National Center Hosts 2003 Summit
On March 26, leaders of statewide homeschool organizations from 48 states and the District of Columbia gathered in Washington, DC, for the National Homeschool Leadership Summit. Hosted by the National Center for Home Education, a division of HSLDA, the Summit focused on educational and parental rights issues facing Congress in the coming two-year congressional cycle, as well as threats to homeschool freedom arising around the country."HSLDA designs the Summit to invigorate and encourage state leaders to be involved in important federal legislation which impacts homeschooling families," explained HSLDA President Mike Smith. "An integral part of the event is the opportunity for state leaders to make personal contact with their senators and congressmen in order to express their positions on the issues, and to get to know their elected officials better."
An informal discussion kicked off the event on Wednesday. Formal briefings began on Thursday at the Dirksen Senate Office Building with presentations on federal issues by National Center Director Tom Washburne and HSLDA Senior Counsel Christopher J. Klicka. A number of congressmen addressed the leaders as well.
Treon Goossen of Concerned Parents of Colorado had this to say about Arizona Congressman Trent Franks' presentation:
He strongly supports homeschooling and stated, "Homeschool families are on the cutting edge of the redemption of our society. . . . It isn't the water on the outside of the ship that sinks it, it is the water on the inside." He gave the example of the Great Wall of China. It was massive and China believed it was safe from invasion. China was invaded three times. All it took was bribing a guard and the gates were opened. I took that personally as a message to work more closely together with leaders and organizations on the state and federal levels. We must be united on the legislative front or we will sink ourselves.
During Thursday afternoon, state leaders visited their congressmen, senators, and staff, with the goal of building relationships and informing them on the issues.
On Thursday evening, the state leaders were joined for dinner at the Hyatt by the HSLDA Board, staff, and special guests to celebrate HSLDA's 20th anniversary.
On Friday, attention shifted to the executive branch. State leaders gathered in the Truman Room of the White House Conference Center for presentations by Tom Washburne and Christopher Klicka. HSLDA Board Chairman Mike Farris addressed the group on a number of issues including the federal Marriage Amendment and activities in the Supreme Court.
Tim Goeglein, Deputy Director, Office of the Liaison at the White House, who had addressed the leaders Thursday evening, again brought greetings from the President and answered questions ranging from domestic policy to the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the DC Court of Appeals. Tim also shared his conviction that the timing of these events are not by accident. The President is a man of faith and very appreciative of the prayers offered on his behalf from the homeschooling community.
HSLDA has done so much to make this homeschooling movement viable. When this organization began back in 1983, homeschooling was only legal in five states, and now it is legal in all fifty states. HSLDA has played a key role in accomplishing that remarkable goal. Congratulations to . . . all of you for helping to give parents the option of homeschooling. We stand solidly with you in this noble objective.
— Dr. James Dobson, President of Focus on the Family, on the occasion of HSLDA's 20th anniversary.
Holding a summit in Washington during a time of war provided particular challenges. Last minute speaker changes due to war briefings, security concerns, etc., kept the staff hopping. But it can truly be said that in the end, whether singing America the Beautiful at dinner or corporately praying for our troops, it was a very special time to be in Washington. National Center Director Tom Washburne commented, "It is an honor to host homeschoolers who are giving so much to the cause of homeschool freedom." HSLDA extends our thanks to the state leaders for their enthusiastic dedication.