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[Lynn Schmidt] Standing for values instead of personalities

William Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet” etched in the minds of people the world around the famous phrase, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” Shakespeare was making the point that calling someone or labeling something is arbitrary. It is the intrinsic qualities of the person or thing that matter.

A couple of weeks ago, two conferences were happening at the same time. Both shared similar names, but the essence of them could not have been more different. The first one, which included remarks by a famous former president, you probably heard of. The second most likely escaped you.

The preamble for conference No. 2 read, “For some time now, the conservative movement has been in the throes of an identity crisis. Fealty to party and politicians has completely obscured the values that give substance to our public associations. Today in America, who you support has become more important than what you believe. As a result, the terms ‘conservative’ and ‘Republican’ are now mere team names that have lost all meaning.”

That preamble was for the “Principles First Summit: Leading the Fight for Principled Conservatism.”

The term conservative has become synonymous with being a Republican but has lost its meaning as an ideological foundation. The beginnings of the work to reclaim the name of conservatism took place at the summit. The purpose of the two-day conference was to refresh memories of the intrinsic qualities of the conservative ideological movement, discuss and debate ideas, highlight those who had not forgotten those ideals, and dedicate ourselves to the values and principles that we true conservatives stand for. The focus was on looking to the future and not looking back.

Principles First is based on 15 principles: 1. Integrity, character and virtue matter. 2. Every person has dignity, quality and worth. 3. Truth, honesty, rationality and facts are non-negotiable. 4. The US constitution and the rule of law are paramount. 5. Our government is a limited one with enumerated powers. 6. Congress writes laws, the executive executes laws and the courts interpret laws. 7. Government closest to the people is most accountable. 8. People reach their full potential when they are free. 9. Free and functioning markets deliver prosperity. 10. Equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes. 11. Government must responsibly steward resources for the next generation. 12. Civic associations, faith communities and families should be the primary engines of our culture -- not the state. 13. Strong families are the building blocks of society. 14. Sovereignty is critical to self-government. 15. America’s role in the world is unique and important.

Each day of the conference began with the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. There were 10 panel discussions covering topics from national security, the rule of law, coalition building, equality and opportunity and defending democracy. The panelists were experts in their fields, members of conservative and libertarian think tanks, influential writers and elected officials.

There were statesmen and stateswomen who reminded us what the term conservative used to mean and what it means to them today.

Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn was awarded the first-ever Profiles in Courage Award for his bravery in protecting the US Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

Naysayers will declare that the summit was just a small group of “Republicans in Name Only.” Perhaps. As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” That small group of thoughtful, committed, principled citizens is growing. The first summit took place in February 2020. There were 300 in attendance. This year, 500, who traveled from near and far, filled the room of the National Press Club in Washington.

Principles First founder Heath Mayo shared his optimism for the movement. “We aren’t poll-watchers with our fingers in the wind -- we’re poll-changers. Great political movements don’t start out ahead in the polls. They make principled arguments, and they change hearts and minds.”

If the conservative thought movement is going to reclaim its identity and name again, it will start this way. With a group of principled individuals who gather for an exchange of ideas, knowing what they are for and not just what they are against, who recognize their statesmen and heroes, who prefer to not worship idols, and who go on to change the world.

What’s in a name? When it comes to conservatism, we will just have to wait and see.

Lynn Schmidt
Lynn Schmidt is a columnist and editorial board member of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. -- Ed.

(Tribune Content Agency)

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