"I want to learn about politics, but I just don’t know how to start." That is a phrase I heard often from friends. With so much misinformation and polarizing rhetoric swirling around, it is both easy and tempting to stop paying attention to current events.
In April 2012, I decided to change that mindset. It started with a letter to the editor I wrote to the Baylor Lariat. One of their op-eds the day before had, in my opinion, misrepresented the facts of a recent news story and come to a misleading conclusion. When the letter was published the following day, I realized how much I had enjoyed every step of the process--thinking about the issues involved, determining my arguments, and presenting them in a logically persuasive way that people who were not familiar with the issue could understand.
This passion amplified as I began writing letters to the editor more often. This soon turned into weekly columns, and I created an online blog (http://consideragain.com/) to keep an archive of my articles. I have never taken any journalism classes, but I bought an AP Stylebook and trained myself to write persuasively and professionally. It was difficult at first, but I soon looked forward to the hours each week I set aside to research a national issue. Sometimes it was the issue that people were talking about that week; sometimes it was an issue I thought needed more attention. Over time, I wrote about everything from healthcare to foreign policy to income inequality.
After self-publishing on my own blog for a summer, I reached out to the Baylor Lariat with a proposal. If they would agree to publish my column in the paper every week, I would gladly write for free. Once my articles started appearing in print, people on campus began talking to me about the week’s topic I had chosen. I began receiving e-mails from professors, administrators, or students I had never met--wanting to follow up with their thoughts on an issue I had covered.
I have had hundreds of discussions with students, professors, and community members that began, "I read your article this week." People do not always agree with my perspectives, but the conversations are always respectful, fun, and enlightening for all involved! Soon, I decided I needed to extend my sphere of influence. I reached out to several websites, and my column was soon syndicated with the Washington Times Communities, PolicyMic, RedState, and other sites. My column about the costs of the death penalty even appeared on MSNBC’s The Last Word TV show, where it was seen by over 1.2 million viewers.
As I continued through Baylor, I realized that though I enjoy my business, finance, and mathematics classes, writing was still what I enjoyed most. It wasn’t just politics either. After I had been writing for awhile, opportunities soon opened up to get involved in other writing projects. I became the Editor-in-Chief for the Baylor Business Fellows newsletter, profiling high-achieving business students. I currently work for Opportunity Lives, a DC-based site that profiles successful entrepreneurs and small business owners.
People in DC always tell me: "You need to know something to write something." So I'm glad that I chose to be in the Baylor Business Fellows program (with second and third majors in Economics and Finance, minors in Mathematics and Political Science). That background allows me to understand complex issues and terms so that I can more easily relate them to people who have never studied these subjects.
I've always loved travel too. I am originally from a suburb of Chicago and had no problem coming thousands of miles away to college in Texas. So when I realized I needed to go to Washington, DC if I wanted to be a good writer, I jumped at the opportunity. My first summer, I had no idea what to expect. I interned at The Heritage Foundation researching economic policy--specifically Social Security and other entitlements. I loved working in DC and met so many uplifting, Christian people who were trying to change the world--unlike the stories of corruption that DC is known for.
After that summer, I decided that I wanted to work for a congressional committee. Through persistence and hard work, I secured an internship with the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives. That experience was unbelievable. At one point, my boss even let me write a speech for the chairman of our subcommittee. I learned a lot and was challenged to do my very best in a high-pressure environment.
Back on campus, I became very involved in the organizations I was a part of. I worked as Campaign Manager for my friend, Wesley Hodges, in his successful run for Student Body President and served as Director of Communications for Baylor Student Government for the following year. I served as President of College Republicans for a year. I was appointed the first Student Fellow of the Baugh Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, and I used this opportunity to partner with some contacts I had made at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC to host a student leadership dinner on campus during my senior year.
Through it all, I was a faithful member of the Baylor Men’s Choir, serving as an officer my sophomore through senior years. (I am the president this year.) Working so closely with our director, Dr. Randall Bradley, taught me more about leadership, delegation, and respect than I learned anywhere else. I love being able to go into rehearsal with 100 guys twice a week to create beautiful music--while having a great deal of fun along the way.
I came to Baylor seeking adventures and new experiences, and I was fortunate to travel to Kenya with the Men's Choir and live in Maastricht, Netherlands for three months and study at the university there. When I studied abroad in Europe, I traveled to 15 countries--which perhaps epitomizes the undergraduate quest for adventure. What I did not anticipate was the grand adventure of the written word. I did not come to Baylor expecting to write for the Lariat or to blog, but to date, I have published almost 150 columns. Most columns are viewed by at least a few thousand people. I have won a Gold Circle Award from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, the 2013 Columnist of the Year award from Turning Point USA, and 3rd place in the Jeff Zaslow College Columnist Contest sponsored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
By taking a clear position on a current issue in 500 words, I have been able to make politics relevant for thousands of people every week.
And how did it all start? By a short letter to the Baylor newspaper.