On Leadership and Inspiration

By Jedediah Bila

Last night I spent a few hours in Manhattan with some young conservatives. That’s a bit different for me, as most of my friends in the city are somewhere to the left of President Obama. Anyway, there I was–sitting in a cafe, sipping my favorite organic green smoothie, and talking about the future of conservatism.

When I left, I couldn’t help but be bothered by something. The 20-somethings I had just spent a few hours with were different than they had been the last time we talked.

You see, I had met those same young conservatives in 2008 right before the presidential election. I remember that they had been bubbling over with excitement, passion, and energy for the cause. I remember that they couldn’t sit still, couldn’t stop planning ways to impact academia and culture. They had never been terribly political before that, and had never really fancied politicians, but something had come along that inspired them.

As it turns out, someone had changed the way they looked at things.

Ideas are powerful. Principles propel us through life. But leaders are important. I’ve never been the type of person to put too much faith in any one individual. After all, we all make mistakes. We all have the potential to disappoint the people we care about. We all get lost in ourselves sometimes and forget the big picture. But when I look back at my life, there are people who really made a difference to me–the first teacher who really made me think, the first friend I could trust, a leader who proved she could be counted on.

As much as we invest in ideas, there’s a part of human nature that craves good leadership, reliable character, and people who remind us that even the dirtiest of businesses like politics and entertainment have rays of light in them. For me, those rays of light have been the people who have inspired me.

When I looked into the eyes of those young conservatives last night, that’s what was missing. Their ideas hadn’t changed. They still love their country. But their belief in a leader to help them do what needs to get done was gone. Someone, somewhere along the way, had given them hope that politicians don’t all fit some uninspiring stereotype. Where had that hope gone?

Leaders should never be glorified. They’re people, and by nature of that, can’t help but be flawed. But that’s not to say that Abraham Lincoln or Ronald Reagan weren’t incredibly important. They took the ideas we value so much and brought them to life. In doing so, they captivated a nation. They changed hearts and minds. They inspired people to think and act and fight for what they believed in.

Like so many of us, the young conservatives I met with last night crave good leadership they can count on. So let’s not forget to keep our eyes open for those who have the ability to inspire, who sit upon records we can count on, and who manage to get people who were never passionate about politics to start paying attention.

They may not come along too often, but when they do, good leaders really can make all the difference.

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  4. Patitapaban says:

    Michael McCormackThere is no point in continuing this armnegut. You are incompable (less likely) or unwilling (more probably) of altering your opinion based on facts and would rather continue frothing at the mouth about trumped up threats from Muslims, Communists, Socialists, or [fill in the blank any other group that you don’t like/fear]. Sharia is a terrible thing, and a tragedy for the people who actually have to live under it. Perhaps you could direct your considerable passion against sharia where it might be useful like in Afghanistan. I could continue to point out the reasons why sharia isn’t a threat, but at this point I think I’ll just let you see for yourself I guarantee you that as we near the end of our lives in 50 years or so that I will be vindicated, there will be no sharia law in America nor will there have ever been a credible threat of its implementation. In the meantime, I would request that you refrain from making the lives of people like Samar Ali and other innocent Muslims miserable by accusing them of absurd consipiracies and instead relegate your vitriol to small corners of the blogosphere where the only people who see your rantings are those who agree with and will reinforce your opinion. One last thing, I don’t give a flip if you want to spew this insanity under the mantle of conservatism, but please, don’t claim Christianity or spreading the Gospel as motivation when you are making such armneguts. For Christ’s sake, Jesus and his disciples went to jail, were (actually) stoned, and marginalized in ways that are unimaginable to us yet I don’t seem to remember Him leaving us a commandment for Christians to purge the law books of everything that might be harmful to spreading the faith. However, you see some (presumably) Muslim children heckling some (presumably) Christian people and now you’re ready to go on a crusade against some nebulous infiltrating force of Islamist extremists so we can feel safe to spread the Gospel in Dearborn, Michigan (somehow I think the Apostle Paul would scoff at your assertion that its a no go zone for spreading the Gospel). How you find Christian justification for that is beyond me. No matter where you are in your personal walk (which I cannot judge), associating your personal conspiracy theories with the Gospel is innappropriate. Alright, now that I have had my time on my little soap box, I am going to try and shut up, on the condition that you don’t say something so egregious that I am baited back in.

  5. Bob says:

    When possible, when facing an enemy, you cut the root. The root of the problem you speak of is the Communist teachers of these young men and women. So how do you reprogram a young person when he has been taught by liberals from grade one through college? Like silent Americans we have allowed this for the last hundred years.

  6. L.H. MCDaniel says:

    Very good observant & relevant article. Except for 2 minor points. In your 4th paragragh you mentioned a leader who proved “she” could be trusted, which is difficult to find. Now due to the media over the last 40 or so years which you seem to have bought into, where are the leaders who have proved “he” can be trusted? Due to our media there seems to be a huge lack of masculinity in our culture of which is desperatly necessary. otherwise, you are correct & probably aren’t aware of how you think. And one more thing. You mentioned Lincoln & Reagan, two of the most important presidents. I believe they can be as trusted as most. But you left out possibly the most important “white guy” & that would be Mr. Washington.
    Otherwise, very good article.

  7. DrJCA1 says:

    We are as hypocritical as the liberals are. We espouse liberty and freedom, except for social issues. Abortion, gay marriage, birth control, et al are personal choices in the election booths. If I’m out of wrok and cannot feed my kids, do you think I would ever vote for the holier-than-thous who spend an inordinate amount of time sticking their collective noses into the bedrooms of citizens, rather than spending time and energy on fixing the economic problems destroying our country? We will keep losing elections if we don’t stop the witch-hunts for “sinners” and start paying attention to the real important issues of the day.

  8. Jonahton Kerkhoff says:

    The problem is that the supposed contrast to the liberal Democrats is the Republican Party. The Republican Party nobility-those established long term leaders-do not want a true conservative movement but prefer their own comfort/wealth/power and as such are in bed with the left. An example of their so-called rising stars is Marco Rubio who has made his mark by catering to the illegal alien element. Then there was Dick Lugar, clown prince of amnesty, John McCain the liberals’ choice for the Republican Party leadership, on and on. When a true conservative is running this establishment ignores, fails to support or supports the opposition. If a true conservative is elected they are muzzled or forced into the liberal while pretending to be conservative mold.

  9. John Leo says:

    This is an interesting article but it does contain some inaccuries. For instance Ms. Bila talks about most of her friends being to the left of Obama. Nonsense! The only people who are left of Mr. Obama are the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, China and the former Soviet Union. I also find dubious her mention of a discussion with young conservatives in Manhattan. THERE ARE NO CONSERVATIVES IN MANHATTAN; young or otherwise!!! At least not out in the open. Given the left’s unbounded hatred for anything conservative, any conservative who dared show his face in Manhattan would likely be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail.

  10. Deborah says:

    Josh said at 01/30/2013 at 1:40 pm: Republicans … should drop the social conservatism and replace it with Libertarian values of personal freedom. I can’t imagine anyone rejecting that philosophy if they understood what it meant.

    I agree with Josh (except for the last part — people DO reject liberty if, as millions are today, they are mesmerized by the current wolf in sheep’s clothing, secular humanism). But libertarian views, deep respect for personal liberty, opportunity, and free markets; a shunning of invasive, expensive, and exploitative government — we ARE ready for this, if only more people understood this libertarian view.

    I, too, have great respect for Sarah Palin but believe she is unelectable. We need an electable leader. And we need legal clarification of what is a naturalized citizen before nominating a child of immigrant parents. One illegal president is enough.

    • FOTH says:


      In the 2012 presidential race the Republicans got 47.19% of the total popular vote. The Libertarian Party got .99% of the total popular vote (notice the decimal point?). In light of those numbers can you tell why the Republican Party should adopt the Libertarian Party Platform? I just don’t see it happening.

      The problem with the GOP is not its platform or the principles it stands for (including the Right-to-Life). It is its toleration for Republicans who once elected do not live up to their promises and stand for those principles. The GOP needs to withdraw support from them at the first sign of wavering on principle. We should adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward gutless wonders who cave in time after time to avoid a fight with the Democrats when the pressure is turned on by the media

  11. blueniner says:

    I think Sarah Palin is that leader.Now that Sarah is unshackled from FOX, maybe she will emerge to take this country where it needs to go. She can reform and certainly inspire America.

    • Ankit says:

      it, I’m not a bleeding heart I prismoe), and quite frankly and embarrassment to conservatives all across the country. Like I said earlier, I hesitate to get involved in internet arguments but as a WilCo resident myself, I hate to see this trash associated with my county/state. If I misunderstood your argument or you want me to further clarify my points I am happy to listen/further clarify, I’m not posting just for the sake of being contrary.

  12. Kevin in NorCal says:

    Abraham Lincoln endured numerous political and personal failures and miseries before and during his presidency. Ronald Reagan was continually mocked by the elite before and during his presidency. These young conservatives need to learn humility and perseverance. Instead of looking for the next media-anointed political star, look for the quiet, thoughtful conservative fighting and losing but not giving up. Your future inspiring leader is currently learning from his or her setbacks and growing stronger in character. And anyone surrendering now to remain popular and relevant, good riddance! This is the time to filter out the weak, phony, and self-interested.

  13. Frank says:

    As it turns out, someone had changed the way they looked at things. WHO??? Sarah Palin???

  14. Josh says:

    Well put. That is exactly what’s wrong with the conservative movement. Republicans must figure out a way to get the silent majority on their side and in voting booths. IMO they should drop the social conservatism and replace it with Libertarian values of personal freedom. I can’t imagine anyone rejecting that philosophy if they understood what it meant.

    • FOTH says:


      The number of Republicans who are deeply committed to social conservatism far out-number Libertarians who are committed to the conservative values of personal freedom and liberal values pertaining to social issues. It would be much more productive for Libertarians to drop their liberal ideas and become whole conservatives. It would not require a violation of moral conscience on their part as it would for the for the morally conscious Republicans to abandon their faith and become middle of the road moderates.

      Moreover, if the Republican Party did drop its conservative position on social issues and thereby attract to their ranks the two or three percent of voters the Libertarian Party usually turns out in general elections, then the Republicans would lose a majority of its current base—without which it would never win a general election. That is precisely why the liberal media is constantly trying to create a division between the Republican Party and their conservative base. It’s unfortunate that so few members of the socially liberal Libertarians find that so hard to understand.

      • FOTH says:

        Please change “few” in the last sentence to “many”.

      • DrJCA1 says:

        I beleive you’re all wrong int his respect. Most of us conservatives do NOT want the holier-than-thous in office. While espousing liberty and freedom, the hypocrites on the right do NOT want these same values in social issues. While I can disagree with particular issues, a decision to have an abortion or not is a personal one. A decision to use birth control is a personal one. A decision to mind your own business if homosexuals want to get married or not is a personal one. If we do not stop being so hypocritical in these areas, we will keep losing elections to the crazies on the left. Economic issues are far more important than social ones. If I am out of work and cannot feed my family, do you really believe I will vote for someone who is addressing this issue or someone who is worried about two guys getting hitched?

        • FOTH says:


          You said, “ Economic issues are far more important than social ones…If I am out of work and cannot feed my family, do you really believe I will vote for someone who is addressing this issue or someone who is worried about two guys getting hitched?”

          If, in your set of priorities economic issues are the most important, then I would expect you vote for the person who advocates economic policies that you agree with and pay no attention to what they think on social issues. If the only person on the ballot who advocates economic policies you agree with is a Republican then logically you would vote for the Republican regardless of what he thinks about the social issues.

          Unless, of course, social issues are more important to you than you proclaim. In which case it is you who is the hypocrite for demanding that Conservatives set their views on social issues aside while you cling to your own.

  15. Diana Erbio says:

    Your observation that something was missing in those young conservatives since the last time you met is important. “You say their ideas hadn’t changed. They still love their country. But their belief in a leader to help them do what needs to get done was gone.” That is a good thing because that will inspire them to take on the roles of being leaders themselves. Maybe as future politicians, but just as important as leaders in their own fields of interest. America needs the next generation to begin to take the lead in media, education, entertainment, science and business to go back to our roots of an America that values individual freedom and equal opportunity for all, with the recognition that equal opportunity does not guarantee equal outcome for all because that is impossible.

  16. Richard Lankenau says:

    Interesting take on the post-election disappointment of the young conservatives you met with. What I seem to notice when speaking to this current young generation is an avid hunger for something they can believe in. These inquisitive youth seek to separate themselves from their brain-dead, game playing, celebrity fawning “friends” and accomplish something worthwhile. They’re starved for knowledge. They overwhelmingly respect life, have an optimism, albeit guarded, about the future and how they can shape it in a constructive and positive manner. They listen almost enraptured to examples of those who overcame seemingly insurmountable hardships armed with an unshakable faith in God and a strong will to succeed in spite of any obstacles placed in their path. But your right. They also seek and need leaders; not any one in particular but many. They will eventually find them among themselves. Meantime, until each one of them looks into a mirror and recognizes the leader reflected, it’s up to us older generations to incentivize; prod them along with a stimulating dialogue, a casual conversation, a positive comment, anything that will help them keep focused and their minds’ eye on the prize of a nation like non other as envisioned by the founding fathers. A revolution is one complete turn. What began a hundred years ago with Woodrow Wilson will end with Barack Obama as the pendulum begins its swing in the “right” direction.

    • Martin Pearson says:

      I am afraid that we have let the pendulum swing to far in the “wrong” direction that it won’t come back. Right now we have far too many so called Conservative Republicans that say one thing and vote the opposite. If they were true conservatives every one would have voted against raising the debt limit and against sending F16s and tanks to Egypt. If wasn’t for the “R” after their name would think that they were Democrats.
      When the Republicans decide to come together and be unified in their core beliefs will they ever get this country turned around.

    • Corn says:

      Michael McCormack The fact that you don’t believe Sharia law is a theart to us at the moment is very naive of you. Muslims (and Islamic groups) don’t need a majority to push their agenda. All they need are some suck up politicians and complacent citizens and boom they’re good to go. I don’t doubt that Muslim-Americans can push their agenda somewhat effectively without a majority, just like any other minority group does. For example, Jews, to whom the religious scaremongering exhibited by this article used to be directed, have effectively pushed various agendas in the political arena (some politicians even suck up to them!), but even they don’t have the political weight to implement deuteronomic law over the country. Its absurd is to worry about any implementation of sharia law by a tiny minority of the country’s population, the vast majority of Muslims probably wouldn’t want to live under sharia law anyways. What happened in Dearborn is upsetting, but last I checked there isn’t a piece of Sharia law on the books there either. The video of the stoning (a massive and misleading hyperbole for the situation, not to mention insulting for actual Christian martyrs who have been stoned) doesn’t look like an Islamic takeover, just a bunch of obnoxious kids throwing crap at people with signs meant to bait them. Furthermore, why are several State legislatures passing bills making it illegal to use “foreign law” (or Sharia Law) in state courts? Hmmm? Why would you think this line of argument would be convincing to me exactly? I think it should be clear that I think the whole frenzy surrounding sharia in America is a result of scare mongering by people looking for a conspiracy theory to freak out about. The states that have passed laws against Sharia (ie Oklahoma) are precisely the ones that need to worry least about its implementation due to their pop. composition if that tells you anything about the reality of their claims. And excuse me if I don’t share your wholehearted trust of the government. I trust the government enough to avoid being taken over by Islamists, especially considering the TN gov has all of one Muslim (who seems like a nice, well qualified lady) at a mid level position. To me, that seems like a very minimal level of trust to have, but I guess that makes me a leftist with slovenly trust in the government in your eyes.

  17. John Dutton says:

    Weakness in the face of evil is pandemic. Republican nominee 2016, Member Poll? None of the above.

  18. M says:

    Thanks for this. Right on point.

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