Guest Blog by David French
Yesterday, in my first blog of the week, I introduced the “four D’s” of effective campus activism: Decide, discern, defeat, and discredit. Today let’s talk about the first: the decision.
Nothing is more frustrating to me than cowardice. And, yes, that is the correct term. Again and again, I hear complaints from conservative students and professors who chafe at the leftist establishment, hate the injustice of speech codes and viewpoint discrimination, and long to see change . . . as long as someone else leads the way. When I (or other attorneys at the ADF Center for Academic Freedom) challenge them to take action, the excuses rain down.
“I would, but I’m worried about my grad school recommendations.”
“I think my grades would suffer.”
“I’ll do something about this . . . after I get tenure.”
“You have no idea of the backlash I’ll face on campus.”
What is the bottom line? Students don’t do what they know is right because they believe they’ll suffer for it. They’re more than happy to cheer on others, but they won’t do anything for themselves. For those of you who are wavering, who hate what our culture is becoming but don’t feel like you can do anything about it, or want to wait to speak up, let me tell you a simple truth: Timidity is habit-forming.
There will always be reasons not to engage the culture. There will always be a job you’ll endanger, or scorn from your peers, or even threats to endure. If you decide the risks are too great now, you’re likely to decide they’re too great in the future because the stakes only get higher (What’s worse? A bad grade in a political science class? Or losing a job that pays for the mortgage and your kids’ education?)
So you have to decide, now, that you speak up – that you’ll stand up and place your principles over your personal gain. But you have to do it the right way:
Decide that you won’t be intimidated. No one has lost their life as a conservative campus activist, so – really – the stakes aren’t nearly as big as faced daily by your peers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of you will only face stigma, and as painful as that may be, don’t let stigma beat dogma. In other words, don’t let insults and threats deter you from presenting your ideas and beliefs.
Decide you won’t be offended. Please, when you do decide to speak up, don’t do it as a wounded, offended victim group. Rather than adopting the whiny tone that the campus left has perfected, approach the public square confident of your principles and impervious to insult. Called a racist? Laugh. Called a bigot? Laugh. And then make your argument ethically and with conviction and reason.
Decide you want results. It’s one thing to simply vent your spleen against injustice; it’s another to resolve that you want results. The best student activists want real results in the real world, and they act intentionally and strategically to achieve those results. It’s hard to think of an organization that has spawned as many success stories as Young America’s Foundation. Study those who have succeeded, and then use their model to spur your own creativity.
Coming tomorrow: The next “D” — Discerning the best targets for your activism.