Ryan Chartrand

My passion for politics began on Sept. 11, 2001 and continued to grow out of a deep concern for my country. Sept. 11 truly affected people’s lives and still does every day.

The moment we were attacked, it became clear that other countries affect us in a real way and that the U.S. isn’t the indestructible edifice that we all took it for. I realized that the world was no longer the same, and that knowledge triggered a thirst for as much political and historical knowledge as possible.

Since then, it became clear that my values coincide with conservative and Republican principles, namely a large emphasis on smaller government and lower taxes. More importantly, my newfound passion for politics inspired me to be a leader, because I wanted to discuss things with others and share all the new ideas I was learning about.

This is where the Cal Poly College Republicans (CPCR) came in. My initial intention was to help others become informed about politics around the world as well as issues right here on campus-the way I became involved in CPCR was actually due to my interest in finding out about an ASI referendum advertised in 2004. It then became clear that too often, students are not informed-they are unaware of local and national politicians and issues. Frequently when students do get involved in CPCR, it is because they are drawn to the social aspects. Socializing is important to your college experience, but what is going on in this country affects all of us, and we should not take our responsibility to be informed citizens lightly.

After two years of being the president of the College Republicans (and the first female president in at least three decades, as well as the first president to take the reins two years in a row), the club is still facing the same challenges. Many students don’t take the time to watch, listen to or read about current events, thus making it difficult for the club to draw in and maintain new membership. What some students don’t understand is that getting involved in a political club is so much more personally enriching than just being able to learn about politics.

Being involved in CPCR has developed my character by being aware of the community and genuinely caring about what is going on within that community and around the world. When you give of yourself and your time, what you get in return is priceless. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know many fine people in this area, such as the mayor of SLO and great legislators and elected officials all over the state.

A fear of being labeled prevents many students from getting involved politically, but the most important thing I’ve learned is just because you identify with one specific party over another doesn’t mean that you have to always tow party lines. People should be able to have their own ideas and share those ideas within any organization. I am the president of the College Republicans, yet I still consider myself an environmentalist and an animal rights activist, and by studying social sciences and Spanish, I spend every day learning about new cultures.

Being a “Republican,” perhaps I have labeled myself as sharing a basic set of ideals with others, but it doesn’t mean that I’m less of a Republican if I care about air quality or volunteer at the humane society or consider myself a conventional feminist. I believe that both sides often go too far with their blatant labeling of one another and constant partisan policies. America is not about parties, it’s about the freedom to have different opinions and share those opinions in order to form a better society.

In the same vein, one of the biggest mistakes that politicians make is trying to please all facets of their party by not being straightforward about who they are. A clear example of this lies within the Mitt Romney campaign. His speech that suspended his campaign was eloquent, direct and showed his true intentions, devotion to America, as well as his devotion to God and his religion.

It was extremely inspirational-perhaps if he had given that speech earlier (minus the campaign suspension part), people would have been more inclined to go out and vote for him. Republican voter turnout is low and the party is divided because there are no motivating or relatable candidates, or no candidates who chose to be frank with the American people soon enough.

The future may seem uncertain for Republicans, but I hope that when I move on, my commitment to the College Republicans will continue to rub off on other students so they can keep it going for the sake of their peers, the campus, the community and themselves.

Christina Chiappe is a social sciences senior, president of the Cal Poly College Republicans and a Mustang Daily conservative columnist.

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