March 11, 2014

Ripon Society Hosts 2014 Legislative and Communications Directors Symposium on Leadership at Mount Vernon
Gillespie & Gutierrez deliver keynotes at annual event

WASHINGTON, DC – A group of about 200 top House Republican policy and communications aides gathered this past Friday at the historic home of our nation’s first President for The Ripon Society’s 2014 Legislative and Communications Directors Symposium on Leadership at Mount Vernon. According to Ripon Society President & CEO Jim Conzelman, the purpose of the symposium was to provide Legislative and Communications Directors with briefings on some of the key challenges facing our nation and the House majority this year.

In remarks to open the symposium, Conzelman – who spent 25 years as the Chief of Staff to former House Financial Services Committee Chairman Mike Oxley before joining The Ripon Society in October 2009 -- noted that this is the fourth consecutive year that The Ripon Society has hosted this event at Mount Vernon. He also noted that the symposium is usually held in early February. “We thought that by moving it back a month or so, we wouldn’t have to worry about snow or ice or cold weather as we have done in the past,” he told the assembled crowd. “But as I was sitting at home this past Monday waiting for the plow to clear my street, I was convinced we had made a mistake. But then the snow ended and the skies brightened, proving once again – in the words of former baseball executive Frank Lane -- that if you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm.

“The same thing can be said about politics. Our party has gone through some tough times in recent years. Our nation has gone through some tough times. Now that we’ve weathered the storm, how do we make things better? How do we improve things -- not only for the Republican Party, but for the American people, as a whole? That’s one of the goals of this symposium, and one of the questions we hope to address. At the same time, by meeting here at Mount Vernon, we also hope to remind you of the historical significance of your job. You are walking in the footsteps of Washington, which is easy to forget in this age of social media, but is worth considering while you are here.”

The agenda for The Ripon Society’s 2014 Legislative and Communications Directors Symposium on Leadership at Mount Vernon featured keynote addresses by former presidential counselor Ed Gillespie and former Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, who discussed the challenges facing our nation – and the Republican Party -- in the coming years. The agenda also included:

  • “A Discussion on Policy, Politics & Technology” – with Greg Maurer, the Director of Public Policy for Facebook; John Sampson, the Director of Federal Government Affairs for Microsoft; Seth Webb, Senior Policy Manager for Google; and Robert Hoffman, the Corporate Vice President and Leader of Global Government Affairs for Motorola who moderated the discussion;

  • “A Snapshot of our Nation and the GOP” – featuring a presentation on the American electorate by Dr. Michael Dimock, the Vice President of Research for the Pew Research Center;

  • “A Discussion with Leadership and Policy Staff” – with Mike Sommers, Chief of Staff for Speaker of the House John Boehner; Steve Stombres, Chief of Staff for Majority Leader Eric Cantor; David Stewart, Policy Director for Speaker Boehner; and, Neal Bradley, Deputy Chief of Staff for Leader Cantor;

  • “Navigating High Stakes Negotiations” – featuring remarks by Brett Loper, the former Deputy Chief of Staff and Policy Director for Speaker of the House John Boehner; and,

  • “The Electoral Landscape of 2014” – with respected political prognosticator Charlie Cook.

Conzelman added that Dr. Douglas Bradburn, the Founding Director of the National Library for the Study of George Washington, also delivered remarks at the symposium, welcoming the crowd to Mount Vernon and discussing the 45,000-square foot facility which opened across from the estate last September and houses the books and papers of America’s first president. A photo gallery from The Ripon Society's 2014 Legislative and Communications Directors Symposium on Leadership at Mount Vernon can be viewed by clicking here.

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.

For more information on The Ripon Society, please visit

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