Former Gov. Jeb Bush Addresses The Best-Attended BCA Chairman’s Dinner

BIRMINGHAM – Former Florida governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush addressed the Business Council of Alabama 2014 Chairman’s Dinner that was attended by more than 900 people this week at the Sheraton Hotel ballroom.

Bush, a Florida resident who is the son of former President George H.W. Bush and the brother of former President George W.

Bush, is the only two-term Republican governor of Florida and a possible presidential candidate.

The annual Chairman’s Dinner held Tuesday night was the opportunity for BCA members to be recognized for their involvement in advancing business interests.

“On behalf of the Business Council of Alabama’s officers and boards of directors, I thank you for your support, and I pledge our continued commitment to you and to Alabama’s business community,” BCA President and CEO William J. Canary said.

BCA Chairman Fred McCallum Jr. presented the 2014 BCA Chairman’s Award to state school board member Mary Scott Hunter for her distinguished record of service and her steadfast support of Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards.

“Attracting and retaining good jobs and raising the net worth of Alabama households through quality education are always at the forefront of her efforts,” said McCallum, who is president of AT&T Alabama.

Hunter, elected to the state school board in 2010 and who is unopposed in November, accepted the award. “I believe that our long-term prosperity will rise or fall on the strength of education and whether or not we make smart, strategic education reform that’s right for Alabama,” she said.

In a video, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue praised McCallum’s leadership. “We must advance our agenda of economic opportunity,” Donohue said.

BCA First Vice Chairman and ProgressPac Chairman Marty Abroms, president and managing shareholder of Abroms & Associates PC in Florence, presented 2011 BCA Chairman Will Brooke, a congressional candidate this year, with the Robert “Bubba” Lee Political Courage Award. Lee is a founding member of the BCA.

Abroms also thanked generous Chairman’s Dinner sponsors. “Your contributions are invaluable in supporting the work of this organization as it strives to build a stronger and more productive pro-business environment in Alabama,” Abroms said.

In the traditional Chairman’s speech, McCallum thanked members for their involvement and support of the BCA, Alabama’s leading business advocacy organization.

“Each and every one of you who make up the Business Council of Alabama has worked to create a climate where businesses can reach our full potential and create better lives for all Alabamians,” McCallum said. “At BCA’s core is a member-driven legislative agenda that ensures that, year in and year out, we remain cognizant of and responsive to, the needs of you, our members.”

McCallum spoke of the Business Education Alliance of Alabama that was formed last year to harness the strength of business to advance education.

“It has become a responsibility for the business community to engage in preparing for brighter futures,” McCallum said. “With input and guidance from you we took a giant step forward to realize the power of partnership and the pros of the Business Education Alliance of Alabama.”

McCallum restated the BCA’s support for College and Career Ready Standards. “Put simply, these standards will help our children succeed in school and in life,” he said.

Earlier, former Alabama Revenue Commissioner and Labor Commissioner Tom Surtees received the BCA Distinguished Service and Leadership Award. “You are a longtime friend of the business community and we salute you for a job well done,” Canary said of Surtees.

Former two-term Governor Bush was the evening’s highlight. He briefly updated the audience about his father, brother, and mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, and his own multi-cultural family.

Bush noted that the pessimistic national discussion derives from the fact that young men and women may be the first generation in American history to have a lower standard of living than their parents.

He prescribed a cure – deal with “extraordinary” health care costs, reform entitlement programs, simplify regulations, reform a “complex tax code,” promote an energy policy based on abundant North American energy sources, fix a broken immigration system to make it “economically driven,” and reform education. Bush said he believes “the future of this country is extraordinarily bright” but “we have to fix our problems.”

He challenged the Alabama business community to lead the way to promote early childhood literacy and promote school choice. “We have to get education right and if we do this country will soar,” Bush said.

-Dana Beyerle