“We cannot live our lives as sound bites. We have to be critical-thinking individuals.”
The University of Memphis welcomed former United States Congressman and retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel Allen West on March 27. The event was hosted by Young Americans for Freedom and College Republicans. Memphians ranging anywhere from college-aged young adults to retired senior citizens trickled into the Psychology Auditorium to hear West speak on the need for conservatism in the United States. The message was directed towards minorities, specifically the black community, but West made it clear at the beginning that the message was important for Americans of all races and socioeconomic classes.
West opened his lecture by giving a background on conservatism and its historical presence in the United States. Formerly known as classic liberalism and made significant by Englishman John Locke, conservatism was the basis for the five principles the United States was founded on; limiting government, fiscal responsibility, individual sovereignty, free enterprise/free market, and a strong national defense. West then fast-forwarded to the next century and discussed how the legacy of Booker T. Washington stems from conservatism. Washington, the father of black conservatism, had three principles his agenda was rooted in; education, self-reliance, and entrepreneurship… all of which are crucial to the cultural atmosphere of the United States today.
West told tidbits about his life and how his upbringing molded him into the man he is today, but the vast majority of the lecture, he was advocating for conservatism and supporting his claims with statistics. One landmark stat in the lecture showcased the dichotomy of two-parent households in the black population throughout the last 56 years. In 1961, 75-77 percent of the black community had two-parent households, but in 2017, only 24 percent of the black community has two-parent households. A personal testimony of the changes economically and culturally in West’s childhood Atlanta neighborhood supported his claim. West wrapped up his lecture by a summarizing quote:
“Conservatism is equality of opportunity—not equality of outcomes.”
After the lecture was concluded, West opened up the floor for Q&A, and questions were as diverse as the 150-person audience. Foreign issues were brought up i.e. how we as a country address radical Islam, as well as domestic issues like reversing impoverishment trends in black America and the Affordable Care Act. Not all people sought Allen’s advice, though. One young man brought forth allegations about illegitimate Thomas Jefferson quotes in West’s book, then a little while later, a leader for a progressive student organization came to the microphone with a question concerning Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s new job privatization bill. West politely noted how he was not aware of any such bill because he was a resident of Texas, and it was not in his jurisdiction to question the government of Tennessee, so he granted the young woman one more question. She proceeded to pull a quote by West regarding the true nature of the Black Lives Matter movement, which West stood behind and even elaborated on.
This lecture was made possible by the generosity of Young America's Foundation and their donors. To see the full lecture, visit the YAFTV channel on YouTube and select “Fred Allen Lecture Series Presents: Allen West LIVE at University of Memphis” (includes Q&A segment, too).