivins said.
Ivins concluded her speech by thanking the foundation for the award. She then lingered at the podium for a question and answer period from the audience that included her thoughts on President Bush and the Texas government.
Feeney brought the evening to a close by playing another song as people began to dispense from the arena.