The adage “the third time is the charm” proved true over the 2022 Memorial Day weekend as NRA’s Annual Meetings & Exhibits finally took place in Houston, after twice being cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. We would be remiss, however, if we didn’t remind readers that In 2021 it was the highly motivated women of the NRA Women’s Leadership Forum (NRA WLF) who proved the show must go on, at least in part, coming together in spirit to Livestream its annual Luncheon & Auction after the abrupt cancel of the 150th meetings.
Thanks to technology and the determination of the WLF, that event was a resounding success. But if Covid has taught us anything, it’s that virtual get-togethers, while better than no get-togethers, are no substitute for the energy and camaraderie generated by hundreds of likeminded, freedom-loving women when they gather under one roof—or in this case, one ballroom at the Houston Marriott. In fact, there was little room for doubt that this Annual Meetings favorite event was back in a big way, as the sweet sound of freedom rang out when WLF Co-Chair Janet Nyce opened the gathering with an unexpected a capella rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner,” inviting the 450 women in attendance to rise and join her. The inspiring tribute to America set the tone for the keynote address, delivered by Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, whose speech focused heavily on the current state of the country, imploring national harmony.
“You know who else talked to us about harmony?” she asked. “President Lincoln, in his Gettysburg address, when he said 4 score and 7 years ago our forefathers brought forth a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Sears said we are engaged in a test whether that nation, or any nation, can endure.
“We will endure, for the sake of our children’s children, we will endure,” she said. “Our children will survive, they will thrive, because we will leave it better than we found it. Our children are depending on us. There is no other refuge like America. Our people fight—they die—to preserve her.”
Sears continued: “We must preserve America. There is no utopia. Every country has its faults.” She shared, “We have a saying in church: ‘I may not be what I’m supposed to be, but I ain’t what I used to be.’ Because here I am, an immigrant, a woman, black, and yet I am the Lt. Gov of the great state of Virginia.” The audience rose for a standing ovation, assuring Sears of their gratitude for her support of the Second Amendment.
Prior to Sears’ address, NRA Immediate Past President Carolyn Meadows was bestowed the 2022 NRA WLF Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented in absentia by NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, and accepted on her behalf by longtime friends former NRA President David Keene and former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.). Meadows, known as “Georgia’s Steel Peach,” is only the third woman president in NRA’s history, and was praised by LaPierre for blending the Second Amendment into every facet of her life. Rep. Barr said that Meadows has devoted her life not only to making a difference, but also ensuring that others make a difference. “Thank you from the bottom our hearts for being able to recognize such a wonderful, beautiful woman who has given her life to the United States of America and the Constitution thereof,” he said.
One of the most anticipated highlights of the event was the live auction, once again presided over by the incredibly animated charity auctioneer Yve Rojas. Auction items ranged from a weeklong adventure for six at an Arizona dude ranch; outfitted domestic hunt packages for various North American game, including pheasant and alligator; to exotic destinations like Tuscany for a roe deer hunt and winery tour. Concurrently, the silent online auction, managed by bidders through an app, allowed women and men from any location to bid on firearms, gear, jewelry, artwork and home décor, clothing and hundreds of other unique items. This portion of the auction wrapped up its final hours after having been open to bids for a few weeks. All proceeds from the Luncheon & Auction went to NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, which continues to work tirelessly nationwide to ensure our rights remain intact through the 2022 midterm elections and beyond.
New Energy Breakfast
But the WLF Luncheon & Auction did not hold a monopoly on the weekend’s excitement. The “Women’s New Energy” breakfast on Sunday morning offered a chance for energizing new Second Amendment warriors, as they were introduced to NRA’s programs, outreach efforts and mission as it relates to women. This newer yet fast-growing annual event, now in its seventh year, has gained tremendous traction, growing in size each year.
First-time attendee Liz Foley said the event was electrifying. “It could have just have easily been called ‘the High Energy Breakfast,’” she said. “The room was abuzz with the sound of the strongest, most powerful voices coming together to make a difference in preserving the Second Amendment and the future of freedom!”
Indeed the energy in the room was palpable. The WNEB committee, comprised of NRA Board members NRA Past President and WNEB founder Sandy Froman, Maria Heil and Linda Walker—all stewards in the fight to maintain the freedoms ensured under the Second Amendment—kicked off the event with individual remarks and the Pledge of Allegiance. NRA Board member and Women’s Leadership Co-Chair Janet Nyce followed the introductions by once again leading a patriotic sing-along of the national anthem.
Sandy Froman presented the 2022 New Energy Breakfast Trailblazer Award to Andrea Cerwinski, vice president of marketing & business development for Aimpoint.
Each woman then was asked to move to the table that best represented the NRA outreach program they wanted to learn more about, identified by a placard on each table. Whether it was concealed carry and personal protection, politics and grassroots, hunting and conservation, competitive shooting or youth programs, each table of 10 women engaged in discussion, exchanging ideas, arriving at advice and suggestions to share with the other attendees, in hopes of providing some tools and resources for others looking to advance their Second Amendment pursuits.
Competitive Shooting champion Becky Yackley says she has been coming to this breakfast for years, and recommends that women new to the 2A community attend for the chance to meet and truly engage with other women. “There are several events for women at the NRA Annual meetings, but this breakfast is laid back enough that you DO have time to talk, connect, and if you can only spend a short time, you still meet others,” she said.
“I met a mother and daughter from Alaska (they are featured on History’s Mountain Men series) who hunt to help others procure food. A sustainable and ecologically responsible undertaking, these two women share to help feed others and steward natural resources!” said Becky. “It always feels like a breath of fresh air to just hear how and why so many women from all over the country live a life involved in firearms and the Second Amendment.”
Liz Foley summed up the spirit of the New Energy Breakfast. “Connections and friendships were forged instantly by an unspoken bond of the most amazing spirits joined in a common goal,” she said. “The energy generated that Sunday morning is a powerful force; inspiring and yes, energizing women of all backgrounds and interests to learn about each other, share their experiences, their passion for the NRA and all our programs and focusing on the difference we can make as a united team.” She added, “The magnitude of the influence women will have in the future of the Second Amendment compares only to the shared values and friendships made at the New Energy Breakfast.”