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Are you finally ready to think about things?

As I have often said, my self-appointed role is to make people re-think their preconceived thoughts and actions in life.  Back in 2005, I was asked to speak to a student organization at the University of Tennessee.  My opening remark was met with gasps, dirty looks, whispers and other chatter around the room.

But, I got their attention.

It was a Republican group and I simply said that while they support a political party who is currently holding power in Washington, they do a lot wrong.  I cited examples of proposed legislation that were contrary to the First Amendment or contrary to the intent of our Founding Fathers, as understood from reading of the Federalist Papers.

After some of them wanted to walk out and watch “Shaun of the Dead” being shown across the hall, and that might have been a better idea anyway, I explained to them it was more important to maintain their individual values over that of any organization they may join or support.

BOOM!

Many got it.

Then I polled the room.  How many share political beliefs with their parents?  Two-thirds of the group (about 50 students) said that they shared views with both parents.  The other 25 or so students broke down like this: 10 or so had parents with split political views.  6 or 7 never discussed politics at home and the remaining 7 or 8 actually held different political values from their parents.

Interesting, but not surprising.

A year later, I was approached by some of those same students who thanked me for my presentation.  They realized that they may have been over-influenced by parents or peers.  One young woman told me that had resisted peer pressure over drugs, alcohol and sex, but until that night caved in to those around her by nodding and agreeing with them.  She realized that she had, until that time, never sat down and seriously thought about what she really thinks about many of the issues she would face after leaving college.  She told me that she started to engage those around her in debates on certain issues, rather than hold it in.  She was conservative and she knew it, but now she was willing to say it because she had finally thought about it.  And she told me that she could now discuss various issues because she had taken the time to help herself, after my challenge.

I was beaming when I heard that (she had accompanied other UT students to the radio station when I moderated a debate between students who supported Bob Corker and those who supported Harold Ford, Jr. in their 2006 Senate race).  That was a moment that made me feel like my choice of a career was the right one.

When I throw out my opinion on something, I am NOT looking for you to agree with me.  I am also not looking for you to argue with me.  I am looking to make sure that you have given the idea some thought before you make a decision on it, like casting your ballot.  I really want you to think.  I really do.

Back when I was working in radio full-time, I often told people that if they did not know and understand the issues on the ballot that day, stay home.  Do not vote and screw things up for those of us who have done their homework. 

Harsh?  Maybe, but I am deadly serious about it.

Following the last election, nothing pissed me off more than seeing the zombie-like zealots who supported Barack Obama…..but could not say which party he belonged to, which party controlled Congress, or even name a key issue that then-Senator Obama supported.  And there were tons of videos available out there to expose it.

That is not to say that you didn’t have ignorant people supporting George W. Bush, you did.  I knew some.  They scared me too.

And back in October 1992, I sat in a bar after work with several co-workers.  One of them said that he was a Bill Clinton supporter.  I asked why he liked Clinton.  His honest-to-God answer was, “Because he went on Arsenio Hall and played his sax.  That took guts.”  Huh?  I asked about issues, to which Pat responded, “I don’t pay attention to that kind of stuff.”  Stuff?  Like taxes, international affairs, etc.  Playing the sax on late night was all that Pat needed to win his support.  He was not the only one….others at the table agreed.

My point is that this is not a partisan issue.  This is a cultural issue.  And it is not a 21st Century issue.

It is widely known that those who watched the Kennedy-Nixon debate on television said that Kennedy won, but the radio audience said it was Nixon who bested Kennedy.

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright had a simple philosophy to his designs.  “Form follows Function” was the belief that Wright followed and that Wright taught.  But, Wright also knew that form was important.

“Form follows Function” should also apply to issues and politics.  Listen to the facts, not the sleight of hand of slick politicians.  Process the facts and formulation your opinions based on those facts.  Be prepared to re-evaluate your opinions when new facts present themselves.  And know how to defend your opinions.

But do so on issues that have a real and direct impact on your life.  Do not become the expert on why Adam Lambert didn’t win on American Idull?  Doesn’t matter.  Being able to gush on ad nauseum about what Donny Osmond should not have won on Dancing with the Has-beens will not get us a better government in Jefferson City, Nashville, or Washington, DC.

My talk impacted one young woman four years ago.  I hope she still feels that way.

But for now, I still hope that other who read my words do not simply take offense and dismiss me.  If you do, that is your loss and exposes your own closed-mindedness.

And I hope you miss Paula when American Idull starts up next month. I am sure that Ellen will be fine.

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2 Comments

  • Dec 29th 200912:12
    by David Gaines

    Nicely done Jay.

    As to the comments from the Clinton supporter… let’s be honest, it took guts for ANYBODY to appear on Arsenio’s show!!

  • Dec 29th 200912:12
    by Administrator

    But it took more guts, a year later, to appear on Chevy Chase’s show.

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