For most of my life, I’ve felt like a victim. I grew up in poverty, my home life was dysfunctional, and I was enrolled in several social programs. I never cared or paid attention to politics because I felt like it couldn’t help me or make a difference.
In 2008, I was 24 years old and admittedly inspired by then-candidate Barack Obama. I knew nothing about actual policy, but I knew he spoke to my feelings and gave me hope. I based my vote for Obama largely on the stereotype that Democrats were for the poor and that Republicans were for the rich.
It wasn’t until after Obama became president that I really began to contemplate policy. I wanted to be fair, so I tried to see both sides of an issue. Around this time, Paul Ryan proposed his “Path to Prosperity” budget blueprint and was at the front and center of news coverage. I began to listen to Paul’s speeches and found myself agreeing with him.
I listened to Paul preach about personal responsibility, hard work, and the American Dream. The notion that you are not bound by the circumstances of your birth was far different than hearing that there was an entire system built on holding people like me down. Paul’s words gave me hope, but not hope that I would be rescued by some government entity. Instead, Paul’s words gave me the hope that I could make it in the world on my own.
I slowly realized that the life I was living was exactly the type that Paul was preaching about. With a family to take care of, I was working a full-time job and going to school at night to better my career opportunities. I was working harder than ever, and I was seeing results: getting inducted into honor societies, making the Dean’s List, and getting raises at my job. Hard work, combined with the initiative to do better, had shown me that there was no system holding me back— it was only myself. I was not a victim, and I finally stopped thinking like one.
Through these experiences, I realized that conservative ideas work. Not everything was perfect— I had my own trials and tribulations along the way, including the loss of my father, but the primary feeling that was constant was a belief that the hard times were only temporary. The true path to prosperity would be dependent on me not allowing those rough moments to bar me from my ultimate goals.
Paul showed me the worldview that I hadn’t looked for, but so desperately needed to see. This worldview has since guided me to change majors in undergrad, helped me get involved in politics on the local level, helped me get appointed to the city finance board where I live, led me to run for office, and led me to law school. Attending law school was unimaginable in the poverty I came from, but it’s a reality now.
I didn’t think any of this was possible. I grew up a poor kid on the bad side of town with more family dysfunction than I can talk about, and it felt like that’s where I’d always be. I now know that it doesn’t have to be that way. If you work hard, play by the rules, and make sacrifices, then you can be successful.
I don’t know if Paul will ever read these words, or if he’ll ever know the effect he’s had on someone he has never met, but one thing is for certain: the impact his words and ideas have had on me has been profound and life-changing. For that alone, I say: thank you, Paul.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.