Steamboat Springs U.S. Sen. Mark Udall took to the podium in front of about 80 Routt County Democrats at the Steamboat Springs Community Center on Saturday evening with a solemn and carefully optimistic tone toward America’s tough road ahead.
As the keynote speaker for the Routt County Democrats’ annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner fundraiser, Udall focused on the accomplishments and remaining obstacles of the U.S. Congress, to which he was elected in 2008.
But despite recent turmoil in Washington, Udall said there’s hope that congressional leaders still can find common ground and work together to preserve American values.
“The reality is no matter our political views, we’re all Americans, and we all want what’s best for our family, kids and our country’s future,” Udall said. “We all worry about gas prices and paying for college.
“Us westerners are hard-wired to understand we’re all in it together. Our progressive vision is tempered by pragmatism.
“So let’s start today. We know our challenges.”
The Jefferson-Jackson event serves as an annual fundraiser for the Routt County Democrats and includes a live and silent auction, potluck theme and presentation for volunteer of the year, which honored Lee Coffelt’s contributions to the community.
After Routt County Democratic Party Chairwoman Catherine Carson riled up the crowd with energy reminiscent of her high school cheerleading days, she introduced Democratic Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush.
Mitsch Bush compared Udall and his accomplishments in office to the legacy of values left by Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.
“A Jefferson-Jackson Day event is much more than a fundraiser,” Mitsch Bush said. “It’s a tradition of Democrats in Colorado and our nation to remember and reaffirm our basic democratic values that Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson championed.
“Our United States Sen. Mark Udall’s long and distinguished record as a public servant exemplifies those values.”
Carson said Udall was “solution-oriented” and touted his work on environmental and economic policies.
Udall began by passing on the praise to the accomplishments of President Barack Obama and his administration, including the passage of the health care reform bill, the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy and a bill that included tax cuts for working and middle-class Americans.
But accomplishing goals is a lot easier said than done, especially since Republicans regained power in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2010 election, Udall said.
“The most difficult part that’s what happened last fall is that we’re not out of the woods,” Udall said. “There are too many Americans with jobs and without health insurance. Two years of hard work hasn’t been enough time to undo eight years of mismanagement.”
After his speech, he took questions from the audience on topics ranging from unrest in the Middle East to campaign spending policies, all of which led him conclude that there was much more work to be done in Washington.
Still, Udall wanted to end the night on a positive note.
“I sound a little more serious than I feel tonight, but I am still a total optimist about our country,” he said. “This is our generation’s World War II, our Cold War our Great Depression.
“We’ve got to make the tough decisions and pull on that tough can-do spirit of America, and I have no doubt we will emerge from this stronger.
“But there are some days that I’m like, ‘Wow, this is really, really challenging.’”
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com.