“Stand strong, with resolve and courage.”
With a perseverant gaze, a depth in his eyes, and a voice as soft as it was strong, Allen West spoke these words with silent confidence and manifest authenticity that is so very rare in the political realm today.
A few weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of not only hearing Colonel West give what is perhaps one of the greatest speeches I have heard, but I also had the honor of getting to interview and then spend part of the afternoon with him at the Kansas GOP Convention. Though I had known of him for a long time, I was not too familiar with him until just before the conference.
Early Saturday afternoon, I had been standing in one of the empty conference rooms as everyone was attending various county and sub-party meetings. I looked out of the doors, and I saw Colonel West standing nearby. Being that I was not overly familiar with his personality, it took more courage than I was expecting to walk over and strike up a conversation. After less than two minutes of talking, however, it became very obvious that I was talking to perhaps one of the only politically involved individuals today who was genuinely humble, generous, and caring. I will never forget the authentic gratitude in his eyes when I mentioned my various family members who have served their nation as soldiers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. Though I did not have a chance to conduct a formal interview at that time, I was grateful for the opportunity to make a connection with such a highly-esteemed man. Like an old friend, as I saw him throughout the day, our discussion carried on as he remembered who I was and continued to make an effort to allow a conversation to continue. My chance to interview him finally arrived as he was being escorted to the VIP room, just before his speech. As we walked and talked, I asked him questions about young conservatives facing backlash on college campuses and recommended courses of action, of general activism, and of advice he had for those who desired to chase their obligations of public service to their nation. When the topic of violent and hosilte counter-discussions and attacks – such as the riots that occurred at UC Berkely – he simply stated, “Well you have to stay strong and continue to show resolve and courage…I was recently able to come here and speak for the young Republicans here at Kansas State, and it’s just great seeing the young people and knowing you’re on the right side of the issues. You can’t be intimidated and you can’t be coarse, you just have to continue to fight on…what [the violence] is reflective of is that they realize that they cannot win on the merits of their argument or debate and they – as they did in Berkley – they resort to violence and they resort to being the true fascists and trying to shut down free speech.”
After our short but enlightening interview, Colonel West made his way to the stage and I to the tables, where I then witnessed a phenomenal speech. Keep in mind, I am the weird kid who listens to famous and great speeches while I'm cooking, traveling, or getting ready. I have sat through countless speeches from students, parents, various leaders, and elected officials of all levels. The power of words fascinates me, just as how several sentences woven together with the strands of passion can redirect the course of humanity. I can honestly and wholeheartedly say that this speech was one I had not seen the like of to this point.
Colonel West attended K-State, and he had an instant connection with the audience due to the simple fact that he could call the same open ranges, sunflower fields, and starry skies home. He consistently emphasized the importance of unity in the GOP and the United States in general, rather than an “us versus them” mentality. At one point in his speech, he stated, “This has to be the party that doesn’t just stand for the rich or the poor, this is the party that is for everybody. We have to make them know they have a voice with us.” He also spoke at length about the vitalness of the GOP recognizing the injustice of lumping Americans into stereotypes and numbers instead of seeing them as individuals with souls, stories, and successes. “We are the party of the individual, not the collective.” As he continued, he spoke of the future of the GOP and the potential it retains. “GOP should be known for standing for the Growth, Opportunity, and Potential of all Americans, and this is what the American Dream should be…generations pass son something better than what was before them. We must pass on something that was better than what was passed on to us.” He then addressed the importance of supporting and funding those who protect and defend the Constitution and the United States on the front lines of combat and behind the scenes in the military, so that “liberty may shine forevermore on the shores of these United States of America.” He then declared, “If we can’t understand that this is part of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then we will no longer be making America the victors.”
“When tyranny stares down liberty, what do we say? ‘Molon labe’.” Colonel Allen West let no room for doubt as to where he stood in the quest for continued freedom and legacy while he spoke that day in front of his fellow Kansans. What struck me most while I listened to him speak was his humility and raw, real, honest passion for his country which he had served so fiercely. Far from the typical politicians’ speech, he rarely mentioned himself or his accomplishments, of which he has no shortage of. Rather, he repeatedly declared the importance of unity, the greatness of our nation, and the potential of the future.
To find an individual who serves their country with honest ambition and the driving force of love is rare enough. To talk with one who loves his fellow countrymen and women with fierce loyalty, patriotism, and humility is even rarer. To have a conversation with someone of Colonel West’s social standing and fame who makes the time to have intentional conversation with a college student at an event and then challenge an entire state party to strive for a new level of greatness, sacrifice, and patriotism is nearly impossible.
As we go, may we reflect humility and kindness, may we speak truth and hold our brothers and sisters in our nation accountable, and may we continue to stand strong, with resolve and courage. May we stare down tyranny, and may we forever fight to allow the light of liberty to continue to shine. Starting in the heartland of the United States of America – Kansas – may we reach to all corners of our great nation to promote authenticity and a love of country, and may we do so with honest intentions and fierce passion. Thank you, Colonel West, for speaking with me, and thank you for doing what you do to continue to preserve what Ronald Reagan once called the “last best hope on earth”, the United States of America.