Californian Brings ‘Venting Event’ to D.C.

Posted May 18, 2004 at 4:13pm

When businessmen come to the D.C. area, many often find sharing a libation in Grant’s bar room at the Old Ebbitt Grill a relaxing way to unwind. Others, whose schedules permit, may take a MARC train to watch the Orioles outscore the Yankees. However, when investment banker Barry Wayne Simon comes to D.C. for business meetings, he would rather spend his Saturdays hosting a venting event like the ones he made popular in his home state of California.

So this Saturday, Simon will be at the Lincoln Memorial, giving anyone who shows up a chance to vent at “Speak Out America.”

“I needed to be in D.C. for an in-house business meeting, so I figured, what a great way to coincide my business trip with a venting event,” Simon said.

Since 1997, Simon has been earning the reputation of being a motivational force in Los Angeles, where his venting events have provided a forum for thousands of Californians to discuss the issues affecting their city and state.

The first “venting event” was held in Santa Monica in 1997 because of Simon’s heartfelt belief that people could benefit from letting their voices be heard.

“Even as far back as the Watergate scandal, I have always been concerned with how people handled such political turmoil,” the psychology major from Oregon noted.

Saturday’s event will be an organized public forum for American citizens to express their passions, concerns and solutions to key issues facing the country. “I felt it was particularly important with the upcoming election to allow people to ‘vent’ in a positive atmosphere,” Simon added.

Simon said he feels the Lincoln Memorial, the site of the event, stands as not only a symbol of American democracy but also “a place where citizens assemble to draw attention to those causes and issues that continue to divide the country.”

Saturday’s session will focus on the war in Iraq, the November elections, taxes, jobs, terrorism and any other issues people are faced with. Several House Members and Senators are rumored to be attending the event, but Simon wants to emphasize that the event “is not about the VIPs, it is about the people from every economic, ethnic and social background.”

Simon will start the five-hour speak-a-thon by offering his political viewpoints and beliefs about the United States’ current situation, then he will hand over the microphone to the crowd. Although D.C. has a long-standing penchant for anything political, all ideas and issues are welcomed to be discussed at “Speak Out America.”

Simon encourages everyone “even if just for five minutes to come and speak out or listen to what is being said.” When asked what would be the best possible outcome of such an event, he responded, “The best-case scenario would be an increase in voter turnout and the recognition that we the people matter and we the people can make a difference.

“We need to find more ways to come together rather than finding more avenues to divide. There is more than enough hatred out there, instead we need a place to come together.”

The venting event is from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, log on to www. ventingevents.com.