Photo by Brian Giandelone
DULUTH -- Carol Yoder expected to hear Sarah Palin talk about politics during a speech Tuesday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Instead, she found a rocking worship service, featuring Alaska's former governor in a sermon on acceptance and love of special-needs families.
"I think what they are doing is a good thing," Yoder, of Auburn, said of her pleasant surprise Tuesday. "Without all the sound bites from the press, I wanted to hear her talk in person. ... I think as a mother, she will have a lot to say that is just as important as the political views."
In the first ever P.U.R.E. celebration to support Zachariah's Way, a ministry to teach churches how to support special-needs families, Palin used the opportunity to talk about the lessons her son Trig, who has Down syndrome, has taught her.
The 2008 vice presidential candidate talked candidly about her fear when she learned the boy would have special needs and the judgments she has encountered from people and the press.
And, after rousing praise songs from Christian recording artist Chris Tomlin, she quoted scripture about finding God's purpose and strength through their journey.
She also gave her political fan base some of what they came looking for, talking about the potential dangers of Obamacare to special-needs children. She said families could see their health care choices "diminished," and a cap on flexible spending accounts would amount to a "healthy tax increase."
Despite her possible presidential candidacy in 2012, Palin focused mostly on the personal side of her story, not the politics.
"Trig's slower development is more than made up for with his little heart of gold," Palin said, adopting the ministry's new vernacular of referring to special-needs children as pure people and saying she hoped the movement caught fire throughout the world.
She talked about her 2-year-old's morning routine, where he pulls himself up in his crib, wipes his eyes and begins clapping.
"He applauds the day every day," she said. "That is what my pure son teaches me."
The event was special for 10-year-old Rosemary Smith, who got to see one of her idols up close.
"Last Halloween, I dressed up as Sarah Palin, and my brother was McCain," she said, adding that she liked the political figure because, "she's a good person."
The crowd at the Arena came well short of filling the seats, even though ticket prices had been slashed the weekend before the event.
But Palin promised to donate her speaker's fee to the ministry, and organizer David Glover said he was glad to give people a chance to see special needs families in a new light.