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    Wednesday, April 27, 2005

    Louisville, Kentucky: My 25th State!

    On April 12, I flew from Orlando to Louisville, Kentucky. When I arrived, I realized, this is a new state for me... and I counted them up... I just landed in my 25th state! I guess that means... 25 more to go!

    I wasn't in Louisville very long. But I was there long enough to meet with 5 students from the Cardinal Leadership Institute, an ISI-affiliated group at the University of Louisville. Their main function as a group is to publish the Louisville Patriot, an excellent publication. I had met Brian Yates, their group's leader, once before. After dinner, Brian gave me a tour of the campus and then we went out for a beer or two at a British bar on "Fourth Street Live", the revitalized area of downtown Louisville. Not bad.

    The next day, I took about a 90-minute morning drive to Indiana University in Bloomington to meet with a faculty member and two other gentlemen in the local community. The faculty member at IU is trying to start an ISI reading group with some conservative students there. I also got a nice tour from the faculty member I met with. He showed me (from the outside) where the Hoosiers play all their basketball games and the area where they usually gather to celebrate a big win. The Indiana campus was very nice, and Bloomington looked like an ideal college town. But, again, I wasn't there long. From there, I took a three hour drive to South Bend, Indiana... to visit the glory that is Notre Dame. I will talk more about my two-day experience at Notre Dame in my next blog.

    Tuesday, April 26, 2005

    To my right is Shaun Lara, Chairman of "UCF R.O.C.K.", which stands for "Rebuilding on a Conservative Kornerstone." To my left is Josh McCoy, a graduating senior and a leader of the College Republicans at Rollins College. This was a meeting that took place on April 11th, to network the UCF and Rollins College conservative leadership with each other and with ISI. You can thank these students and their friends for helping to win the state of Florida for President Bush and Senator Martinez. Orlando is located in the center of the famous "I-4 Corridor" that decides most statewide elections in Florida. Now, during the "off-season" they'll be working to strengthen the ideas that are shaping the future of the conservative movement.Posted by Hello

    ACT'ing up in Miami: Here I am on April 6th with the Advocates for Conservative Thought, an ISI-affiliated group at the University of Miami. They gave me a t-shirt that says the name of their group on the front, and on the back it says "Celebrate Diversity!" Classic. Go Canes! Posted by Hello

    Saturday, April 23, 2005

    Freedom Spreading in Florida

    I was in Florida earlier this month, from about April 1-12. It was a great trip all around. I met with a group of College Republicans from FAU, my alma mater. I was truly impressed. These students have not only built the College Republican membership at FAU up to over 400 members, but they also started a conservative student newspaper on campus, called "Right On Campus."

    When I was at FAU, from about 2000-2001, there were very few College Republicans to be found at all. And, when I entered UCF as a freshman in 1996, there were only a handful there, even as we tried to remove Bill Clinton from office. Now, the UCF College Republicans boast a membership of over 1,000 students! The College Republicans at both of these former schools of mine, and all across the state have done a magnificent job building membership, and ensuring that Republicans continue getting elected.

    The last time Florida had a Republican Senator was when Connie Mack retired in the late 90's. Now, Mel Martinez was elected in Bob Graham's vacated seat. Jeb Bush has been governor for two terms, and President Bush was elected, barely in 2000, and very handedly (5% margin) in 2004. The College Republicans of Florida certainly had a major hand in this, as college students are usually the most active about recruiting new members for their organizations, registering new voters, and mobilizing those voters.

    I was invited to speak at the College Republicans of Florida state convention on Saturday, April 9, to introduce over 100 students to ISI's programs and membership. The convention was held at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. I had a great time, meeting very energetic students. For me, this was a splendid time because I was able to promote ISI to many students in my home state - from schools such as UM, FAU, UCF, FSU, USF, UF, Stetson, Palm Beach Atlantic, UNF, Jacksonville University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Rollins College, and probably others I can't recall off-hand.

    My biggest message to the College Republicans was asking them to reflect on the fact that Republicans (the more "conservative" party) control the executive and legislative branches of both the federal government and the state government of Florida. I suggested to them that usually once people are in power, they forget what brought them there. What I believe brought conservatives to hold so many offices was the ideas and principles that define the conservative movement: limited government, judeo-christian moral norms, personal responsibility, individual liberty, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for the market economy.

    For the College Republicans of Florida, I suggested that ISI could benefit them by introducing them to these ideas and educate them more deeply in the principles that sustain a free society - and the conservative movement. We did not get to power by just holding on to it at all costs, we came to power as a party and as a movement by adhering to these timeless principles. I hope and trust they walked away with a good message and that they each indulge themselves in an education in ordered liberty.

    From the initial response I received from many students during the day, I think they will heavily indulge in ISI's programs, from lectures to books. I felt like freedom was certainly spreading in Florida... as the future leaders of my home state continue to push forward to ensure that even while their own party is in power, that this party adheres to its own principles. Otherwise, we really wouldn't have won. With ISI Books in their hands, the College Republican leadership across the state of Florida are continuing to spread the Reagan Revolution, by combining their action with ideas and putting their ideas in action.

    Here I am with 4 members of the FAU College Republicans, from left to right is Steve, Shane, Lauren, Rob, and myself, an FAU Alumnus. Posted by Hello

    Thursday, April 21, 2005

    John Paul II's Challenge Lives On

    This post on my blog is well overdue. Since I have been traveling nearly the past 3 weeks, I have not had the opportunity to sit down and write something reflective on my thoughts. But, while I was home in Florida visiting my family, I sat around the television on Saturday, April 2, and watched as the scenes from Rome unfolded, as thousands gathered to pray with the ailing Pope John Paul II as he passed away from this world and moved on to be with the angels and saints in Heavan with our Lord.

    During the first nine months of my life here on earth in 1978, I lived under the reign of three different Papacies. However, I never really knew the first two Popes. Both Paul VI and John Paul I died that year. But, when Karol Wojtyla, a Cardinal from Poland was surprisingly selected as Pope – the first non-Italian Pope in nearly half a millennium – it was a selection that shocked the world.

    I would never know of this “shock,” but I and billions of others around the world, would never forget his name and the impact he had on our world. He helped bring down communism, not by advocating capitalism, but instead by going to the heart of the beast, and advocating religious liberty. Communism works under a doctrine of atheism, where the state replaces God as the benefactor of all. Pope John Paul II, and even President Ronald Reagan (who shared a deep relationship with the Pope), both understood that religious liberty was the key to helping people living in communist countries to overthrow the oppressive regimes that dictated their lives.

    Freedom of religion is in fact a freedom. There are very few, if any, freedoms in communist countries. The totalitarian state always tries to monopolize all the power (and usually succeeds), be it economic, political, or spiritual. The former USSR was not only an avowedly “atheist” state, but also persecuted, imprisoned and killed anyone who professed a faith – any faith. What is little known, but becoming more known now, is how much John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and others, worked towards getting Moscow to allow religious liberty throughout the Soviet Empire. The moral leaders of our times deeply understood that if people had religion, any religion, they would each realize they had a soul. And, no matter how totalitarian a government can be, they cannot have power over a person’s soul, for that is truly and uniquely their own.

    John Paul II also did much to speak to the young people of our generation. For more on this, I would advise you to consult this article, written by a Methodist student at Berry College in Georgia.

    Though his teachings and leadership was important to Catholics like myself, John Paul II also transcended the Catholic faith, reached out to all people, and was committed to ending the moral relativism so prominent in our world – a relativism that has been with the modern world for quite some time.

    Last summer, my brother and I went on a month-long trip to Europe, most of which was spent in Italy, and five days of which were spent in Rome. We visited the Vatican museum and St. Peter’s Basilica, but we also were able to attend one of the weekly blessings the Pope usually held on Wednesdays in St. Peter’s Square. With thousands of other, very jubilant people, we received a blessing from the Pope and we saw him from less than 100 feet away as he rode by in an open vehicle, before he was propped up on the stage. I will never forget the experience. And, my picture below captivated the moment of seeing before my eyes the successor of St. Peter.

    When I left the Vatican, I wanted to take a momento and one item I bought was an 8x10 sheet with the Pope’s photo on it, as well as a quote of his blessing to all of us. I had it framed and ever since I returned, I put it on the wall in my living room in my apartment to remind me of our Holy Father's call to our generation.

    It reads: “Do Not Be Afraid! Open the doors to Christ. God works in the concrete and personal affairs of each one of us. Don’t let the time that the Lord gives you run on as if everything were due to chance. With this expression of my hope, I send you all, from the depths of my heart, my blessing.”

    It truly is a blessing that we can each relate to. After all the doctrines, the catechism, the way we each practice our own faiths, we often do “let the time that the Lord gives” us run on, whether it be by chance or the fact that we each become consumed with the things of this world, perhaps most simply the busyness of our lives. Once we truly “open the doors to Christ,” everything truly becomes new again. Some of us are reluctant to open those doors – simply open them. We each need to go to the Bible, go to the Gospel, and read what Jesus instructed us to do. For some, we have read these stories many times – but they are worth re-reading, every day if possible. For others, these stories are only vaguely known or known very little of. With the spirit of John Paul II, I challenge my readers and myself, to continue to “open the doors”.

    Those doors are doors to our hearts, our minds, and our soul. John Paul II encouraged and succeeded at getting communist dictators to allow the people of their countries to “open the doors”. Once the doors were opened, the walls were knocked down and liberty flourished. On a personal level, we can each search deeper and continue to open the doors. The hardest part is the first step of opening those doors. So, I challenge you to open them. In the words of John Paul II, “Do Not Be Afraid!”

    This was a picture that I took last summer in Rome, when Pope John Paul II rode by us, in St. Peter's Square. This vehicle transported him around the crowd so that everyone could get close to him. Then, they drove him up to the stage, where he delivered his weekly Papal blessing in (at least) 8 different languages, including English. Posted by Hello

    Sunday, April 17, 2005

    Quick Reflections

    I apologize that I have not posted a new blog in over 2 weeks... but the reason can be seen below in a previous post... see that schedule? Yea, pretty crazy. I've been out of town for the last 17 days! I was in Florida from April 1-12, then in Louisville KY on April 12-13. Then I spent April 13-17 in Indiana - from Bloomington to South Bend, back down to Indianapolis for ISI's Annual Conference.

    I had a great time, enjoyed many privileged experiences, met many new people, visited with my family, and visited many more campuses, and also grieved and rejoiced for the life and death of Pope John Paul II. I'll have more to write about the late Pontiff in the coming days. But, I can also say, I visited a new state - Kentucky! Yes, it was for less than 24 hours, but that time in Louisville certainly counts. So, I've now visited (or lived) in 25 of our 50 states, plus our federal District of Columbia. Exciting! Just 25 more to go!

    While I'm back in Wilmington for two days, I'll be heading back out of town for another few days, as I jet up to Harvard for an ISI debate. But, more posts will be coming soon.