By Robin Vander Wall . . . NARSOL’s Tenth National Conference has come and gone. The conference planning committee met on Monday immediately after the last day of the conference to evaluate its performance and prepare to give a preliminary report to NARSOL’s board of directors which meets on the second Tuesday of each month.
More than 150 people from across the United States, some from as far away as Washington, Oregon, Florida, and California, came together in Independence, Ohio, for the nation’s oldest national conference concerning registered citizens and remained there for three days of seminars and plenary presentations covering a range of topics from how to tell a story to how to become a more effective advocate at the state legislature.
Conference guests were privileged to witness a mock legislative hearing staffed by two state senators and moderated by attorney Barb Wright. Ohio’s former attorney general, Marc Dann, gave a sincere talk about his role in helping that state become the first to adopt the Adam Walsh Act and was candid about his misgivings and regrets in retrospect. Guests were also enthused with plenary sessions by attorneys Jeff Gamso, Lea Bickerton, and NARSOL’s very own attorney, Paul Dubbeling, who held the Sunday morning audience spellbound with an inspirational presentation about how to win legal battles in an era defined by jurisprudential conservatism.
Perhaps the high water mark of the conference was attorney and documentarian David Feige’s Saturday afternoon session entitled Framing sex offenders: The complexities and challenges of talking about registrants. David presented conference guests with two of his recent mini-docs dispelling the myths of sex offender recidivism and showing the devastating effects of living as a registered citizen. He then gave a frank talk about the challenges of advocating for change through the media of journalism and films.
NARSOL’s annual awards banquet occurred on Friday night where several individuals were recognized for their hard work and sacrifices directly in support of NARSOL’s advocacy or by virtue of their efforts independent of NARSOL but in support of its vision and mission. Fred Allen was recognized as 2018 Advocate of the Year, and long-time treasurer and board director Larry Neely received commendation as the recipient of NARSOL’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The ACLU of Michigan was presented with the very first Hawthorne Award signifying its work and successful efforts prosecuting the Does v. Snyder case.
On Saturday night, guests were treated to anniversary cake in celebration of the tenth conference. David Feige was awarded the Braveheart Award for his devotion to advocacy on behalf of registered citizens through his work with documentary films.
The conference was a huge success full of opportunities for guests to network with each other and share their stories in a warm and inviting atmosphere. Special mention should also be made about the superior work of conference volunteers who were coordinated by Stephen May of AZRSOL. The silent auction went very well thanks to the efforts of Patricia Borden and the many individuals who generously donated items for auction.
Special thanks also go to Tammy J, chair of the conference planning committee; Brenda Jones, executive director of NARSOL; Andy Stein, who oversaw what has become a fairly complex audio-visual operation for the national conferences; and Mardy C, who was responsible for putting together a slideshow of previous NARSOL conferences that was viewed during the banquet meal on Friday night.
The board wishes to express its gratitude to everyone who helped make the 2018 conference a success, in particular, our conference sponsors and advertisers, the members of the conference planning committee, our conference volunteers, conference speakers and presenters, and, most especially, all the people who made the journey to Independence, Ohio.
NARSOL’s next conference is scheduled for June 6-9, 2019, and will be held at the Marriott South at Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas. Hope to see you then and there.