Sep 7, 2008

It was trial by fire recently for seven Leadership Institute trainees in Washington, D.C.

The Washington, DC-based Leadership Institute (LI) is a conservative organization that trains and places conservatives in leadership positions on college campuses and in the media. As part of the Institute's field representative program, seven trainees were sent to Washington, DC's Dupont Circle to gather signatures for a petition in support of traditional marriage. The training exercise allowed the representatives to practice "running a membership table" and to "engage interested passers-by."

Dupont Circle is known for having a sizable liberal and homosexual population. Barry Broussard of Mississippi, one of the trainees, notes the numerous angry reactions and foul gestures they received. However, he also said they "drew a lot of encouragement from people just driving by and giving us the 'thumbs-up.'"

Another trainee, Daniel Cervera, said the hateful responses did not upset him. However, he was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm of those grateful for their presence.

Ian Ivey, director of communications for LI, says they were able to gather 88 signatures.

"One of the things that surprised us the most about this exercise in Dupont Circle was that a group of people came down from the tenth floor of a nearby building – they came out favor of traditional marriage as well," Ivey explains. "So our group there actually attracted quite a bit of attention both from leftists who were irritated by their presence, but also from conservatives who came up and said, 'Boy, are we glad to see you here. It is so refreshing to see someone standing up for traditional values.'"

The petition drive, according to Ivey, was a way to give the trainees hands-on experience before they are sent to college campuses to train students to organize their own conservative groups.