For the first time ever, the road to the White House ran through the Grand Strand in 2008, and there is no doubt our entire community shined. Though the polls and pollsters will tell us who won the Myrtle Beach debates and why, the one clear winner in all of this is certainly the Grand Strand
The national publicity, additional advertising and abundant promotion attracted worldwide attention. We hosted more than 1,000 journalists from 21 nations, all of whom were greeted with warm Southern hospitality from the moment they arrived until the moment they left. The free publicity received, valued in the millions of dollars, put us at the center of the nation's attention for nearly two weeks, creating a steady stream of awareness our community rightly deserves.
We hosted 41 members of Congress, four foreign embassies and a large number of corporate executives, all of whom discovered, or rediscovered, a New Myrtle Beach. And though the weather went from hot to cold, they will certainly not forget the wonderfully warm reception they received and the historic occasion they observed. Better yet, we hosted the next president of the United States of America, and he or she will most certainly remember the time spent in our community (and hopefully carry a photograph of their personalized sand sculpture into the White House in 2009).
This community has often shown a willingness to come together in times of great need and great opportunity. January 2008 was no exception. With nearly 1,000 volunteers, we once again unveiled the exceptional spirit of giving that pervades the Grand Strand. Organizations like Step-Up, Horry Telephone Cooperative Inc. and others provided essential services that ensured our success. The city of Myrtle Beach and its employees once again showed why "First in Service" is far more than a slogan.
Our local law enforcement agencies and S.C. Law Enforcement Division protected us with an unparalleled degree of safety, security and professionalism. And the venues included in the debate productions - specifically the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, the Palace Theatre and The Carolina Opry - all made this a memorable experience for everyone.
On behalf of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, I extend my deepest appreciation and admiration for every resident, business and organization that played a role in the success of these two events. We thank Katon Dawson, chairman of the S.C. Republican Party, and Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives, for believing in us and affording us the opportunity to prove ourselves. And, finally, I proudly thank the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce staff for their unwavering dedication to excellence in service.
On a personal note, I extend my regrets to any resident who hoped to attend either of the debates and could not do so. Moreover, I apologize to those who had been invited to attend and could not. I wish every resident of the Grand Strand, adult and child alike, will have the opportunity to participate in such an historic occasion.
To all who had a hand in this wonderful display of service, hospitality and civic pride, we thank you. The eyes of the nation were upon us and because of you we shined.