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Answering the call to serve Fayette families

Bonnie Willis's picture

When I decided to run for secretary of the Fayette County Republican Party (FCRP) several weeks ago, it was a very difficult decision. My husband and I talked and prayed about the decision.

I feared the time commitment. I feared my lack of political experience and whether I had the ability to serve in such a position. I feared how it might hinder my ability to effectively speak to, and be of positive influence to family and friends who might disagree with me on some issues.

I feared losing credibility in the hearts and minds of this audience who show their appreciation of my attempt to discuss key issues, presenting “both sides” of an argument while presenting my own position. I knew being secretary of the FCRP could jeopardize all of that.

If one were to take a survey of how African American conservatives like Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, and Allen West are treated publicly and within the African American community, despite their amazing experience and intellectual acumen, they are belittled and demeaned.

Despite any accomplishments I may have, and my sincere efforts to build meaningful relationships with those who do not share my political convictions, I suspect I was now subjecting myself to similar responses by “coming out” for a political party.

However, I did not recognize how profoundly my relationships could be affected until I wrote an article entitled, “What should we do about the nation’s poor?” and sent it to some of my friends.

I received a call back from one of my dearest girlfriends. She questioned my position on healthcare.

I tried to explain that from personal experience and historical observation, I had come to believe that a large federal government often wastes money, depersonalizes relationships, and rather than help the most needy get a leg up and out of their situations, it often promotes dependency, causing people to believe that they need the federal government to protect and provide for them.

Her response to my argument was essentially to say that I did not want to help those like her mom.

What!?

To this day, I am still stunned by her response. She did not ask how those like her mom could receive healthcare. Instead she assumed that because I was against the federal government playing a central role, I would have her mother go without healthcare, as if there could be no other possible options.

I could only think, “Having known me so long, how in the world could you think that of me?”

It was in that precise moment that I understood how powerful and potentially damaging political stereotypes were, and I have seen this operate on both sides of the political spectrum.

In a very real way, my friend did not see me as Bonnie; she saw me as Bonnie with an R behind my name.

If my political affiliation influenced my girlfriend in that way, I feared how it would impact the relationships I have developed with people at my children’s school, at church, my clients, and you, the readers.

Why would I risk so much when it would have been far easier to simply continue to position myself as politically neutral?

Well, there are many reasons, but they essentially boil down to two things.

First, at this point in our nation’s history I do believe the principles of the Republican Party: limited government, individual freedom and accountability, and an acknowledgement of our Judeo-Christian heritage more closely aligns with my personal convictions.

In contrast, when I saw how the vocal majority of the Democrat delegates were in favor of removing all references to God and Israel out of its official party platform, I wondered, how could this party have changed so much in such a short period of time?

The second answer is that I felt the call to do so. While I, like many, do not have the stomach for politics, I recognize that politicians often make decisions that have very real consequences on our everyday lives.

And the thought occurred to me that if we the people leave politics to those who appear to be self-serving politicians and not true public servants, what will our society look like?

Then an urgent cry within seemed to plead with me that if we are going to be a noble community and a noble nation, people who lack political ambition, but have a heart to truly serve the people of their communities, need to step up.

So, prayerfully, and with great desire to bring about mutual understanding across party lines, I decided to run.

Going forward, I want those who read this column to know clearly where I stand — perhaps you knew already.

I love this community, and I know we’ve experienced many changes and challenges over the years. It is my hope to bless and serve all the citizens and families of Fayette County (and not just Republicans) in my role as a columnist and now as the secretary of FCRP.

And I hope those of you who may not share my political convictions will afford me an opportunity to do so.

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]

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