In 2012, my Young America’s Foundation (YAF) chapter at George Washington University (GW) spent our spring semester planning to host a lecture by the iconic activist Phyllis Schlafly.
This was not out of the ordinary for us– in the same school year we had already hosted S.E. Cupp and Ann Coulter, so our campus was fairly used to YAF organizing lectures by unapologetic conservative commentators.
Phyllis Schlafly was different.
A few nights before the lecture was scheduled to take place, a group of liberal students at GW discovered the Facebook event page and unleashed a cascade of virulent personal attacks on Mrs. Schlafly and members of our chapter. We were well-accustomed to receiving backlash for hosting speakers like Ann Coulter on a liberal campus, but the unfiltered rage directed at us before and after this particular event was breathtaking.
As a college freshman, you don’t expect to receive death threats for working to bring an octogenarian, Harvard educated, bestselling author to your campus.
While we escorted a then-89 year old Schlafly down the hallway to the lecture, dozens of student protestors lined her path, screaming, “This is what a feminist looks like!” literally inches from her face. Their signs told her she had a “special place in Hell” reserved and should, “go back to the kitchen.”
The protestors physically pushed their way past campus security into the room, telling us to “F*** off” as they took their seats.
Not long after Mrs. Schlafly began speaking, a group of roughly 30 protestors simultaneously stood up, began screaming chants, and stormed out of the room.
But whatever hostility we experienced or witnessed that day could never compare to the decades of even greater abuse Schlafly endured over the course of her career.
What seemed extraordinarily vicious to me was, in fact, an ordinary day in the life of Phyllis Schlafly. One day in a career that spanned more than half a century.
There is no possible way to understate her strength.
I’ll never forget informing Mrs. Schlafly that one of the protestors was a man who was majoring in women’s studies. This gave her a good laugh. She was actually pleased to hear there was a protest, perceiving it as a positive sign people were interested to hear her ideas.
Only one year before Mrs. Schlafly visited GW, I was reading about her accomplishments in my A.P. U.S. history textbook as senior in high school. The opportunity to meet her in person was unforgettable. Despite her status as an icon of the 20th Century, she was exceedingly gracious and humble throughout the afternoon.
As the protestors marched out of the room, a grin broke across her face as she quipped politely, “Oh I’m so sorry you’re not going to stay around and let me convince you that you’re wrong! Too bad.”
She proceeded with her lecture entirely unfazed by their protest.
And that was her career. No matter how intense the opposition, she just kept going.
Conservatives today are inclined to dilute their values in the name of compromise. Not me— I will always draw on the strength I absorbed from just one afternoon spent in Mrs. Schlafly’s presence. Strength enough to last a lifetime.