By Betsy Thorpe
Dozens of travelers leave I-40 at Exit 196 everyday, some to visit friends and family, others for fuel and or refreshment. They all have a story to tell and every week we will share a tale or two that we heard at Exit 196.
Headed home on Sunday morning after attending Saturday’s Jackson Day Dinner with more than 3,000 members of the Tennessee Democratic Party, a group from West Tennessee made a quick breakfast stop at Exit 196. The group that included a public school teacher, and a hospice nurse happily reported that the remarks offered by former Vice President Al Gore and the keynote address presented by President Bill Clinton both offered messages of hope and encouragement regarding the future of the Democratic Party.
The Tennessee Democratic Party’s first Jackson Day fundraiser dinner took place in the late 1970’s at the Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson, the man to whom the Party traces its philosophical roots. Today the Jackson day dinner is an annual celebration and the major fundraiser of the Tennessee Democratic Party. The Nashville event has been held in local hotel ballrooms, the Wildhorse Saloon, the Ryman Auditorium as well as several times in tents on the Hermitage grounds.
Congressman Jim Cooper who first attended a Jackson Day with his parents, stated that this year’s “Jackson Day was a great success. Having former President Clinton share the stage and rouse the crowd with our own Al Gore was an honor and delight. I have been attending Jackson Day for almost 40 years now, and every year I am still amazed at the energy and enthusiasm the event always brings.”
In 1991 the Jackson Day dinner was held at the Opryland Hotel and many attendees of that event believe that then Governor Bill Clinton’s delivery of an impromptu keynote address played a major role in the upcoming presidential race. Asked to speak when scheduled keynote speaker Senator Jay Rockefeller was rushed to a local hospital after choking on a chicken bone, Clinton gave a powerful presentation, speaking as if he had weeks to prepare his remarks. Party members realizing his exceptional speaking ability and natural charisma urged him to run for President. Soon after he launched his successful presidential campaign.
This year’s Jackson Day dinner reportedly raised more than $600,000 for the Tennessee Democratic Party and will go on record as surpassing the Party’s expectations of a successful Jackson Day by more than doubling the best of past years efforts.
At Exit 196 we enjoyed learning about this interesting Nashville political tradition and hope that next year some visiting attendees of the Jackson Day dinner will stop by and share their experiences with us.