OPINION: My breakfast with Ron DeSantis


Grace Davies

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis addresses the crowd at the Lincoln Breakfast April 13, 2023.

Grace Davies, Staff Reporter

On April 13, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis addressed a packed crowd inside Akron’s Quaker Square for the 90th annual Lincoln Breakfast.

Usually a dinner affair, the event hosted by the Summit County Republican Party celebrates the life and achievements of Abraham Lincoln. Tickets started at $100 and even ballooned up to $10,000 for the highest VIP package, which guaranteed a photo with the man of the hour. 

I found the event innocently enough, just scrolling through the main page of the Akron Beacon Journal looking for something to catch my attention; something did and I immediately began trying to see if I could cover this event. 

After entering the building through an incredibly futuristic security system, I looked around the then-empty room and also checked the food spread: two giant silver platters of ingredients for lox and the traditional “American” breakfast of eggs, sausage and carafes of no-pulp orange juice. 

A breakfast table at the Lincoln Breakfast April 13, 2023. (Grace Davies)

People slowly filled the ballroom, the room growing loud with a mixture of laughing and various clinks from glasses or silverware slapping through the breakfast process.

The first speaker was Bryan Williams, chairman of the Summit County Republican Party. Aside from thanking the government officials in attendance, he was also one of the speakers who discussed Lincoln. He spoke about his cultural legacy, especially within the Republican party. He was watching over the room quite literally with a ceiling-to-floor portrait sitting to my left. 

“I think it’s really interesting,” he said. “That he found his way to run with the president and you all know the rest. [He passed the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the constitution and presided over the civil war] to end slavery and save our union at the same time.”

Williams was followed by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who escalated the anecdotes with alarmist rhetoric, which would go on to be stoked by DeSantis’ usual talking points. 

One of the main points LaRose brought up was voting in Ohio. Does this relate to the legacy of our 16th president? I’m unsure. 

“We know that Ohioans,” he said. “They showed up [to vote] in massive numbers and voted honest elections. […] We had record turnout in 2022. And in all of those years, Ohioans elected Republicans. I spoke to a group of plumbers just a couple months ago, and I said, ‘You know what, guys? The Democrats have left you a long time ago.’ They’re so focused on letting boys use girls’ bathrooms. [The Democrats are focused on] the wrong issues.”

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose introduces Ron DeSantis April 13, 2023. (Grace Davies)

After that little speech from LaRose, DeSantis finally took the stage with a room full of applause and a standing ovation. 

DeSantis also neglected to mention Lincoln in his speech. Is this a requirement? No, but it would tie whatever he was saying into the theme of the event. 

Instead, DeSantis went to some of his usual talking points: Florida’s greatness and the alleged wave of wokeness that he and the audience think is decaying the country. 

One of his interesting talking points was his stance on polling and why he doesn’t think it’s useful. 

“I’m gonna lead by conviction and I’m not taking polls,” he said. “To this day, I have not taken a single poll about any issues in the state of Florida. [A] poll is snapshot. I can take a poll of this room, then I can ask the question differently, and I would get a different result. So polls have limited utility. A leader is not gonna be captive to polls.”

DeSantis mentioned leading by deeds and said politics isn’t about branding. If confronted, DeSantis would probably deny he has any form of branding, but it’s easy to see how there is some form of curation there. If you think of the recent attempts at book bannings, the first example that comes to mind is Florida’s recent bannings, spearheaded by DeSantis. 

DeSantis went into a lengthy list of Florida’s achievements under his governance: “…protecting businesses, protecting students’ right to education [and] protecting people from losing their job over the mandates…”

He also discussed his reaction to the wave of protests in 2020 and how he dealt a fist of harsh punishments, something that rang eerily surreal given the then-incoming verdict of the Jayland Walker trial. 

“We made sure anybody who stepped out of line or engaged in violence didn’t get a slap on the wrist,” he said. ”They got the inside of the jail cell ‘cause we’re holding people accountable. [We fought soft-on] crime policies like eliminating cash bail or jail break legislation that lets dangerous criminals out of jail before they even finish their sentence. We see the plague across this country of Left-wing district attorneys getting elected, oftentimes with large financial support from people like George Soros, when they pledge to ignore laws they don’t like [and] let criminals roam free.”

Personally, I’m not in favor of mega-donors, and George Soros’ mentioning made me feel even more uneasy, as he is often mentioned in anti-Semitic-leaning conspiracy theories

DeSantis also recently signed legislation that helps combat hate crime, with Florida having a doubling number of anti-Semitic hate crimes since 2020, according to the ACLU.

However, eventually DeSantis swung back to how Florida’s social atmosphere has done nothing but benefit citizens.

“I’m just proud that when the world lost its mind,” he said, “when common sense suddenly became an uncommon virtue, Florida stood as a refuge of sanity, a citadel of freedom for not only our citizens, other Americans, and indeed the people around the world who escaped Draconian Policies to come to our state. We refused to let our state descend into some type of Faucian dystopia.”

It also wouldn’t be a DeSantis speech without mentioning his most-reported on issue, education, which is another topic he plants his fist down with what Florida is going to do and going to avoid. 

“I don’t think anybody has led more forthrightly on this issue than Florida is on the issue of education,” he said. “We believe the purpose of our schools is to teach kids how to think for themselves [and] give them a proper foundation not to impose political ideology on students.”

DeSantis followed this with how he plans to keep parents as involved as possible in their students education, including the recent “Universal School Choice” legislation he recently signed into Florida law. He continued his plans with education by banning such topics like Critical Race Theory to avoid “ideological indoctrination.”

Ron DeSantis, special guest at the Lincoln Breakfast, speaks to an attentive crowd. (Grace Davies)

“We’re doing a renewed emphasis on American Civics so graduating students [have an] understanding of what it means to be an American,” he said. “[We don’t want them to be] some listless vessel that has no idea why people fought and died for our country.” 

DeSantis said this educational focus comes from his place as a father rather than a governor, but nevertheless, he continued. He even mentioned Disney’s issues with the government of Florida as a result of some of his policies, but he insisted, “there’s a new sheriff in town.” 

Wonder how that will play up in court

DeSantis then continued his discussion on education, expanding it to his usual anti-trans rhetoric. 

“It is wrong to tell some second grade student that they may have been born in the wrong body,” he said. “I think that girls and athletes should be able to compete with fairness and with integrity. We’ve also done rules and legislation for physicians who are taking minors and doing sex change operations. When they do that, they’re gonna lose their medical license.”

To wrap it up, DeSantis talked about American culture, its current “decay” and how his model can fix it all. 

“We have witnessed a great American exodus,” he said. “[Our] states governed by leftist politicians [are] trying to pursue leftist ideology at the expense of the public good […] These cities and states have failed the basic task of government. They are captive to left-wing ideology and [are more concerned with] public performance. These left-wing states embrace COVID-authoritarianism more than any other place, maybe even in the world.”

“This is a woke mind virus in action. This is an ideology that is devoid of truth and reason. It’s an ideology we in Florida reject. We will stand for what’s right.” 

What to make of all this? 

For starters (and to play semantics) I didn’t walk away with anything about Abraham Lincoln nor did I take away anything new about Ron DeSantis. I knew he would attack the “woke left,” I knew he would attack trans people or critical race theory or COVID mandates or the institute of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). 

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln. The annual event, hosted by the Summit County Republican Party, celebrates the life and achievements of the 16th president. (Grace Davies)

Despite what he may say, he has a brand, and I know how he would react to most social issues. 

I also knew the people in the room, due to the amount of applause, agreed with him. That’s what I truly took away. It’s different to see politicians like this through a virtual medium but when I’m sitting there, drinking orange juice, supposed to be having a good time while the said person talks about the country as some rotting corpse – that feels more threatening. 

DeSantis could write this piece off as “leftist dribble” or some other two four-point words put together, but I know his policies place a threat to people I know and love – and even to myself. That’s what I really learned.

Call that dramatic, but DeSantis called the country a “Faucian dystopia,” so you can ultimately determine whose flowery language has a bigger impact on the future.

Grace Davies is a Staff Reporter. Contact her at [email protected].