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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