20th Annual SpeakOut Illinois Conference Inspires Attendees

Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society presents David Bereit with the 2011 Henry Hyde Life Leadership Award [Photo by Ann Scheidler]

The 20th annual SpeakOut Illinois conference was a great success.

Keynote speaker Ken Blackwell of the Family Research Council began the day by sharing a bit of his personal family story and his education at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

He told the crowd of 300 that when he left for college, his grandmother, who did not graduate from high school, told him that three books were the most important he would ever open – his date book, which would reveal how he spent his time, his checkbook, which would reveal what he valued and the Good Book, which would give him direction for his life.

Four concurrent workshops provided attendees with new information in their work for the sanctity of life. The League’s executive director Eric Scheidler gave his listeners important insights into the most effective way to communicate one’s pro-life commitment, using the League’s Sharing the Pro-Life Message as a guidebook to talking about abortion with friends, family and colleagues.

Bill Beckman of Illinois Right to Life and Illinois attorney Carl Schroeder presented a workshop on the attacks aimed at the terminally ill and those with disabilities.

Rev. Doug Merkey, founder of Churches for Life, shared his insights as a pastor and a passionate pro-lifer on how to best energize the church community. His presentation included much of the same advice on communication that Eric imparted in his workshop. Merkey recommends establishing Life Teams in parishes and making sure that pro-life efforts are included in the church budget if they are to be successful.

David Smith, director of the Illinois Family Institute, moderated a political panel with a Republican and a Democrat Illinois legislator, to discuss how pro-lifers can effect public policy.

David Bereit, founder and director of 40 Days for Life, received the Henry Hyde Life Leadership Award for his selfless dedication to restoring the sanctity of life. He told his audience that whatever hurdles we encounter as we fight abortion and no matter how much we would like to step back and let someone else take over, we should “do it anyway,” with the grace of God.

The conference ended with a memorial service, led by Father Richard Simon, pastor of St. Lambert’s parish in Skokie, Illinois, for the babies who die by abortion and the women who are harmed. A young woman who turned to CareNet when she was faced with an unexpected pregnancy, testified to the joy her son Hayden brought to her family. Seven month old Hayden punctuated his mom’s remarks with a little cheer and a wave to the audience.

Musician Debbie K closed the day with a song she wrote especially for the occasion — Are You Ready.

Recordings of all talks given at the SpeakOut Illlinois 2011 conference are available here.

SpeakOut Illinois is an annual conference presented by the coalition of 36 Illinois pro-life organizations. Visit the SpeakOut website for more information on the great organizations that make up this coalition.

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