I was born and raised in church and hardly a Sunday went by that my family and I weren’t in attendance. I was baptized by my own choice when I was in middle school and currently serve on my church’s worship team. So, when I was in high school and had to decide on a college, my parents encouraged me to choose among a variety of private universities with religious accreditations. While they were great, I knew in my heart that I belonged here at Eastern Kentucky University.
The latest presidential election took place during my first semester on campus and if that isn’t being thrown into the political frying pan, I don’t know what is.
I was quickly forced to test my beliefs and make a decision on who I was going to support. Would I stick with my religious upbringing and support someone who claimed to have the same values but whose actions stated otherwise? Or would I support someone who was clearly against my personal values but had a stronger political background? This was not a decision I took lightly.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a Christian collegiate conservative.
Try saying that three times fast.
Now, I’m not the type of person to tear others down just because they have different beliefs than I do. It’s people like that who create a toxic environment for those around them and bring a bad name to both sides of the political spectrum. My time in college has done nothing but strengthen my beliefs while opening my eyes to the opinions of others around me.
I’ve learned to be understanding to those who think differently than me on some pretty polarizing topics while also communicating my stance on issues with clear reasoning. I’m proud to say that I’ve engaged in a number of discussions with classmates and even professors and have continued to remain “relentlessly civil”, just as the Progress suggests.
Fast forward two years later and the president decides to pay a visit to EKU. When the opportunity arose to put everything I’ve learned so far to the test and cover the event for the Progress, I was ecstatic. The entire week, I maybe got a few consecutive hours of sleep a night because the president was coming to campus. This was probably also due to being busy with other campus activities, homework and midterms… but I digress.
Saturday morning I was up much earlier than I needed to be because I was so excited. From setting up that morning at Alumni Coliseum with another EKU student who was also covering the event, to interviewing both attendees and protestors, the entire day couldn’t have been better. I honestly considered that day to be the highlight of my time in college.
That night, President Trump walked into Alumni to roaring applause and “God Bless The USA” over the speakers. Signs supporting both Congressman Andy Barr and President Trump were scattered throughout the coliseum in a wave of patriotic colors. It was very American, to say the least.
Shortly after Trump’s opening remarks, he called out the media for being “fake news.”. This then incited attendees to boo at the entire press section of the coliseum, an area that I received the privilege to be in.
How do you think it felt to have thousands of people boo you just because you were a reporter? I understand that this term is used about major news outlets that the president believes spread false claims on his behalf, but not only am I a conservative who has remained unbiased in a very liberal world, I’m also someone who had the honor of claiming this event as her first assignment.
I felt mocked by a man who claims to have the same foundational beliefs as me. In hindsight, I realize that he wasn’t exactly targeting the multitude of student reporters present but rather the media in general. But that doesn’t change my experience. From that point on, pretty much everything the president said, whether I agreed with it or not, left a sour taste in my mouth.
Reflecting on this a few days later has given me the ability to take in the situation in its entirety, and I wouldn’t take anything back. I’m still weary about being “guilty by association” in the eyes of one of the most powerful people in the free world. Not going to lie. But this experience has also presented the opportunity to remain firm in my beliefs.
I got to hear numerous political figures speak on issues that I both agreed with and hadn’t thought about before. I learned truly what it meant to have a thick skin when faced with less than ideal circumstances. This experience hasn’t changed my values.
While I am definitely not your typical conservative who many associate with being less than tolerant, I do have values that differ from others around me. I can only hope that as I continue my academic and begin my professional career, I can also continue to grow and respect those who do and don’t believe in the same things as me.