On Wednesday morning, I decided to travel to my alma mater, the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. As part of my journey, I hoped to meet with William & Mary Students for Liberty that evening. While on the grounds, I decided to stop in to the office of student activities to discover what sort of political organizations existed on campus.
Besides the aforementioned Students for Liberty and the fairly traditional College Republicans and College Democrats, I also discovered William and Mary Students for Life, a pro-life group created by my former employers, Students for Life of America. After a few email exchanges, I ended up attending a meeting of this organization. Although the local Catholic church held a pro-life event at the same time, as thus lured away some of their attendees, Students for Life still had a pretty good gathering.
Even though I planned to leave campus on Thursday afternoon, when I heard that Pete Snyder would be speaking to the College Republicans, I decided to stick around, interested to hear what Pete had to say and to offer him a friendly hello. Unfortunately, several minutes before the start of the CR meeting, the leader of the group announced that Mr. Snyder was unable to attend. It was disappointing and cut their meeting pretty short, but these things do happen. Nevertheless, despite the statewide losses and the defeat of Delegate Watson in the 93rd, the CRs seemed to be in pretty good spirits.
Although not an exhaustive search, I’m glad to see that political activism is still alive and well on the campus of William & Mary.
Since the beginning of this March, I have often been seen wearing a hat embroidered with the name of Belmont University. Now, some who see me might think that this behavior is a bit odd. After all, I graduated from the College of William & Mary and have never taken a class at Belmont. So why then do I wear this hat? To answer this question requires returning to the winter of 2007.
Back in late 2006/early 2007, I began my employment with Students for Life of America (or SFLA). Although the name might suggest that it is an organization devoted to perpetual studenthood, it is, in fact, a group promoting the pro-life cause on university campuses across the country. In what I believe was their inaugural effort, they hired about eight or so activists to promote the cause and their group throughout the nation. Each of their field representatives was assigned a state or several states. I had the states of Tennessee and Kentucky. Curiously, although bordering or extremely close to my home of Virginia, I had, at that point, never set foot in either. My farthest trip west in a car only had taken me to West Virginia.
My first assignment for Students for Life took me to Eastern Tennessee State University (or ETSU for short), in Johnson City. Prior to arriving, I had spoken to a number of students there through a recently discovered website called Facebook and scheduled several meetings to discuss the creation of a pro-life group there. However, things did not proceed according to plan. None of the students ever ended up meeting with me. Nor did they even respond to my messages once I arrived. I spent several days wandering about the campus, looking for a familiar face, speaking to the administration, and trying to salvage the situation the best I could, but the trip proved to be a dismal failure. As an additional penalty, given the pay structure of SFLA, I was paid nothing for this time and effort, a particularly disheartening double whammy.
As I returned one night to the local Presbyterian college ministry, which had graciously hosted me during my adventure at ETSU, I got a call from another student I had been in contact with, halfway across the state in a small school called Belmont University. She requested that I meet with them the next morning. Although the hour was pretty late, I had hoped to make yet another try the next day to prevent my time at ETSU from being an abject failure, and Belmont was a good four and a half hour drive away, I pledged to attend this early morning gathering.
The next morning, while the sky was still pitch black and my head was a bit groggy due to lack of sleep, I packed up my car and headed to Nashville. When I arrived, I found a situation far more favorable than ETSU. Led by a motivated and strong-willed young woman with a Tennessee accent named Susan, I realized that perhaps I could make a positive impact at Belmont, that there were students here that were as passionate about the pro-life movement as I. It was exciting! And I’m pleased to say that Belmont did not disappoint.
As you would imagine, I visited many other colleges and universities in Tennessee and Kentucky during my employment with SFLA (some successful, some not so much). I met a lot of fantastic people, including a whole bunch of great students across the two states and Fletcher Armstrong of the Center for Bioethical Reform. However, due to fantastic efforts put forth by the students at Belmont (and their relatively centralized location), I made Nashville my home base. Even when not working, I spent a good chunk of my free time in the area, going to watch many of the Belmont Men’s Basketball games. I bought a dark blue hat so that I could show my support for the school at these events. And, you know what? They had a pretty good team, one that earned a spot in the 2007 NCAA tournament, a feat that they accomplished for only the second time (up to that point) in the school’s history.
Although my prearranged contract with SFLA expired in the spring of 2007, the many good memories I had, especially of Belmont (given that it was my first successful venture in this job), remained. Therefore, as a result, every March, in tribute to Susan, Belmont Students for Life, and their great university, I dig my Belmont hat out of the trunk of my car and wear it while the team remains in the NCAA playoffs (or for a couple of weeks in the years that they do not make the playoffs). Unfortunately, the school has never won a game in the tournament, but I am hopeful that this year will be their first.
As so, as March Madness and the 2013 NCAA tournament gets underway, I am proud to don my hat once more. They might not be my alma mater, but Belmont University will always hold a special place in my heart.
Update: I decided to wash my Belmont hat in order to get it a bit cleaner. Unfortunately, it has become too tight to wear now. However, a fresh one is on order from their bookstore. Let’s hope it arrives in time for the game on Thursday!
There is no doubt in my mind that Representative Ron Paul is currently the most important figure in the liberty movement today. His actions over the last several years have awakened a multitude of activists and cured the apathy of countless others. However, we must keep in mind that it is likely that Ron Paul’s spotlight will diminish once his current House of Representatives term expires next year.
It’s time for a bit of history. For those who don’t recall, late 2006-2007 was a bleak time for many conservatives. The Democratic Party captured both the House and the Senate, establishing the Pelosi/Reid era in Congress. Although a Republican still sat in the White House, it became increasing apparent that George W. Bush had little desire for promoting conservative principles like a constitutionally limited government, rolling back the size and scope of federal agencies and departments, and reducing the ever inflating national debt. It seemed as if many of my fellow conservatives turned a blind eye toward many odious policies, even though they ran contrary to our principles, simply because a Republican leader promoted them. Many of the same conservatives who once opposed the military adventures of President Bill Clinton now applauded Bush for an even more aggressive policy of nation building. In short, principle had taken a back seat to party.
As for myself, I was feeling pretty depressed about the direction of my party and the state of politics in America in general. Early 2007 found me in Tennessee, working a three-month contract with Students for Life of America, a pro-life organization based in Northern Virginia. Promoting important causes, like the pro-life issue, allowed me to advanced my principles, even when it seemed as if my party had lost its way.
After this position ended, I considered returning to campaign work. In 2006, I was employed by the Republican Party of Virginia. Prior to that time, I had volunteered on many campaigns and so I felt as if I had a pretty good understanding of the ins and outs of campaigning. I had never worked on a presidential campaign and considered it to be a logical conclusion to my time in the field. But who was the best choice? Who was the candidate who best advocated my principles, the values of a liberty-minded conservative?
Based upon familiarity, I first considered former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore. But I quickly found a few key areas of policy disagreement. Next on the list came pro-life favorite Senator Brownback of Kansas. But again, he was less than ideal. Well-known politicians like Mitt Romney, John McCain, or Rudy Giuliani, didn’t seem like very good choices either.
Digging deeper into the field I came across Representative Ron Paul. I must confess that I didn’t know too much about him at that time. Given the fairly establishment circles in which I ran, I believed what I was told, that Dr. No was little more than a cantankerous old man from Texas who didn’t get along with most of his fellow Republicans. But the more that I read about him, the more I realized that he represented just what my party needed and my principles demanded. He fought against the expansion of the federal government and sought to shrink it, he cherished the Constitution and the rule of law, he was a voice for the unborn, and opposed installing leaders of other nations and meddling in their domestic affairs.
These were some of my thoughts before Paul. You may find it odd that I use the term “before Paul” given that he has been in elected office since the mid 1970’s. But let me explain. Although it is true that Ron Paul has been involved in politics since before many of us were born, his greatest impact in the national political dialogue began with his 2007/2008 run for the GOP nod for president. This primary catapulted him to the forefront of the liberty movement and established a near cult-like following among some of the faithful.
But now, after five years, we are faced with the grim reality of a movement without Paul. After all, he is not running for re-election to the House of Representatives in November and, unfortunately, will not be the Republican nominee for president. I won’t say that I know his plans, he could host a talk show or be a regular on Fox News like Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin, but I expect that his role will diminish as the years pass.
I wish I could say that the movement has transcended national leaders, that a sufficient portion of the population is educated and energized to take back their country from the statists who have led us down this troubled path. I wish I could also say that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were the GOP leaders who fully embraced our philosophy, but neither statement would be true.
Fortunately, there are other leaders in Congress, leaders like Representative Jeff Flake of Arizona, Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, Representative Scott Garrett of New Jersey, or Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina who have been fighting the good fight for liberty. The best well known, Senator Rand Paul, has also drawn a good bit of flak, tarnishing him in the eyes of some Ron Paul supporters for endorsing Mitt Romney recently. I won’t go into that argument again, but you can find my thoughts here.
I suppose my take home point here is that there has been a time before Ron Paul was there to share his wisdom, inspiration, and leadership. Whether it happens today, tomorrow, next year, or fifty years from now, there will come a time when Ron Paul is no longer with us. Therefore, although Ron Paul is currently an important force and should be remembered and honored as such, for the sake of the future of the movement, we must become something more than a cult of personality based around Dr. Paul. When he leaves us, we cannot allow ourselves to be lost in the wilderness once more, waiting for the next great leader to serve as our guide.
The future belongs to all of us. Ron Paul has made his mark and, God-willing, he will continue to do so for a long time to come. But, like Barry Goldwater before him, the time of Ron Paul is coming to a close. So what will you accomplish to further the ideals of liberty in this great nation of ours?
On Thursday, I received a rather negative comment on this blog regarding an event going on at James Madison University. After reading such news, I decided to head over to the university to see what all the fuss was about. Well, it seems that the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform had put up their Genocide Awareness Project (or G.A.P.) in the middle of campus.
For those who haven’t heard of G.A.P. before, it is a colorful display that contains graphic images of both abortions and various mass murders through the ages such as the Holocaust and the Rwandan butchery.
Now, I can understand why these pictures would upset most people, like the person who sent me the comment yesterday. After all, when I first started working for Students for Life of America, I had a rather negative impression myself. Who wants to see such horrible pictures? Of course the answer is no one. Won’t they just serve to turn people off from the movement?
But then I got to thinking about my own experience. Back in high school, what motivated me to be a pro-life activist? Wasn’t it the same terrible pictures adorning literature from Heritage House 76?
But don’t these images serve to weaken the pro-life cause? Well, how many people do you suppose are either so disgusted (or so pleased) by these pictures that they decide to have an abortion as a result? I doubt anyone could make such a claim. Abortions aren’t pretty, nor are the images that result from this choice. Some pro-lifers may reject these tactics, but if any choose to abandon the movement when confronted with them, then I doubt they had a very strong commitment in the first place.
No one likes to see these pictures, nor should they. They are meant to show the real-life consequences of abortion. You can argue the philosophic merits or detriments of abortion all you like, but when you face the brutal images of the deed, you cannot help but feel revulsion. It is both natural and human.
After touring the Buchenwald concentration camp outside of Weimar and seeing the photos of what went on there during the Nazi regime, I gained a new-found understanding of the barbarous ways that a man can treat his fellow man. It wasn’t a journey for fun or pleasure, but it was nevertheless important. Hopefully, by making such knowledge public we can decrease the likelihood of such events happening in the future.
So too is the goal of the G.A.P. The organizers don’t like these pictures anymore than you or I. So then why do they do it? Well, as a result of this gross panorama the life of even one unborn child is saved, is it worth it? I believe the answer is yes.
Below are several thumbnail pictures of Thursday’s event. You are free to look at these graphic images or not. If you have never seen pictures of the results of an abortion, I encourage you to do so. Consider yourself warned; you won’t like them, of course, but they do serve as a valuable tool.
So what will your reaction be the next time G.A.P. and the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform comes to your campus? Will you protest, like one reader and Dukes for Choice, demanding restrictions and squelching the 1st Amendment right of free speech? Or will they motivate you to take a stand for those who cannot speak for themselves? I suppose that there is only one way to find out.
A few moments ago, I received word that Kortney Blythe Gordan has died as a result of injuries sustained as a result of a car accident. Now who was Kortney Gordan? Well, I ‘m sure she was many things to many people, but to me, she was a pro-life activist. Since June of 2010, she held the position as the field director for the organization for Students for Life of America. If you would like more detailed biographical data, you can find on the SFLA website.
To give you a bit of background information, from January to March of 2007, I served as a field agent for Students for Life in the state of Tennessee. As you can tell, my brief time with that organization took place before Kortney’s involvement. Fast-forwarding, in the latter half of 2010, Kortney and I shared a few emails and maybe a phone call or two as SFLA prepared for their now annual conference in Knoxville, TN. As I was in the area already, visiting family outside of Knoxville, I ended up stopping by the conference to say hello.
As you can tell, I wouldn’t really say that I knew Kortney very well, for all we had were those brief encounters. Nevertheless, it does sadden me to see a fellow pro-life activist fall in the line of duty. Adding to the tragedy, Kortney’s unborn child also perished in this accident. Furthermore, Jon Scharfenberger, another SFLA employee and passenger in the car, survived but is in critical condition.
Tonight all I ask of you is to pray for the friends and family of Kortney Blythe Gordan as well as for Jon. Let us hope that those who care for Kortney receive comfort for their sorrow in these dark hours. Let us pray that Jon recovers from his wounds.
Good morning readers and welcome to my latest piece.
You’ll notice the name of this post is the “Tennessee Conservative”. I suppose a more accurate name would be “The Virginia Conservative in Tennessee”, but for sake of brevity, I chose the former. No, I haven’t permanently left Virginia. Shortly after my last post, I packed my bags and headed west, stopping beside Cherokee Lake in eastern Tennessee.
This adventure is nearly over as I’ll be returning to the Old Dominion tomorrow. It has been good to see Tennessee again as I haven’t spent much time here since 2007. Back then I traveled the state (as well as in southern Kentucky), spreading the Pro-life message across college campuses: The University of Tennessee-Knoxville, UT-Chattanooga, Vanderbilt, Union, Belmont, the list goes on. At that time, I was working for Students for Life of America. The reason for my work was simple. As freshmen are considerably more pro-life than their senior counterparts, we must fight at our colleges and universities to claim and reclaim the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s leaders.
Once in TN, you could imagine my surprise to discover that Students for Life of America (or SFLA as it is known), along with the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform and several other organizations, was holding a conference at the Johnsonville Bible College in Knoxville. Although it is difficult to precisely gauge the effect of my efforts back in 2007, like a surrogate parent, I felt that that I played some small part in aiding the pro-life movement in this state. Therefore, I attended the event on Saturday; interested to see how the cause had advanced in my three-year absence. I’m glad say that the room was jammed with numerous students and organizations eager to continue the fight against the gross injustice of abortion.
Regardless of what state we may find ourselves, we must continually fight for our principles of life and liberty. Our task is to summon the courage to seek out friends and never surrender to the temptations of apathy and modern liberalism. Not only can we win, we must win for our own sake and the sake of those who come after us.
Best wishes for the fight ahead. I look forward to talking to you again soon.