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Forsyth man returns from Republican convention
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Forsyth County News
After returning from the Republican National Convention, alternate delegate Lee Ellis of Forsyth County described his experience in terms a Georgia Bulldog fan could appreciate.

“It was like, if you went to a Georgia football game when the whole stadium was filled with nothing but Georgia fans,” he said. “And they’re all celebrating Georgia and there weren’t any opponents there.

“It made it kind of nice that there were a lot of like-minded people who had similar beliefs on things ... it made it a very friendly environment.”

Ellis, one of three alternates and three delegates from Georgia’s 9th congressional district, left his Forsyth home Friday to attend the four-day convention, which began Monday.

While he was among thousands of delegates and alternates from across the country, Ellis’ experience was a bit different.

Having been held prisoner during the Vietnam War at the same site as Republican Presidential candidate John McCain, Ellis attended delegate meetings as a guest speaker, instead of an audience member.

Between Monday and Wednesday, Ellis spoke at five delegate meetings. He shared the bill with heavy hitters, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Republican first-lady hopeful Cindy McCain, who he described as “just such an impressive person.”

“The kind of things she’s done from all over the world to help less fortunate people,” he said. “Someone described her as a velvet hammer, someone who is very compassionate, but also very strong in her commitment to do what needs to be done for people that are hurting.

“I think she had run out of energy a little bit by [Thursday] night and I think it was more of a scripted speech, whereas she was speaking free-form at the breakfast meetings.”

Even when Ellis wasn’t speaking alongside major party players, he was surrounded by them, including the night he sat a row behind the McCain family.

“We got to see them and shake hands with them and visit with them,” he said.

“And then President George (H.W.) Bush came in and we were able to greet him because he sat in the row in front of us also, so that made it special.

“But probably the most exciting thing was knowing we had a ticket lined up that was really going to be a great ticket and a winning ticket for the fall.”

Part of the convention was dedicated to introducing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the party’s vice presidential nominee. While Palin was a virtual unknown leading into the convention, it didn’t take long for the crowd to warm up to her, Ellis said.

“She lifted it up,” he said. “Having a lady on the vice presidential ticket who hunts and is tough and roots out corruption, that was very appealing. The ladies were really excited, but the men were too.”

Palin, who Ellis said can break through the glass ceiling this election, also delivered one of his two favorite speeches.
“As far as just oratory, there’s no question that Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin, they hit home runs and were the best speakers,” he said. “But they’re naturally gifted speakers, whereas some others were not quite as naturally talented for speaking.

“I heard one of the commentators on TV... say what she did, you can’t train for. That’s just talent.”

Ellis has been a McCain fan since his bid for the Republican presidential ticket in 2000. Being such a devotee, Ellis has watched McCain speak at several venues over the years.

As for the nominee’s acceptance speech Thursday, Ellis said, “I’ve probably heard him do better.”

“I think he’s probably just worn out. The pace of it and being out there speaking in front of all that crowd is not his best format,” he said.

“He’s in his best format when it’s more informal. He moved toward that. But he didn’t move quite far enough, I thought.

“It was probably a little bit longer than I would have liked and a bit more formal than I thought would have been best, but the content was great and he was very well received. There was a lot of energy there and people were crying ... it was a much more emotional event than it sounded like if you were there live.”

Ellis’ days began early in the morning, and ended as late as 2 a.m. But as tired as he was after hearing Palin and Giuliani’s speeches, Ellis stayed up later to watch them again.

“The body language and the power of what they were saying was actually much stronger on television, even though the energy of the crowd was much stronger being live in the audience,” he said.

“It was great to be there with people screaming and standing and cheering and waving their signs. That was very exciting and energizing, but it was also good to sit up and listen to their speeches again on TV.

“All in all, it was just a fantastic experience.”