In September and October of 2011, the Brennan Society of Oklahoma celebrates its first anniversary.
The society was envisioned during an informal conversation over a meal at the Dynasty Chinese Restaurant in Edmond. Present in August 2010 were Gene and LaDonna Hunt, Ismat Esrar, Iris Lochner and Tom Guild. As the progressive friends talked things over, it became clear that a progressive presence with clear goals was needed in Oklahoma.
A second conclave took place at Applebee’s Restaurant in Edmond as a follow up discussion. Present were the Hunts, Tom Guild and Heather and Brett Jones. Dissatisfaction with the outcome of the 2010 primary and general elections led to a consensus that action was needed.
In September of 2010 a formal group meeting was held at Ismat Esrar’s home in Edmond. Nine people were present. Ismat’s wife cooked a delicious Bangladeshi meal. Afterwards a discussion ensued as to what issues should be promoted by the newly formed group. The group also discussed naming the new organization after former U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. The Brennan Society became a reality.
By e-mail and at an October 2010 meeting at Tom Guild’s home in Edmond attended by 14 people, the group picked quality education, Social Security, the Health Care Reform Law of 2010, government funding for stem cell research, equal rights for the GLBT community, supporting collective bargaining and promoting tolerance among all people as crucial issues.
Later the list of threshold issues was further developed and is as follows—
- Providing Affordable and Quality Education for All People
- Protecting Social Security and Medicare
- Implementing the Affordable Care Act of 2010
- Supporting Funding for Stem Cell Research
- Supporting Equal Rights for the GLBT Community
- Supporting the Right to Organize and Collectively Bargain and
- Promoting Tolerance, Peace, and Social Harmony Among All People
The group decided that those considering membership in the society should ponder these issues and should consider joining if agreeing with at least 6 of 7.
A second meeting at Ismat’s house was held in November of 2010 attended by 23 people. Paid annual memberships for $20 and lifetime memberships for $200 were instituted in January of 2011. Frosty Troy, Tom Guild and Arnold and Beverly Hamilton were the first paid members of the new organization. Recently Tom Guild became the first lifetime member of the Brennan Society of Oklahoma. The first meeting in2011 was held at Gene and LaDonna’s Hunt’s home in Oklahoma City in January and the second gathering was held at the home of Garry Atkinson in Edmond in February.
At the January and February 2011 meetings a governing board of nine justices forming a Brennan Society Supreme Court was elected. Iris Lochner, Ismat Esrar, Garry Atkinson and Tom Guild were elected as justices in January. LaDonna Hunt, Stephan Hamilton, Jane Anderson, David Gwinn and Jason Madrid were elected in February.
In March, the group grew large enough that a public meeting place was needed and the Brennan Society moved its Sunday afternoon monthly meetings to Denny’s Restaurant in Edmond.
In March, nearly thirty society members were elected delegates to the Oklahoma County Democratic Convention. Tom Guild nominated LaDonna Hunt for OCDP Secretary and with the unanimous support of the society’s delegates she was elected at the April county convention. In April, the society endorsed Debbie Hogue-Downing and Jeff Marsel for chair and vice chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party’s Fifth District. Both were elected.
The society endorsed Dana Orwig and Wallace Collins for chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party. Wallace was elected chair and Dana was elected vice chair at the May state convention. The society also endorsed Dave Radcliffe, who was elected ODP Secretary.
In June, a monthly Wednesday evening Dinner with Friends was instituted at Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler in Edmond. Also in June, the society endorsed Ismat Esrar for a position on the Oklahoma Public Employees Association. Ismat was elected in August 2011 to serve a two-year term on the board.
A large number of Brennan Society Members and Leaders are currently involved in Tom Guild’s Exploratory Campaign for Congress in Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District. Seven have hosted or co-hosted meet and greet receptions for Tom.
The society co-sponsored a rally for affirmative action and marched in the inaugural 2011 Labor Fest Parade. Several members participated under the Brennan Society Banner in the 2011 AIDS Walk.
The Brennan Society of Oklahoma has nearly 70 paid members and nearly 170 friends on its facebook page.
As Justice Brennan said, “The quest for freedom, dignity, and the rights of man will never end.” He also said that the United States Constitution exists to guarantee “the essential dignity and worth of each individual.”
In a productive first year, the Brennan Society has made and is making a difference in Oklahoma. The society is achieving its vision to make Oklahoma a more welcoming and diverse place to live and to grow and prosper!