An Afternoon With Allen West

An Afternoon With Allen West

"If you are not willing to do what needs to be done, you must be committed to not being the first generation to pass along something greater."
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“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.

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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It's Hard To Stay Friends With A Kavanaugh-Lover, But It's Possible

Or hater.

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If you don't have your head buried in the sand these days, it's impossible not to realize how viscerally raw most people's political emotions are. And unless you live in a bubble, you likely have friends or family who have very different political beliefs with you. If you want to cut off those relationships, read no further. But if you view your relationships more T. D. Jakes style—"I like to see myself as a bridge builder, that is, me building bridges between people […], between politics, trying to find common ground"—then play on.

Before beginning a conversation with a politically-differing friend, put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself: what aspects of their life might have influenced them in this way? Accept that you just don't know what their experiences have been like. Maybe your gun-supporting friend had her house traumatically burglarized when she was quite young; maybe your friend who believes the government should solve all our problems was only able to get hot lunches at school because of government aid. View it as a thought experiment if you will: imagine a sympathetic reason (rather than a judgment-worthy reason) that your friend has this differing viewpoint.

We have two ears and one mouth. Ask them questions and then genuinely listen. As humans, we often listen to respond, not to understand. Try to understand without demonizing or judging your friend. David Livingstone Smith, author of Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others, said that when we dehumanize or demonize others, it acts as: "a psychological lubricant, dissolving our inhibitions and inflaming our destructive passions. As such, it empowers us to perform acts that would, under other circumstances, be unthinkable." Try to accept that your friend's point of view—no matter how much you disagree with it—is (in their eyes) just as valid as your own. Your goal is to listen first, persuade later, argue rarely (or never).

It's not about you. Your friend's support of Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court means just that: they think he should have been confirmed. Or if they are angry that he got confirmed, it means just that: they think he should have not been confirmed at the time. Use our earlier thought experiment: perhaps the supporter found fault in the accusations against Kavanaugh or genuinely viewed it as a false accusation, and (whether that happened here or not), we can agree a false accusation is concerning. It doesn't necessarily mean that they think the assault he was accused of is okay—perhaps they think any form of sexual assault is utterly appalling and should never be tolerated, but just didn't happen here. Your friend's view is not personal to you, no matter how personal it may feel.

There's a difference between supporting a politician and supporting an action. If your family member voted for Trump, that doesn't mean they support his personal behavior. (If they DO—that's a different story.) It's like watching Lady Bird (great movie) and someone saying that means you think all children should treat their mother like Lady Bird treats hers. The two could be equated but aren't necessarily. Have you ever gone to the theaters and seen a movie that had elements you didn't agree with or like? The same can be said for politics.

If it seems appropriate, when they are done sharing and seem receptive to conversation, share why you may disagree with them. Times to NOT share: if they are angry or closed off. (Observe both their words and their body language. If their voice was raised or their arms are crossed, not the time.) If they just shared something vulnerable with you (eg. they are vehemently pro-choice because they've been assaulted and got an abortion), now is not the time.

Remember, your goal is not to argue, but to listen and then to persuade. If they're not in a place where they can listen to you being persuasive—then let it go and try again some other time.

When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game. However—sometimes you shouldn't always maintain these relationships. Politicians your friends support don't necessarily fully reflect who your friends are, but political views are an aspect of who they are. To use the above analogy: when you see a movie at the theater, you are supporting it. Even if you disagree with it and warn your friends away, you still paid for the ticket.

And sometimes you don't. Understand when you need to disengage. It's okay to have some things you can talk about civilly and rationally and some things that you just can't. If my friend thinks communism is the way to go, for example, I am able to speak respectfully and rationally about it. But if a person tries to support child abuse, I absolutely cannot have a conversation with them where I try to understand where they're coming from and listen to them without telling them how wrong they are. It's okay to have some topics that mean so much to you that you can't engage with all of them or respect every differing point of view.

When you win, be gracious. And lastly, if you supported Kavanaugh, your friends who opposed his quick confirmation are crushed right now. It's okay if you think that's silly or not a big deal. But go back to the first point: put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if some political issue you felt really strongly about was dealt a crushing blow? You'd want the people on the winning side to be gracious, or try to understand, or at least not rub it in. Maybe you didn't like how the situation unfolded, but your guy's in now. Think of the golden rule and be kind to your friends who are struggling with this.

Just remember:

"Be sure when you step—step with care and great tact. And remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft—and never mix up your right foot with your left."
Dr. Seuss.

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