By J.V. Lakshmana Rao
Chicago: Chicago’s prestigious Navy Pier wore a festive look for the four-day annual convention and trade show of Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) that began on June 16. The walkways, the corridors, the sprawling convention hall and trade show venue were abuzz with members — both men and women — crowding all possible places. All parking lots of Navy Pier were fully occupied.
The organizers have once again proved that among all Desi associations, AAHOA is the most vibrant and professionally managed organization. It is professionally, politically, socially and culturally active and the annual convention stood testimony to its reputation.
Even as the registration counters were working busily, the opening general session began on June 17, with C.K. Patel, AAHOA vice chairman and convention chair welcoming the guests. It was followed by Tarun S. Patel, AAHOA chairman delivering his opening remarks, awards presentation, and Hemant Patel, AAHOA Treasurer, presenting his annual report.
However, the opening general session was especially marked by the “Keynote: A point-counterpoint debate” with dominant political overtures reflecting the most complex and tricky political issues that the US was facing now.
The lively debate between Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff and senior advisor to President George W. Bush, and Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and moderated by Steven Roberts, a noted journalist of New York Times, evoked peals of laughter and thunderous applauses from the audience. Each speaker tried to overpower the other with their oratory and play of words. As the debate heated up and the speakers indulged in hurling charges and counter-charges, Steven Roberts quipped: “For President Barack Obama, can the present oil spill in the Gulf mean the Katrina of President George Bush?” This observation of Steven Roberts was the result when Terry McAuliffe threw a challenge that Bush was tardy in tackling the Katrina disaster. Terry McAuliffe’s charge only attracted a counter-charge by Karl Rove, who said that Obama was also sluggish and not responsive to the present oil spill in the Gulf. He had mismanaged the oil spill worse than Bush with regard to the Katrina.
Sparks flew between Karl Rove and Terry McAuliffe as the audience laughed and clapped.
Earlier, introducing the debate, Steven Roberts praised AAHOA as a job creating engine in the US. He said the debate would cover present economic, trade, political, immigration, and a wide range of other issues of interest.
Terry McAuliffe said that Obama, who inherited a huge budget deficit, because of President Bush’s faulty economic policies and mishandling of country’s economy, was working hard to put the economy back on the right track and create jobs. “Obama is working very hard to revamp economy. He is especially working hard to help small businesses. During eight years of Bush’s Presidency, eight million jobs were lost,” he added. Terry McAuliffe also said President Bill Clinton created several jobs during his eight years of Presidency. He had handed over a surplus budget to President Bush.
In reply, Karl Rove said that the Americans elected Bush as their Commander-in-Chief, who had defended the country. Bush was a risk taker. Nothing could be achieved without taking a risk. “But Obama had spent heavily as stimulus money. He did not do any better. He did nothing. He made empty promises. He has increased the national debt. He has not created any jobs.”
Terry McAuliffe said that Bush’s approval rate had fallen steeply and the Republicans had suffered a setback. Obama was aware of the role played by small businesses. The bill passed a few days ago was intended to help the small businesses in a big way.
Karl Rove said that Republicans were gaining strength. It was evident from the recently concluded primary polls. Women were successful. If the trend continues, Republicans will gain more seats in the House. Republicans would gain majority in 2012. Obama’s approval rating was also falling. In the 17 months in office, he had not shown any improvement. If the trend continues, Republicans would be back in power in the next elections.
Presenting his financial report, Hemanat Patel said that AAHOA was financially sound with its revenue registering $ 6 million and expenses at 5.9 million.
The grand prize for membership went to Arshi Malde, while the first prize was shared by B. Zalavada and Ankit Patel. The second prize was bagged by Mahesh D. Patel.
In his opening address, Tarun S. Patel said that AAHOA’s strength was in the unity and support of its members. “As an association with more than 10,000 members, who own 20,000 hotels across the US and employing 570,000 American workers with a $9 billion payroll, our voice is a strong one. One of AAHOA’s goals during my term as chairman was to make sure this voice was prominent and considered by legislators on Capital Hill and at the state and local levels of government. We have made considerable progress in this regard through the AAHOA PAC, which remains the lifeblood of our political advocacy efforts,” he added.
Sounding optimistic and confident about the future, he said that AAHOA was on the move and would even scale greater heights under the leadership of his successor as chairman, C.K. Patel, as the economy was sure to rebound.
Earlier, welcoming the gathering C.K. Patel reiterated the convention theme – One vision: One voice – and said AAHOA would be striving for fairness to all the members in the face of present economic downturn. As he would be taking charge as chairman of AAHOA and working for the progress of members, he asked them to give their feedback, creative ideas and involvement in the association in order to take AAHOA and fair franchising to an even higher level.
The trade show, set up in six aisles itself was a center of attraction and education to prospective and current hoteliers, in which about 350 vendors participated. The show was a big draw.
As this news report went to the press, there was so much still in store for the members in the next two days to indulge in, at the convention. With several seminars and workshops addressed and participated by high profile experts in various economic, trade, political, legal and cultural fields and live entertainment, the convention promised to be very educative, entertaining and enjoyable.