Rep. Steny Hoyer introduces Dr. Kathy O’Brien (seated foreground).

Leonardtown, MD  — Hillary Clinton’s drive to smash the glass ceiling in her quest for the presidency of the United States was centerpiece of this year’s St. Mary’s County Democrat of the Year dinner and awards ceremony. This year’s event at Olde Breton Inn in Leonardtown Sept. 9 celebrated Democratic women’s achievements and milestones in the Year of Women 2016. And this year’s honoree, Dr. Kathleen O’Brien, is a woman with a long history of service to the party.

Also honored by the party were this year’s John Lancaster Award recipient J. Alonzo Gaskin, Excellence in Service Award winner Bill Bates and Rising Star Devin Bohanan.

Speaker after speaker not only mentioned the prospect of having the first woman president but also the danger of her opponent Donald Trump. Representative Steny Hoyer [D – Fifth District] called the November election the most important of his lifetime because of Trump’s candidacy. Mocking Trump’s call to Make America Great Again, Hoyer insisted “America is great right now,” which was met by a thunderous applause from the crowd packed into the inn’s ballroom.

Hoyer talked of always voting for a Democratic president, but observing that the Republicans who prevailed during his term in office, including Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes weren’t dangerous to the country as Trump is. “Mitt Romney would not have been dangerous to our country.” He said the country needed “rational Republicans” who reflect the values of America. “Trump does not reflect the values of our country,” he concluded.

Hoyer observed that many people don’t like Hillary Clinton. But he asked, “Do people dislike Hillary Clinton more than they love their country!”

Speakers also derided Trump’s stance of immigration. Hoyer pointed to his neighbors and friends Drs. Vinnie and Ila Shah who emigrated to this country and significantly changed the health care delivery system of the region. “They have made it better,” he proudly declared.

Dr. O’Brien in her speech revealed that her mother was an “illegal immigrant” from Ireland who entered the country through Canada. She praised her mother’s courage — “a force of nature.” O’Brien talked about how proud she was as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to nominate Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential nominee.

At one point Dr. O’Brien asked for all women in the audience to stand and be recognized. She said she represented all of those women standing. “I stand on the shoulders of women giants,” she exclaimed.

Bohanan was introduced by his proud father former Delegate John Bohanan, who turned the tables because last year his son introduced his father as an award recipient. John Bohanan said his son represented the young hard workers who were the future of the party.

The John Lancaster Award is named after the late commissioner and school board member. Lancaster came to the county in the 1950’s from segregated rural Virginia to run the county’s 4-H program. Gaskin told about his first trip outside the county was with a 4-H group lead by Lancaster

Bates was introduced by former Maryland Senator Roy Dyson, who said the county could return to being Democratic with more workers like Bates, “It can be ours again but we are going to have to do it with many, many, many Bill Bares.”

Before the awards ceremony, Jane Sypher gave a special presentation on “The Women of St. Mary’s County”: in which she enumerated the many milestones over time from Mistress Margaret Brent to the present time.

Also speaking at the ceremony were: Representative Chris Van Hollen, candidate for U.S, Senate; former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker.

Since the Republicans have taken over virtually all elective offices in St. Mary’s County (except clerk of the court), the room was filled with a lot of former elected officials. Former commissioner presidents Jackie Russell and Julie Randall acted as masters of ceremony.

The National Anthem was performed by Katie Alvey and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by Adrienne Dixon. Blessing for the meal was given by Dr. Janice Walthour.

Contact Dick Myers at dick.myers@thebaynet.com