Taking the talk closer to the center

CHAUTAUQUA – Republicans featured in morning lectures in the Chautauqua Institution amphitheater during the 2022 season have in varying ways moved toward Democrats.

It wasn’t the intent of Advocates for Balance at Chautauqua, a Section 501(c)(3) organization separate from the institution, to counter that.

Yet that’s in effect what ABC’s July 25 speaker did.

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Meet Dr. Carol Miller Swain.

She’s a retired Vanderbilt University law and political-science professor.

She’s bright, articulate, engaging, and persuasive.

Swain didn’t say this, yet it’s true: Statists often dismiss, with their usual name calling, any non-statist who is white or male or to the manor born.

But what do they do with Swain, who is none of those? None. She begins her presentation by inviting the audience to look at her and says, “I’m black.”

And she wasn’t by any means to the manor born. She started life in a two-room shack with no indoor plumbing.

“We scavenged for food. No squirrel or rabbit was safe around us,” she said.

She became a mother as a teen-ager. When she married, she and her husband built a house, which made her rich in the eyes of people she knew.

Having had two more children and been through a divorce, she saw her life change when she enrolled in community college. She earned a two-year degree in two years, and in short order earned a four-year degree, a master’s, and a doctorate.

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Swain said white liberals and prominent black leaders rejected her as “a sellout” for not sharing their views on poverty, affirmative action, and race relations: “My success was undermining their narrative.”

Nevertheless, “I had believed that the Democrats were the party for the working man, Democrats were the party of civil rights, and Republicans – the party of Lincoln – had abandoned civil rights, embraced white supremacists, and were the party of big business and fatcats. Everyone knew that, right? Wrong. The Democrats were telling me that I was a victim, and I needed the government to take care of me. They had all the answers for people like me. Free healthcare, free education, free daycare, free transportation. Free, free, free. Everything for free. No responsibility.

“But I wanted more. I wanted to prove what I could do. I left the Democratic Party, and I became an independent. After the election of Barack Obama, I began to see fundamental changes in our nation. I knew we were headed in the wrong direction, and I knew we were electing people who were destroying our Constitution. The problem for me was I was an independent. I straddled the middle of the road, which reminds me of a story from an old Texan,” she recalled, “who said the only thing in the middle of the road are dead armadillos.

“And that’s when I revisited the party platforms. This time I began to look more closely at the Republicans. Why? I found that many of the things that I thought are taught as a professor about them were actually false. I discovered that the Republican Party was actually closest to my beliefs. And once again I changed political parties and became a Republican, not because they were perfect or because they had all the answers, but because they held the same beliefs that I did about liberty, equality, individualism, free enterprise, free speech, and adherence to the Constitution. Their focus on God, country, and family appealed to me, as did their emphasis on traditional values. That is what enabled me to attain the American dream. When I was with them, I was embraced and welcomed. I was never treated as a victim, and I never encountered racism. The people that I met cheered and celebrated my success, because my story is an American story.”

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Meanwhile, academia was changing. It was hostile to free speech, and critical-race theory was “metastasizing,” she said. After 28 years in academia, she walked away, and the world is her classroom.

“Today’s lesson,” she said, is this: “Many of the things that we have been taught and told to believe are simply not true. What largely determines our success or how far we go is … what we believe about the world. We each have our own story, our own journey, our own path, and our own destiny. Opportunities abound. We can take advantage of them, waste them, or allow others to keep us from seeing them. Our attitudes, and what we believe about the world and the possibilities can either free us or hold us in bondage. It’s our choice. I choose truth. Truth led me to freedom. The truth is out there, and I want you to know you can find truth, you can know truth, and it is truth that will set you free.”

Dr. Randy Elf’s Aug. 20, 2020, ABC presentation on “How Political Speech Law Benefits Politicians and the Rich” is at https://works.bepress.com/elf/21.



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