A record crowd of about 900 were in attendance Thursday night as The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs honored Sen. Tom Coburn with its 2014 Citizenship Award.
Conservative state leaders and community members celebrated inside the Sam Noble Special Events Center at The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, where Coburn, R-Muskogee, received multiple standing ovations.
He kept his acceptance speech short — about three minues — to recognize his family for sticking with him through all the sacrifices he’s made during a long political career, to share his positive outlook for the state’s conservative base, and to thank the OCPA for the honor.
“There isn’t a better state in the country to represent in Washington than Oklahoma,” Coburn said. “I love our strength. I love our courage. It is very hard not to follow what you see at home.”
OCPA — a public policy research organization focused on state issues concerning limited government, individual liberty and a free-market economy — honors a national leader each year who shares its values at the citizenship dinner.
Coburn, 65, has spent a combined 15 years in the senate pushing initiatives to eliminate government waste and lower the national deficit.
Coburn, a former OCPA trustee, will resign after the current session of Congress, foregoing the final two years of his term. Coburn said in a January statement that the decision was not directly linked to his recurring fight against prostate cancer, but rather a personal decision to focus on the next stage of his life.
His name is now among a long list of high-profile conservative thinkers to win the award throughout the years — including Jeb Bush, former Florida Gov., and Ed Feulner, founder of The Heritage Foundation.
Charles Krauthammer, a syndicated columnist who won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for commentary writing, was the dinner’s keynote speaker.
“I’m delighted to be in this wonderful state,” Krauthammer said. “Most of all, I’m honored to be in the presence of a wonderful senator. I concur with everything that’s been said about him today. He’s a man of unusual integrity and courage. We will miss him greatly in Washington ... I hope that one day you will send him back to us.”