“Optimism runs deep in the soul of the American people and the soul of the Republican Party.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->- Former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson (Staff photo by Steve Dickerson)
“Optimism runs deep in the soul of the American people and the soul of the Republican Party.

- Former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson (Staff photo by Steve Dickerson)
The Jefferson County Republican Party gathered Friday night for its annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner at Clifty Inn.

Former Tennessee senator and actor Fred Thompson, probably best known for his role as Manhattan District Attorney Arthur Branch on "Law & Order," was the keynote speaker.

Madison City Councilman Kevin Kellems described Thompson's career path as "unusual and interesting." Thompson has been a U.S. senator, an actor on television and in movies, a syndicated newspaper columnist and a 2008 presidential candidate.

"But most importantly, he's a father and a husband," Kellems said.

Thompson criticized recent Obama administration scandals and policies, comparing them to a "terrible old 'B' movie with an implausible plot."

He cited recent scandals involving the National Security Agency, the IRS, cyber attacks from the Chinese government, "real unemployment" numbers and the attacks in Benghazi as egregious mistakes made by the government.

"Some of these scandals are disgraceful," he told the packed dining hall.

Thompson said the government was not holding itself accountable, saying that the abuse of power is an "ancient story" that has happened many times throughout history.

He ended his speech on a positive note, mentioning his party's optimism.

"Optimism runs deep in the soul of the American people and the soul of the Republican Party," Thompson said.

He went on to say there needs to be more civility in Washington.

"We need to lighten up on people when we disagree with them," he said.

The dinner also featured a video from Sixth District Congressman Luke Messer who was unable to attend the event.

Messer praised local politicians, but also took the opportunity to criticize the federal government.

"These are heavy times in America," he said in his video. "It's tough for the American people to keep up."

Thompson and Mindy McGee, the Jefferson County Republican Party chairman, handed out three awards.

Carl Glessing, vice president of the Madison Consolidated School Board, was awarded the Robert O. Zink Award. Zink was a former local GOP chairman. Anna Cooper Nelson was awarded the Polly Cooper Award. Nelson is the daughter of Polly Cooper who was a longtime GOP volunteer. City Council member Jim Lee was awarded the final award of the evening, the Michael Garber Award. Garber is a former Madison Courier publisher and was one of the founders of the state Republican Party.