CLEVELAND — The Republican National Convention opened Monday with a roll call tribute to Republican leaders who died over the past year, ending the video with an image of former first lady Nancy Reagan, and the crowd went wild.
Other basic, unifying rally points for Republicans — calls for smaller government, a strong defense, devotion to President Ronald Reagan — opened the event at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. But the opening speeches also sought to show a new face to the Grand Old Party.
“For too long, our Republican leaders have not been making its case to millennials,” said Alexandra Smith, first woman president of the College Republican National Committee. “There has been too much ‘old’ and not much ‘grand.’ ”
She quoted President Ronald Reagan, who served long before she was born, and his conservative values of free markets as the same values that energize her generation.
“He warned that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” she said. “These are not just conservative values, they are millennial values. Together we are unstoppable. . . . We are the new face of the Grand Old Party.”
Charlie Kirk, founder of the Turning Point USA organization, noted only Republicans had two Latinos and an Indian-American running in the presidential primary, have nine senators under 50 years old, and named the youngest speaker of the house — Paul Ryan — in decades.
“Bernie Sanders, by the way, is like three times my age,” Kirk said from the massive podium in the Quicken Loans Arena. “Democrats embody old school corruption.”
Matthew Walter, the young head of the Republican State Leadership Committee, said his group is recruiting thousands of ethnically diverse candidates and women for office on the state level. He said Republicans have taken 900 local and state government posts during the Obama administration.
“We’ll see you down ticket on Election Day!” said Walter, a former spokesman for the New York State Senate’s Republican majority in Albany.
Colorado State Rep. Libby Szabo said female Republicans are also part of the party’s future.
She said Democrat Hillary Clinton is only hiding old-style politics “in a brightly colored pantsuit. . . . We need new leadership.”