I am a constitutionally minded conservative. I believe in God, Family and Country. I believe in personal accountability. I believe one should conduct themselves in a manner that exhibits honor, integrity and candor. I believe all members of this great experiment known as America, that are of able body and mind, should be contributors to society; not parasites leaching off the societal producers. I believe the freedoms outlined by this country’s founding fathers are granted to us by the Creator himself; not by any person or government. They are freedoms in the purest sense. They don’t require you to be rich or affluent or have any special influence or know anyone in power; they just are. I firmly believe that if you want something, you work for it. You don’t steal it, you don’t expect it to be handed to you. You roll your sleeves up and work. Or you put your brain to the task and you work. Whether your business is building a product, providing a service, engineering the next great invention or simply exchanging your time in the performance of a task in return for payment, you work. You contribute. You hold yourself to a higher standard than those around you and make yourself better. I honestly can’t tell you why I believe these things or why I feel as strongly about them as I do. We moved when I was young. My mom and stepdad were trying to run a business, so we had little adult supervision. The business failed. I was faced with moving back to the city and going to an inner city public school, starting over as a junior and not knowing anyone. I recall going to visit that school. Walking in through the metal detectors, all the windows with metal grates over them in an attempt to keep out criminals and prevent vandalism. As a teenager, it was a humbling experience. My lesson here was that of self-preservation. Fight or flight. Best option for me here was flight. I never attended a single day of school there.
Having grown up in a rural community from age 8, my work ethic was already well established by the age of 15. I had been working for local farmers, performing all kinds of tasks from milking cows, putting up hay, de-tasseling corn, picking produce, putting up and mending fences. Whatever needed to be done that I could earn a dollar from. As soon as I walked out of that school, I knew I would not be attending there. I decided to drop out of school and get a job to help my Mom put my sisters through private school. My lesson here, when faced with adversity, you find a way to contribute. Handouts and government programs are the last option.
Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to have some friends I had known for several years adopt me, so I could finish high school where I was living at that time. This was my first big break, and I owe much to my second family. My lesson here was to always find room at the table for “one more”.
When I completed high school, I went to work for a local sawmill. Handling boards on a green chain, sorting them out and trimming ends so they could be graded and stacked. It was hard work, but I enjoyed it. I was making $4.25 an hour and I could barely get by. I asked for a raise and was denied. Not because I didn’t deserve it and not because I wasn’t putting in the work, but because the mill owners thought I was easily replaceable. I was expendable. Guys like me were a dime a dozen. Their denial was my second big break. I left there to join the military and find another way to support myself and the family that I would soon start. The mill owner hired two people at minimum wage ($4.25 per hour each) to replace me. The mill owner may have won in principal, but I won a moral victory when I found out about my replacements. There were two major lessons I learned here; first, if you don’t like where you are or how you’re treated, find another place where you’re appreciated and can flourish. Second, it’s more important to win the war, not necessarily that specific battle.
I joined the military in September of 1987. Having a strong sense of civic duty and looking for a way to contribute, I thought the military was a good choice for me. The structure was new and different. It felt stifling at first, but I learned to thrive within the confines of all the rules and regulations. I excelled in the military by most standards, receiving many commendations, medals and advancing to the rank of Sargent. I was honorably discharged in 1992. I learned many things while in the service, but the greatest lesson learned was that many people working toward a common goal can achieve great things. This small revelation has served me very well over the subsequent twenty-six years. Leadership can be a game changer in business and in life.
In the last couple of decades, I have owned three businesses and have worked for a few manufacturing firms. I now work for and am an employee owner of a successful representative firm in the food service and hospitality business. I believe my work ethic and desire to win is the driving factor in my life and the largest contributing factor to my success. I have tried to instill this same work ethic and desire to win in my children; to be contributors to our society. Most things I have learned over the years have come at great sacrifice to me and my family. The experiences and lessons learned have shaped who I am both through success and failure. Despite the sacrifice, whenever I have earned something, there is always a very satisfying feeling that comes over me. It’s a feeling of accomplishment, pride, contribution and the knowledge that by earning that “thing”, whatever it may be, I have grown from that. Not by leaps and bounds, but in small incremental steps. Like the growth rings in a tree. As each ring encompasses the ring before it, the structure of the tree grows and becomes increasingly greater than it was before. This is how I see my life. Each small lesson, each experience, large and small, has shaped my feelings and beliefs. We are all macrocosms of our collective experiences. It is from these, my most personal experiences, that I have formed my basic beliefs and from which my commentary shall derive.
I encourage the readers to reflect on their experiences and find the source of their beliefs. By doing this, they too can have a relative understanding how they arrived at where they are today. It is only through understanding oneself that we can begin to have any honest conversation with others about the correct direction for this great country.