Today I spoke to students at Lucy Laney High in Augusta, Georgia. But right now I find myself in the world-renowned Colonial-style Willcox Hotel in Aiken, South Carolina — in the Churchill Suite, can you believe that? Sir Winston Churchill visited here and I am sitting in his namesake suite. Doggone America is something else.
The contrast between my morning and afternoon struck me — but it also reinforced to me the exceptionalism of our beloved Republic, and what can be achieved.
At Lucy Laney High, I spoke to the JROTC students and others. The Army JROTC instructors at Laney are LTC Murphy and Chief Warrant Officer 3 (CW3) Flournoy, with whom I served on active duty at Ft. Bragg. They are impeccable role models for these young people. LTC Murphy has been there for some 16 years.
I could tell my presence was not pleasing to some — especially when LTC Murphy introduced me to the principal and her closing sentence to me was, “you got one hour.”
Well, one hour for me with young people is more than enough. Having been brought up in the inner city myself it is imperative for me to give back and be an example — a positive one — for young people, especially black kids.
I talked about where I was from and the difference high school JROTC had made in my life. I spoke to them about making choices and that every decision comes with a consequence. We talked about the three things that no one can take away from you: honor, integrity, and character — only you can surrender them.
One question from a young man was especially memorable when he asked, “Do you believe that your personal life has an impact on your everyday life?” My response was of course it does and I also explained how your image leads people to develop certain perceptions of you, often without you even opening your mouth.
However, what hurt me most looking over that gathering of about 90-100 students was the despair and despondency I saw in many faces. Some just put their heads down and went to sleep. Most of these kids live in Section 8 housing and are on free or reduced lunch — in other words, I was looking at the long-term result of Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty.
I thought about how many of these kids came from a home without both a mother and father, knowing that only 28% in the black community do. I wondered how many of the young girls were already mothers, or would be before the age of nineteen. After all, it was Johnson’s progressive socialist policy of awarding checks to girls having children out of wedlock that has destroyed the black community.
I spoke to them about making a five-year plan and asked them to consider where they saw themselves five years from now — sadly I thought, many would be right in the same plight, another generation dependent on the welfare nanny-state.
But my hope and prayer is that one day several of those students to whom I spoke will stay in The Willcox hotel in the Churchill Suite. My desire is that some of them will go on to a successful career in the military and come back to Lucy Laney High and be a shining example, or maybe even be the high school JROTC instructor themselves.
I know it’s possible. LTC Murphy told me about his success stories, and that two of his former students are second year Cadets at The Citadel, and others have gone onto greater successes and come back to see him.
Our conservative message has to be taken to these corners and segments of our America. When I spoke to those young people about personal responsibility, education, not being in debt, appearance and communications skills, and looking to their future, I know the seed was planted, but others will have to water it. And grow they shall — not all — but some will yield bountiful fruit, and that makes it worthwhile.
As conservatives, we must demonstrate to these young people that there is no class or caste system in America. No one is relegated to some lower social status. The sky is the limit. Conservatives believe every child born in America, or anyone coming to this great country, receives the ladder of achievement which they can climb — and when they slip and fall, we will ensure there is a safety net.
In contrast progressive socialists only believe in the shared misery of the hammock, to borrow the concept from Sir Winston himself as he described socialism. I pray for the kids at Lucy Laney High but I do not worry for them. I believe they will experience a “new birth of freedom” that breaks the shackles of economic enslavement and unleashes their full potential.
I know it’s possible, because of what their JROTC instructors believe, which was exactly what my instructors believed, and why I am sitting here in the historic Willcox Hotel in the Churchill Suite in Aiken, South Carolina.