NRA Women's Leadership Forum Inaugural Gala Draws Sold-Out Crowd 

FOX News' Pete Hegseth was keynote speaker for the event, with all proceeds benefitting NRA-ILA.

by posted on May 22, 2024
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“Without a strong NRA, we don’t have a big, strong America. It’s about to get ugly. Hold your family close, stay close to God and fight for this nation.” —Pete Hegseth, Co-Host of Fox & Friends Weekend, decorated combat soldier, author and American Patriot

Strength and unity were the ties that bind as NRA members from across America gathered for the inaugural NRA Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF) Gala & Auction at the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Dallas on May 17 to raise funds for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) as it fights the most critical battles yet leading into Election Day 2024. Of course, part of the draw of the sold-out event was keynote speaker Pete Hegseth—New York Times best-selling author, fellow patriot, U.S. Army veteran and co-host of FOX & Friends Weekend and host of multiple series on FOX Nation—who was there to stand with us to protect our freedom from those who seek to destroy it.

NRA WLF Co-Chairs Jane Brown (far right) and Susan Springhorn (far left) welcome attendees to the first WLF Inaugural Gala.

Celebrating the gala’s “Shooting Stars over Texas” theme, women fit the part in their fancy mid- and full-length dresses with the occasional pair of cowboy boots, while men donned Western-style tuxedo jackets, jeans, bolo ties, and, of course, iconic cowboy hats and boots in step with the “Texas black tie” attire. But while the camaraderie was palpable, it was evident attendees were on a mission to lay the groundwork to take back our country in November. As WLF Gala Co-Chairs Jane Brown and Susan Springhorn  shared, we all hail from different parts of the country and have different experiences but we are united by a common value: “our freedom and the desire to protect it.” It is only because of the Second Amendment that we have the right to defend ourselves and our families and embrace our mainstream American traditions.

Fox News’ Pete Hegseth delivered an energizing keynote address, sounding home the need to protect the NRA and the Second Amendment and to put freedom first. “We have the greatest country in history led by a government that is obsessed with taking our freedom and firearms away,” he said, referring to New York City as America’s largest gun-free zone and NYC’s Fox News Channel headquarters as “the only square block of sanity” on the island of Manhattan.

“The opportunity to work on Fox for eight years allows me to give a voice to the men and women who never have a seat at the table,” he said, noting how issues stem from East and West Coast elitists in contrast to the rest of us—especially to those in the military—who “do impossible jobs in impossible places on behalf of all of us to defend us and support our freedom,” calling to mind his book “American Crusade,” written to expose the dangers posed by those who demand socialism, globalism, secularism and politically-correct elitism.

A fitting speaker and crusader during an election year, Hegseth spoke from the heart as a husband, father, patriot and Christian. The Army veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay—who earned two Bronze Stars and a Combat Infantryman’s Badge—shared that he is originally from Minnesota, but it changed the state flag. “It now looks like the Somali flag,” he said, “so I now live in the free state of Tennessee,” where he and his wife are raising their seven children.

The author of four books, including New York Times No. 1 Bestseller “Battle for the American Mind: Uprooting a Century of Miseducation,” everything we can to introduce the next generation to what we stand for to protect American freedom? What are we doing in the minds of our kids for the 16,000 hours between Kindergarten and 12thgrade?” noting how K-12 is now captured by the Left as extremists work to control the supply chains of future citizens.

“We are not a democracy,” he said. “We are a constitutional republic and we’re in the middle of a 100-year takeover. Early progressives wanted the minds of our youngest kids. They had to get rid of God in our schools. If you say your rights are endorsed by God, you’re an extremist,” sharing that it was President Eisenhower who added the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance but progressives replaced God with allegiance to the state.

Hegseth spoke of how the military allowed itself to be manipulated into becoming woke. “If you are saying nothing, you are complicit,” he said. “They [the extremists] get rid of the idea of accountability ... such as our retreat from Afghanistan,” calling to mind how America’s image was torn asunder on the world stage as America lost thousands of weapons, night vision goggles and other equipment. “I was an infantry platoon leader,” he shared. “If I’d lost one weapon, I’d be canned.”

A former executive director of political advocacy groups Vets for Freedom and Concerned Veterans for America, Hegseth was considered for the position of Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in the Trump administration. He referenced his book “The War on Warriors,” sharing how society has forgotten those who take risks and face the dangers the Left pretends don’t exist.

Maybe having an inkling that the NRA was endorsing President Donald J. Trump for U.S. President at the NRA show the very next day, Hegseth called Trump a fighter from the beginning. “Trump charged straight at them [the Left],” he said. “They came out and said who they are—'yes, we believe in disinformation.’” He said Trump continues to represent the kind of ethos we must have to defeat the Left. “Be radical—get married, have kids, embrace traditional gender roles and church, turn off devices, teach people to shoot, worship God, carry concealed and educate your children intentionally,” he said. “It’s what America did. It made us free.”

Underscoring the mission of the NRA, Hegseth pointed out a critical fact: “We don’t have a First Amendment without the Second. We don’t have a free country unless we can say with our mouths what we’re thinking with our minds. Without the Second Amendment, we don’t have a free country. You must defend it.” He warned, “They will call you a racist, a sexist, a homophobe. They are the real lunatics. I mailed my Harvard degree back to Harvard live on national television. Their head chaplain was an atheist. The new fight these days is not in freshman year. It’s 4thgrade,” he explained, as the Left strives to create so-called “perfect human beings through government intervention.”

As for gun owners’ next steps, Hegseth said, “We have to organize, guard the ballot box and win by the margin of cheating.” 

In step with NRA-ILA in assessing what we will face leading into Election Day 2024, he closed by saying, “Holding people accountable is a threat to the system. I get paid to give an opinion”—and so he gave it: “Without a strong NRA, we don’t have a big, strong America. It’s about to get ugly. Hold your family close, stay close to God and fight for this nation.”

Another highlight of the evening was a check presentation to NRA-ILA from NRA donors Larry and Brenda Potterfield and their grandchildren, Jay and Eliza, in the amount of nearly $23 million—representing the tremendous amount MidwayUSA has donated to the NRA since they established the NRA Round Up program in 1992. It gives customers the option to “round up” their purchases to an even dollar amount and donate the change to the NRA-ILA National Endowment for the Protection of the Second Amendment. NRA-ILA takes out 5 percent every year to support its efforts.

That evening it was never more evident how the NRA WLF unites women of influence—and, in this case men—to defend Second Amendment freedoms and secure the NRA’s future through philanthropic leadership. The WLF’s live and silent auctions raised funds essential to strengthening NRA-ILA’s fight to protect freedom and amplified its grassroots efforts as the crowd vowed to stand together. In the words of Hegseth, “Our precious Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights are what separates us”—which is why every person in the room understood we are blessed to be Americans.

The NRA WLF Gala & Auction drew NRA members from as far away as Turkey as NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum member and international outfitter Kaan Karakaya of Shikar Safaris (right) chatted with NRA Publications contributor Phil Phillips and the NRA's Karen Mehall Phillips about the NRA's eternal vigilance in protecting the Second Amendment and the right to hunt.

About the NRA Institute for Legislative Action
No single organization stands with America’s law-abiding gun owners to protect freedom and the Second Amendment more than the NRA. As the NRA’s legislative powerhouse, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) was established in 1975 to preserve the right of all law-abiding Americans to purchase, possess and use firearms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Nearly five decades later, the NRA’s strength and political firepower comes from its membership as it continues to preserve our firearms freedoms into the future. All proceeds from the NRA WLF Gala & Auction will support NRA-ILA’s efforts to protect our mainstream American traditions as we prepare for the most critical election day in history on Tues., Nov. 5. 

About the NRA Women's Leadership Forum
The NRA Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF) began more than a decade ago with a vision to establish a community for the women of the NRA. Since then, it has become one of the NRA’s largest philanthropic groups. With few causes having such a direct impact on our lives, our families and America’s future as the Second Amendment, the NRA WLF works to shape the future as leaders and defenders of freedom, family and of America’s treasured firearms freedoms. 




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