Peace Offering: Nonprofits Help Facilitate “Bourbon Summit”

To help "lubricate the wheels of government," the Kentucky Distillers' Association is working with the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship to help bring about a "Bourbon Summit" between President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

There’s always room for compromise, and the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship has proof. Strong proof.

On Monday, the Kentucky-based center—hosted at Transylvania University in Lexington and named for the 19th-century speaker of the house, senator, and secretary of state—announced that it will make a shipment to the Willard InterContinental hotel in Washington, DC, just a stone’s throw from the White House.

The shipment? A 42-gallon white-oak barrel containing some of the state’s iconic brands of bourbon.

The gift is for President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), two guys who haven’t exactly seen eye to eye over the years. In recent months, the two have talked about meeting for a “Bourbon Summit”— Obama first pitched the idea immediately after last year’s election changed the partisan balance of Congress—but there was a problem: deciding exactly what kind of bourbon the two would drink. It’s not an easy decision.

“We’re going to have some kind of draw-it-out-of-a-hat selection for the bourbon,” McConnell told The Hill earlier this month.

A Spirit of Compromise

The Clay Center—named for one of the country’s great bipartisan compromisers who used to regularly ship barrels of bourbon to the Willard—saw an opportunity. So, too, did the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA), which supplied both the bourbon and the “Bourbon Barrel of Compromise,” as the 42-gallon wooden drum has been called.

McConnell will pick up the barrel February 3—he’ll be at the hotel to share his home state’s most famous drink with members of Congress and special guests. (Could one of those “special guests” be Obama? We’ll have to wait to find out.)

“We are delighted and honored for the opportunity to take part in this project, which brings our master distillers and their timeless craft to Washington to highlight the role that Kentucky bourbon has and continues to play on our national stage,” KDA President Eric Gregory said in a news release. “We hope this becomes a regular reminder that we all have a strong interest in effective government, and the heart of our democracy lies in the spirit of unity and compromise.”

The gesture is just another example of KDA’s willingness to go all-out in its promotion efforts—you should see its membership cards.

Meanwhile, Henry Clay Center cochairman Robert Clay, a distant relative of the statesman, said the gesture was meant to emphasize the value of compromise that Henry Clay stood for.

“Clay’s reliance on these tools and principles was key to the development of our republic 200 years ago and is just as crucial to successfully meeting the challenges of today,” he said in the news release.

The “Bourbon Barrel of Compromise," which will be heading to Washington next week. (Handout photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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