Cartoonist keynotes Republican dinner

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Editorial cartoonist Gary Varvel speaks at the Hancock County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner at Adaggios Banquet Hall on March 3.

Mitchell Kirk | Daily Reporter

HANCOCK COUNTY – One of the many editorial cartoons Gary Varvel has drawn over the decades flashed onto the screens behind him.

“Good News!” read the image from March 2022, as the COVID-19 pandemic was waning. “Gov. Holcomb finally ended the state of emergency.”

Below the passage were tombstones engraved with, “Mom & Pop Store,” “Small Business” and “Family Business.”

The room was free of the chuckles that met Varvel’s earlier slides of his cartoons that poked fun at President Joe Biden and his administration.

That silence was short-lived, however, as Varvel soon had them going again after his next statement.

“This crowd – you don’t know whether to laugh, because you don’t know who’s watching, right?” he quipped to the banquet hall that had filled for the annual Republican Party dinner. “I just skewer everybody. I don’t care.”

The award-winning syndicated editorial cartoonist who spent 24 years at the Indianapolis Star was the keynote speaker at the Hancock County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner at Adaggios Banquet Hall late last Friday. He was joined by GOP officials from throughout the county and state to celebrate their ideals while criticizing those of their rivals.

Gary Varvel discusses one of his editorial cartoons at the Hancock County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner at Adaggios Banquet Hall on March 3.  Mitchell Kirk | Daily Reporter

“The main objective of an editorial cartoonist is to express opinions,” Varvel said. “Humor is a tool that we use to get the point across.”

It’s not always the right tool, he noted, referring to cartoons about subjects he’s drawn with serious tones, like 9/11, the death of Osama bin Laden, Easter and Christmas.

Many of the cartoons Varvel discussed portray his views on events happening across the state, country and world, whether criticizing Democrats, transgender issues and cancel culture, or advocating for former President Donald Trump, gun rights and anti-abortion stances.

“A lot of times my cartoons are commenting on the news, but sometimes I can help teach, because I think that people don’t know what’s happening,” he said.

Varvel’s Christian faith is a recurring theme throughout much of his work.

“I love America,” he said. “This is the greatest country on the face of the earth, the greatest country in history. But we’re sick. We have a big problem, and I believe that the problem is that we have forgotten God, we’ve rejected God.”

He remains hopeful, however.

“I never give up hope on America,” Varvel said. “Somebody said a long time ago that America will do the right thing once it’s tried everything else. Well, we’ve tried a lot of things that don’t work, like this administration in Washington right now. It’s not working, folks. We need a new direction, and I think that the people who stand for the lord will change this country, and it starts with each one of us.”

Several Republican state officials spoke at the event as well. Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch discussed mental health and addiction, including how both have impacted her family. She praised the bill making its way through the Indiana General Assembly authored by Indiana Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, which sets out to establish funding and an infrastructure for mental health services throughout the state.

“Those Hoosiers that inherit genes that predispose them to these conditions deserve an opportunity to be successful and to be happy and to be healthy,” Crouch said.

Indiana Secretary of State Diego Morales said his office sets out to be welcoming, responsive, efficient and innovative.

“These four pillars will equal the servant’s heart,” Morales told the crowd. “I work for you, the people. You are my boss, so please keep me accountable. This is an honor for me.”

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said establishment Republicans often say don’t focus on social issues, but rather economic ones. The two are one and the same, he continued, adding that the nuclear family is under attack by those who wish to implement socialism.

“Those that say or think they’re going to put their heads in the sand and watch this go by Indiana like some kind of biblical angel of death have it all wrong,” Rokita said. “They are taking down our country. They are taking it down by going after the nuclear family, by going after procreation itself.”

Crouch presented a posthumous Lieutenant Governor’s Leadership Award to Steve Leonard, the Hancock County Republican Party chair who died from cancer in November 2022. As members of Leonard’s family accepted the award, U.S. Rep. Greg Pence, R-Indiana, repeated what he read into the Congressional Record recognizing the late leader.

“Even through his health battle, Steve never failed to put others first, and remained a dependable leader who fulfilled his responsibilities with dignity and grace,” Pence said.