I have often been asked why I identify as a Republican, and my usual response is rooted in my belief in the conservative values of the party. It encompasses socially conservative policies, although dissenting centrist and libertarian perspectives exist within the party as well.
However, a recent comment by Phil Williams on "Rightside Radio" prompted me to reflect on a fundamental question: Why am I a conservative?
While I thought I had a clear understanding of what it meant to be conservative, I decided I should explore the "official" definitions.
According to the dictionary, a conservative is "a person who is averse to change and holds traditional values." On the political side, conservatism is based on a belief in the rule of law, individualism, traditionalism, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, American exceptionalism and limited federal governmental power in relation to U.S. states. Although I don't oppose change outright, I do believe that change for the sake of change is not always beneficial. Additionally, traditional values and most conservative political principles resonate with me.
In reflecting on the formation of my conservative values, I look back to my father — an industrious man who worked tirelessly to provide for his family. Starting as a mechanic making $15 a week, he eventually retired as a chief of police in a small midwestern town. Welfare was unheard of then, and families relied on their own hard work and the support of family, neighbors, the church and the community. Mom was always there to guide the way — being the typical mother of the times and working three jobs in one as a stay-at-home mom — until I was in middle school when she sought employment. Guess she thought I was old enough to boil water without burning the place down by that time. In essence, their examples instilled in me the importance of hard work, adaptability, faith, family and ethics.
Growing up, I worked in the garden from a young age and, at 10, took on jobs at a trap shooting facility, gradually progressing from picking up spent shotgun shells to setting traps for the shooters. I remained consistently employed, undertaking various jobs throughout school and a few years beyond. My journey also included military and civil service, culminating in a 32-year career with Uncle Sam.
In retrospect, conservatism wasn't something imposed upon me; it evolved because I had two parents who were present, caring and dedicated to guiding me in the right direction. Yes, I made mistakes — we all do. However, accountability and personal responsibility were ingrained in me from an early age. Discipline was administered both at home and by other authorities, teaching me the importance of respecting authority figures, and that when you do something wrong, you learn to own it.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Phil Williams for prompting me to reflect on “why I am a conservative.” In essence, it boils down to being a patriotic American who prioritizes God, family and country. It means recognizing the difference between right and wrong and fighting fervently to uphold what is right while staunchly opposing what is wrong.
We all need to reflect on what makes us who we are occasionally, so we never lose sight of what we are.
Charles ‘Kip’ Kiplinger is the vice president of the North Central Alabama Republican Assembly.
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