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Column: My Ideological Journey to Conservatism
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Column: My Ideological Journey to Conservatism

From the time I was two years old, my mother has been a single mom. Being thrust into this role unexpectedly, and with a toddler and a baby, she had serious choices to make.

1999 was an interesting time. It precluded a mini 2001 recession followed by the Great Recession in 2007-2008. Despite the worst, she was able to go to school, learn a trade, and get a job. She went to school when my brother and I were toddlers. She made sure we got a quality education, put food on the table, and made sure my brother and I had everything we needed.

I’ve learned a lot from my mom, with the value of hard work being one of the most important lessons. She showed me that dedication, motivation, and hard work can get you through any situation. Seeing her go through what she’s gone through was tough, but I’m proud of what she’s done.

In 2011, not too long after the stock market collapse, I acquired my first job. It was a small grocery store and deli. Excited to begin work, I just remembered to do my best work as I was always raised to do. I started earning money and as anyone will tell you that can remember their first job, it was an awesome feeling. Earning this money, working hard for it, and being able to buy what I wanted was very rewarding and instilled in me the value of being dedicated to your job in order to get where you want to in life. Simultaneously to my personal victories, something bigger was happening in America.

In 2012, America had a choice about which direction they wanted to see the country go. The 2012 election cycle was an important milestone for many, and it provided motivation to change the country for the better.

For many millennials like myself, it was the first election cycle that inspired us and our political ideologies. For me personally, it was a definite turning point and the seed which blossomed into the political ideology that I hold today. Mitt Romney really exemplified the values and principles I was beginning to form. Romney inspired millions of other millennials to never give up hope for this country and reminded us that being a conservative Republican is not always like the picture painted by pop culture and the media.

The GOP was founded in the mid 1800’s from the rubble of the Whig party for a noble cause, primarily, anti-slavery. Since its founding, the Republican Party has been a driving force for equality, responsibility, freedom, and opportunity. Fast forward to the 1900’s, this record of fighting for equality continues. From fighting for the end of slavery to fighting for women’s suffrage, civil rights, and Reagan tax cuts, the party’s commitment to advocating for important banner issues has remained consistent. The common theme that these fights from past to present share is conservatism. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was becoming a capitalist and more broadly a conservative.

Advancing on into high school, my conservative values continued to grow. I became actively involved in Student Government and DECA, an organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management.

Through DECA, I grew very fond of marketing, specifically advertising. I also gained a large interest for entrepreneurship and business ownership. I became mesmerized by the thought of taking nothing and turning it into a prosperous business, giving consumers something they have never experienced before and giving dedicated employees a good means of living.

While most kids were dreaming about spring break, I was dreaming about living in New York City and working on Madison Avenue. Entrepreneurship, business ownership, marketing, and advertising all thrive under one system: capitalism. Free enterprise became of the utmost importance to me from my experiences. It is the only system that knows no race, gender, social class, or condition of one’s birth. This was a system that could take a lower middle class kid from Upstate New York and turn him into anything he puts his mind to.

DECA, as well as high school in general, taught me the value of education. With this in mind, I made it my mission to be the first of my immediate family to attend a four year college. In late 2014, I was admitted into Le Moyne College, a private Jesuit college in the Northeast. I was told by many to start with community college and that I couldn’t afford a private education, but that didn’t slow me down. I worked very hard in high school to make sure that I got the best head start I could. My grades, my experiences with DECA, and with my college essay all paid off when I was awarded a scholarship that would allow me to attend the college of my dreams. I attend a higher level institution despite my upbringing, and from the moment of my acceptance and scholarship award I learned something. Anyone of any income can attend college in the United States. That is a wonderful thing.

By the 2016 election cycle, I was a Sophomore in college and I became heavily invested in the Republican primary election, as well as the Congressional elections that cycle. Though Donald Trump was the nominee by a small margin, the primary highlighted all the different types of conservatives that make up our party including true free enterprise, pro-Constitution Republicans. It highlighted the heart and soul of conservatism and all that it stands for. Marco Rubio’s message was the one that most resonated with me. Rubio had a strong message of optimism and was truly the most positive candidate in the primary. He also envisioned an America that is the global leader of the 21st Century, just as we were during the 20th Century. He believed in diversity and encouraged immigration, much like President Reagan. And his message of hope, diversity, and America being the global leader of the 21st Century was so powerful. Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, and John Kasich were also among my favorites.

There were ideological warriors of all kinds from within the party, each contributing a piece to the overall conservative ideal. Ted Cruz brought states rights and social conservatism to the table while Rand Paul brought a love of liberty to the table. Rubio brought a Reaganesque feeling of optimism and hope for the future of the GOP and America while Jeb Bush and John Kasich both offered executive experience, strong foreign policy stances, and fiscal conservatism. Carly Fiorina ran with her experience in business and, along with it, the perspective of business professionals.

Diversity was also displayed through the types of candidates in the race. Candidates included children of working class immigrants, a doctor, a businesswoman, businessmen, governors, and a diversity of culture, similar to the diversity within this great nation. Each candidate was passionate about their beliefs and all were passionate about the USA. This passion and seeing all of the diversity within the GOP showed me a side of conservatism that the left and many icons in popular culture deny exists.

Not only did I follow the primary elections, but I became very motivated to get involved and fight for what I believe in. This past election cycle, I joined the John Katko for U.S. Congress Campaign. Similar to Rubio, Congressman Katko is an ideological warrior of optimism and hope for the country. He also had a wonderful voting record in his freshman term, passing more bills than any other freshman in Congress. I became heavily invested in this campaign, from knocking on doors to making phone calls, putting up campaign signs, attending fundraisers, supporting him during debates with Colleen Deacon, and working about 4 days straight the final week of the campaign. He ended up winning by landslide margins in a district that was rated as a swing district. This victory was very powerful to me personally and gave me drive to continue blazing a conservative trail in Upstate New York.

Today, I am continuing to fight for what I believe in. I am a Junior at Le Moyne College and plan to pursue an MBA after I obtain my Bachelors Degree. Shortly after the 2016 election, my friend Brian and I began an LLC of our own. When we launch, we will revolutionize the online marketplace experience. My dreams from the DECA days are becoming a reality. Free enterprise and hard work have both been instrumental in this dream. In 2017, I also joined a PAC called American Conservation Coalition. I work on the Federal Policy team and am excited to join the fight for effective, responsible environmental reform in a way that will not hinder our values as Americans or believers in capitalism. My life experiences have contributed to the young leader I am today and I know that anything I set my mind to possible. Despite “the odds,” I have become everything I want to be and more. The American Dream is real and I can say that confidently from first hand experience.

I’m a conservative because I dream of an America where people work hard, live life to the fullest, and live without fear of an overreaching government. An America teeming with people from all types of cultures with all types of backgrounds. One where your birth does not determine the outcome of your life or how much money you earn. This America can exist, it is simply a matter of the people in this country coming together and fighting for what is rightfully theirs: freedom, equality, opportunity, and a smaller, more efficient government.

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