My Democratic National Convention Speech

No I didn’t speak at the DNC, but if I had this is what I would have said

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Photo by JESSICA KOURKOUNIS and Getty Images.

I don’t know if 22 is old enough to call yourself a lifelong Republican, but I think it is fair to say that there are probably few kids as infatuated with a political party at such a young age as I was. My first exposure to politics was in 2004 when I was just six years old. My dad took me to go see President Bush speak at a rally near my hometown of Canton, Ohio. I don’t remember too much about what it was about that rally, but from that moment on, politics became my passion and my obsession.

In the years following, I would gradually get more and more involved with every presidential cycle that passed. In 2008, when I was in the fifth grade, we had a class project where we split up into groups and presented on the presidential candidate and campaign that we wanted to win. My two friends and I were the only group in the class who presented on Sen. John McCain over future President Barack Obama.

In the seventh grade, when we were assigned to give a persuasive speech, while most kids talked about why people should root for their favorite sports team, I spoke for 15 minutes on why everyone should be a Republican.

I dug even deeper in 2012, inspired, perhaps borderline obsessed, with Republican candidate Mitt Romney. I skipped school to go to his rallies, always wearing the same shirt to all of them, which I called my “Romney shirt,” in hopes he would remember who I was. The week before the election, when it was announced Romney would be speaking at my high school’s baseball field, I left school early to ensure I was the first person in line to get into the rally. His loss was admittedly more heartbreaking to me than it should have been.

2016 was a bit different. My passion for politics was at its peak and I considered myself a Republican through and through. The array of Republican candidates was exciting, and after a thorough review I settled on my state’s governor, John Kasich, as my candidate and became involved in his campaign; knocking doors, making phone calls, attending rallies, and placing a “Kasich for Us” sign next to each and every spot I saw a Trump sign.

When it became clear Trump was going to become the party’s nominee, I supported him, although, like so many other Republicans, I spoke freely about my concerns about the candidate who would become President. Somewhat reluctantly, but with what I felt was no other choice, I voted for Donald Trump in November of 2016. When he won, I was actually happy and for a short while embraced the new energy that had come to the Republican Party. I attended the Presidential Inauguration sporting a MAGA hat, went to the Conservative Political Action Conference, and was elected to the Executive Board of my school’s chapter of College Republicans.

What I didn’t realize at the time, was that this energy in the party that felt so exciting in the early parts of the Trump presidency was in fact a dark energy that eventually consumed the party that I had become endeared to at such a young age.

Over the past few years, I have felt lost in the political spectrum. I knew that I did not support the Trumpian ideals, or lack thereof, that have taken over the Republican Party, yet I didn’t feel I could become a Democrat, especially as the party seemed to be moving further left. I felt I had no place in the two-party system, that no one really wanted my vote or would be able to earn it, and that any ambitions I had to work in politics or launch a political career of my own would no longer be possible. I could not bring myself to embrace ideals that I did not myself believe in order to have a career in politics. I quietly fell silent on political matters and focused my energy in other areas, charting a new career path for myself and finding a new passion in leadership and community building in organizations.

It was in that new passion for leadership and building strong organizations that I soon realized the severity of what the current administration is doing to this country. I studied leadership in college. If Donald Trump took a leadership class, he would fail. I could make a long academic case, stating the reasons why Donald Trump’s leadership style is not compatible with success, but I won’t bore you because you already know. You’ve seen the results. You’ve seen it in the his failure on the pandemic, you’ve seen it in his handling of the economy — looking to the stock market as the only indicator of economic success, you’ve seen it in his utter failure to recognize the existential threat of climate change, and you’ve seen it with the fall of our standing abroad. As Michael Bloomberg so correctly said in his DNC speech, you would never hire someone or do business with someone with the track record of Donald Trump.

But the single biggest problem with Donald Trump is not even a policy issue. It is his utter lack of empathy, destructive narcissism, and calculated divisiveness. As a student of business and successful organizations, which I can tell you Donald Trump is not, I know that the most successful organizations put their people first. Donald Trump has put himself first and the American people last because he has no capacity to care about them. With 170,000 plus Americans dead as a result of COVID19 and no sign of any remorse or responsibility, “it is what it is,” the president has given shame to title of “Consoler in Chief.” Every good leader knows that long term thinking is what leads an organization, or a country, to success. Donald Trump only thinks in the short term. What will benefit him today, regardless of what it will mean for the country and for democracy going forward.

Worst of all, instead of a leader that lifts his people up and brings them together, Donald Trump has torn Americans down. The America I see today breaks my heart. There is a new meanness, a new hatred, a new fear of the other that is evident in this country today, even among regular people. We have a lack of civility and a lack of care for our neighbor that wasn’t present just a few years ago. At the time when we need unity most, we have a president who gives rise to racists, to conspiracy theorists, and yes motivates rioters. These dark corners of America have unfortunately always existed, but never have we had a leader who gives them a platform.

I will be voting against Donald Trump this November. But my vote is not simply a vote against the president. It is indeed a vote for Joe Biden.

In the midst of the chaos we see in America today, Joe Biden has given me hope. He embraces and demonstrates every quality of leadership that Donald Trump does not have. He is a unifier and bleeds empathy for each and every person he comes across. The stories of the Democratic Convention have shown that. Having gone through the healing process so many times himself, he is absolutely the person who can take America through the healing process we most desperately need.

When I have felt that no one wants my vote, when I have felt that there is no place for me in the political system, it is Joe Biden who has given me a place who has said that I have a place in his party and his America. Who says that people of all races, of all backgrounds, all political parties, and all ages have a place in his America, which is more than the current president has ever offered. Similar to the way that aspirants like George Bush and Mitt Romney inspired me to get into politics in the first place, it has been Joe Biden who has inspired me to return and speak up.

Many conservatives that I have come to know fear the worst when it comes to policy in a Biden administration. I am certain I will not agree with every decision a President Biden makes, but in America some things are more important than a policy. Policies change all the time. The soul of our nation, the continuation of our democracy, and the revitalization of our better angels is far more important for our long-term prosperity than a tax hike on the wealthiest among us or a regulation.

The choice in this election could not be starker. We have a choice between recapturing the American ideal or letting it fade away. We have a choice between being the people we know we can be and the people Donald Trump wants us to be — angry, divisive, petty. We have a choice between a more perfect union and the tearing down of the very ideals this country was founded on.

I hope you will join me in voting early and in person, or early by mail for Joe Biden this fall.

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