The second weekend of December holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the most influential political players in the state. It’s the Pennsylvania Society event, a time-honored weekend in the archaic tradition of PA industrialists meeting in the grandeur of New York’s best hotels and restaurants, giving PA elected officials their marching orders. Not to be left out of the conversation, PCCY regularly attends to “work the rooms,” finding opportunities where we can make progress for kids.
With a century of this routine, this weekend’s PA Society isn’t happening for obvious reasons. The cancellation offers PCCY a blank slate to rethink the focus on conversations on kids.
But first, let’s look back to last year.
Just as COVID was hitting Wuhan last PA Society weekend, the new House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler spoke at the only substantive event of the weekend, the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association breakfast, describing how House Republicans can deliver on their promise of smaller government. And, breaking with years of rhetorical attacks on public schools by his predecessors, Leader Cutler caught our attention when he lauded the role that public schools and vocational education play in their communities. That resonated.
U.S. Senators Toomey and Casey shared the same stage at breakfast. The soon-retiring Toomey demonstrated an amazing capacity to perform mental gymnastics by hailing the Trump administration’s policies while ignoring their impact on his touchstone issue of reducing the national debt—his steadfast issue every year at the PMA breakfast. Meanwhile Senator Casey called for more attention to the vulnerable among us. Check…the needs of kids actually stated out loud at PMA.
Attorney General Shapiro hit it out of the box for kids as he decried the complicity of the Catholic Church for putting children in harm’s way.
As is typical, the PA Society Black Tie Dinner kicked off with a procession more appropriate for a monarchy than a democratic society. It featured a compelling address by Penn’s President Amy Gutmann who added another moment of hope for kids, calling on the assembled to support education. Unfortunately, the dinner speaker always has lots of competition like great food, drink, and conversation. Perhaps that’s why she took the bold move of Penn contributing $100 million to rebuild Philly public schools—leading by action not just words.
All in all, it wasn’t a disaster for kids at last year’s PA Society.
But let’s just imagine how much better it could be with a Kids’ Pennsylvania Society. Starting today and throughout the weekend, follow PCCY on Facebook and Twitter as we explore what PA Society would look like if children topped the guest list as the most influential political players in the state.
Imagine Senate President Corman pledging to make child care funding a top priority. Imagine the House Majority Leader following up on last year’s remarks by declaring public education the cornerstone of his 2021 agenda. Imagine the PMA saying it wants to spearhead an initiative to get lead out of homes and schools.
PCCY heard from some fantastic teenagers in our summer Teen Town Halls who have tremendous passion and insight into the political issues impacting their lives. What dynamic keynote speakers they would be by not holding back, calling out the political grandstanding, and zeroing in on issues like equity, opportunity, and education.
Now that would be a weekend to remember!