(CCU Faculty) Last week at the Centennial Institute’s debate on Immigration State Senator Lucia Guzman encouraged the audience to be “citizens of the world.” The response from the overwhelming conservative crowd was a chorus of boos, followed by a reproof by John Andrews for their incivility. Afterwards I personally apologized to Senator Guzman and expressed my agreement with her. Although I am a conservative Republican, I am also a citizen of the world.
As a young man I attended the Defense Language Institute the served as a linguist in Military Intelligence during the Cold War in Berlin. While most soldiers hung out with each other at bars frequented primarily by Americans, I joined a German speaking church and befriended many Germans. At the end of my term of service my German girl friend wanted to marry and return with me to America, but I wasn’t ready for such a commitment. While living in Germany I preferred to spend my holidays traveling Europe, instead of returning to the U.S. like other soldiers.
I spent the next two decades teaching World History and German and coached the Model U.N. team in a high school in East L.A., while also getting a B.A., two Masters, and a doctorate all in international (not American) History. I also led numerous student tours to Europe and the Soviet Union.
While finishing my doctorate in London, I attended a Bible Study for international students where I met my wife. I proposed to her in Paris, flew to New Zealand to meet her parents, returned to California where we were married, and now we live in Lakewood where I teach the history of Europe, Russia, Asia, the Middle East and Africa at both CCU and CU Boulder.
In 1999 I took 20 students to study Islam on the Arabian Peninsula, Hinduism in India, and Buddhism at the Dalai Lama’s Monastery in the Himalayas. In 2004 I received a Fulbright Scholarship to lecture on Western Civilization and Free Markets in a former Soviet Republic where my Jewish grandfather was born a century ago. A few of my students were children of former Communist Party officials angry that the Soviet Union had collapsed, but most just wanted me to sponsor their immigration to the United States. While there I dropped my kids ‘cold turkey’ into a Russian-speaking elementary school, and had a rather rotund Russian woman come to our apartment two nights a week to tutor our entire family in Russian. On our way to the former Soviet Union we rented a car and drove through Eastern Europe; on the way home we stopped for a week in Istanbul, Turkey. Every few years we cross the Pacific to visit my wife’s family in New Zealand.
In 2007 I got a fellowship to Oxford University in England. Afterwards I took my wife and kids to the south of France for six weeks where my wife’s family owns a vacation home. I have studied seven languages, traveled to over forty countries, five of which I lived for a while. My wife is a citizen of New Zealand and Ireland, which gives her EU citizenship, so we can live and work in any European country. Before meeting me she lived in three different Asian countries, as well as several Western ones. Our eldest daughter is about to marry a Brazilian who is ethnically Chinese and travels the world as an architect for the Disney Corporation.
I have hundreds of former students in over fifty countries around the world as missionaries, relief workers, and solders. They are with the State Department, the Intelligence community, in counter terrorism and economic development in Africa. Most maintain correspondence, informing me of global events not covered by our media.
When I heard those ‘boos’ last week, I was ashamed. We conservatives cannot ignore the rest of the world. Christ has called us to spread his message to the world. President Reagan told us that America is “the last best hope for mankind.” We should offer these hopes to those around the world, yearning for what we have, and not make it necessary for them all to move here in order to achieve it. Our world is becoming Global, and it would be a huge mistake for us to bury our heads in the sand.
I am blessed to be in Colorado but I am most blessed because I have the absolute honor of calling myself an American. My mother and father are my inspiration. My father dreamt of coming to America and conferred with his family about his desire. His sister agreed to sell her gold to purchase a ticket for the young couple to come to America in addition to some spending money - -one hundred dollars. They started their life in the mire of desperation and poverty in one room of a terrible apartment in Brooklyn, New York City, where I was born.
Editor: Karthik Venkatraj is completing a John Jay Fellowship, a postgraduate year helping prepare young Americans for public service on biblical foundations, in the tradition of our nation's first Chief Justice and a co-author of the Federalist Papers, John Jay. We're delighted that he will be interning with us at Centennial Institute this semester and contributing frequently to '76 Blog. This post responds to my request for Karthik to introduce himself to our readers - John Andrews
Eventually, my father found a job in the subways of New York City ferrying x-rays between hospitals and my mother found a job as a nurse’s aide in a busy Manhattan hospital. Ten years later, my father would be graduating from New York University as a PhD in Molecular Biology and my mother would be finishing her M.D. and working at the Oncology Ward in Albert Einstein Hospital. This position was a far cry from their struggle to make ends meet each month as well as raise a child. Indeed, I can distinctly remember the culmination of a month’s paycheck in a splurge of eight dollars at a run-down Chinese buffet in Brooklyn.
Their narrative can be found in no other nation, their ability to succeed can be predicated on no other ideals than those of America. My parents ensured their children were cognizant of their narrative and of the greatness that is our nation; thus, it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise when I raised my right hand to pledge defend our nation against all enemies. In response to the attacks of September 11th, I decided to enlist in the Army National Guard and soon entered the ROTC program at Texas A&M University’s Corps of Cadets in addition to serving within the Texas Army National Guard Armor Squadron.
In five years, I would be appointed to serve within the Pentagon under the Bush Administration, travel on a diplomatic mission with the Army to my parent’s homeland of India, study Arabic with the Army in the foothills of the Atlas mountains, serve as an appointee to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and graduate as one of two distinguished military graduates from the largest commissioning program in the nation outside of the service academies.
Once again, this narrative would be possible in no other country, within the context of any other ideals than that of our nation. But the ideals that informed and propelled my narrative and that of my parents were not based in the progressive thought dominating our nation’s modern political landscape but hearkens to those debates in the Continental Congress of Philadelphia, in the impassioned petitions of John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison within the Federalist Papers, within the Declaration of Independence, and within the Constitution of 1787.
And that is why I am here at Centennial Institute, because I want a better nation for my children and their children, a nation with values and a solid moral compass. I am here because I am convicted that it is the duty of all Americans to preserve our republic and I am very concerned that we are losing that duty. I, like most Americans, do not want to see an America of 2076 as an irrelevant nation that has passed the torch of global leadership to another country but as a nation renewed and convicted in its role as a global leader.
Above all, I am a concerned American who wants to foster a revival of the Spirit of 1776 in our nation - - a spirit that created what is now known as the greatest experiment that the world has ever witnessed, that of our democracy. Let us not be naïve to see that our nation has great challenges ahead of her; an enormous deficit that seems insurmountable, a war on multiple fronts with a virulent and violent enemy, failing schools struggling to compete on a global scale, a sluggish economy as well as a rising unemployment rate, a society mired in a degradation of traditional values, and a government unresponsive to common sense approaches. I will stop here because our role is not to merely articulate a litany of issues but to find solutions to them. Indeed, the state of our democracy is predicated on our search.
Some may ask: “Where is the Spirit of 1776? Where is our nation going?” I would answer that the Spirit of 1776 is here: it’s in the coffee shops and diners, it’s in dinnertime conversations of families, it’s in the workers of a coal mine punching in, it’s in the ranches and farms of rural America, in the junior baseball leagues, in our servicemen and women, in the pastors writing their sermon for their Sunday service. In short, the Spirit is in you, it’s in all Americans who love and care for our republic. The way this spirit will manifest and direct our people will determine 2076. Let us not forget the absolute providence that has guided our nation since its conception and to this point in our nation’s history. Let us take solace in the fact that this spirit, properly guided and convicted, in conjunction with providence has and will always lead to miraculous events and glorious beginnings.
My name is Karthik Venkatraj and I am a concerned American, analyzing and revering our past but looking at our future. I take solace in the fact that there are millions of Americans like me, who want America to not only see another centennial but to see its best centennial ever. I believe in the inherent goodness and exceptionalism of our nation and its people and I look forward to our progression towards a better America together. As we say in the military, it’s something worth fighting for.
Your fellow patriot,Karthik
('76 Editor) Also from our Head On mini-debate series on Colorado Public Television, Susan Barnes-Gelt and I vie for the oddest angle on what the New Year of 2010 might bring. Don't hold your breath for any of this to come true, but the wacky speculation is an amusing pastime as Jan. 1 rushes toward us.
John: Break out the funny hats and champagne. It’s John and Susan’s fearless predictions of 2010. To balance the budget, Ritter sells the Teamsters naming rights to the gold dome. Romanoff wins the Senate nomination by proving his carbon footprint is smaller. Oprah wins the Nobel Peace Prize for finally leaving us in peace.
Susan: Bill Ritter gets re-elected and Andrew Romanoff goes to the U.S. Senate. The Denver Public School board and administration implode and Hickenlooper takes over the District. Smart Cars, walking and motorized bikes become the dominant modes of transportation and the country’s collective waistline shrinks.
John: More 2010 predictions from our twisted crystal ball. Al Gore goes into grief therapy as the climate scare collapses. Tiger Woods converts to Islam for the polygamy. Obama moves right and names Tom Tancredo as Secretary of Homeland Security. Gen. Petraeus announces for president anyway. Happy New Year!
Susan: Wall Street funds the program to rebuild America’s bridges, schools and parks out of their ill-gotten gains and bonuses – Airlines charge for carry-on instead of checked bags – thereby incenting good behavior. Hickenlooper works to build transit instead of traveling to Copenhagen to talk about it. Peace.
('76 Editor) Fast away the old year passes! And as it does, Colorado Public Television is airing my backward glance at the newsmakers deserving of conservative bouquets and brickbats in 2009, counter-balanced by the liberal perspective of Susan Barnes-Gelt. Here's the take from the two of us:
John: Back by popular demand. As inevitable, and indigestible, as a Christmas fruitcake: our winners and sinners honor roll for the old year. I say hurrah for the tea parties, the townhalls, and the return of Sarah Palin. I say bahhh for Obama’s apology tour and the political correctness that enabled Fort Hood.
Susan: Our celebrity culture that values 2-seconds of fame – Balloon Boy, party crashers and Tiger’s domestic kerfuffle – over reason and good manners gets my stale fruitcake award. BRAVO to the legion of smart women influencing policy from our own Hillary Clinton to French finance minister Christine LaGarde.
John: More winners and sinners as 2009 passes into history. Hallelujah for the President’s decision on troops to Afghanistan and for the rebound of Rockies, Nuggets, and Broncos. Humbug for the Denver teachers union and for the humanist ads claiming we can be good without God. We can’t!
Susan; A bushel of rotten tomatoes to both parties in Congress for selling out to insurance giants and big pharm by watering down every healthcare bill. Shame on the Denver school board and administration for behaving badly. Hurray for the millions of people who do the right thing – every day.
(Another in our series by CCU students on big lessons of college) We learn more by seeking the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from finding the answer itself. There are many people in our society, young adults especially, that are seeking their true purpose; living off the energy of grand ambitions and the thirsty desire to succeed. I know I am one of many individuals traveling somewhat blindly through life, wondering where my destination lies. It was not until inspired by this blog topic, ‘what are the most important things I have learned in college’, did I put the brakes on life and stop to think, what have I learned from my experiences as a college student? I have always been traveling on a rocky road at full speed ahead, but through this short journey through college, I have found the rearview mirror to be an indispensable means to feel both progress from the miles passed, and enthusiasm for the mileage still ahead.
(1) The first thing I have learned from my experience(s) from college life is the irrefutable value of a well-rounded education. Though tuition for the university system is at an all-time high, no such value could ever be placed on how important it is for me personally to receive not only a quality education, but one that is also furnished with the teachings and challenges that affect my everyday life. College (CCU) has provided me with so much more than facts, theories, and strategies; and those teachings that I have obtained range from and beyond the realms of my spirituality, my day-to-day attitude and behavior, and my unwavering commitment to follow the will of God and my biggest dreams.
(2) In addition to the value of education, I have also learned the true value and necessity for quality relationships. In life there is hardly anything as difficult as going it alone; having someone to lean on can make even the bitterest of life’s blows tolerable. Positive and uplifting relationships have inspired my growth both as a student and Christian during my undergraduate studies and will continue to do so as I weave and wander through life.
(3) Thirdly, I have realized the advantages of being more open-minded and open-hearted toward different opinions, ideas, and people. The vast arenas of learning and various relationships are immeasurable and should never be hindered by differences or judgment. I think being open-minded has often been viewed as being indecisive. But even the appearance of being relatively close-minded shuts down discussion, limits the number of concepts that are generated and considered and almost always results in a less than optimal decisions or results. As counter-cultural as being more open-minded may be perceived, this is one area where I will choose to swim against the current every time.
(4) And last but not least of my biggest college revelations, I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good! The sovereign God that has blessed me with the gift of life has also endowed me with the gift of love; a passionate love of learning and unconditional love for Him who so created us to view our world with wonder. May all the praise and glory be to Him!
(CCU Faculty) My conservatism is not due to either nature or nurture. Neither my parents nor my grandparents were religious or conservative. In fact, everyone in my family was Democrat until the Reagan administration, yet now none of them are.
My conversion to Christ came in the early 70s after four years of college as a history major, specializing in ancient history. I became more and more fascinated with how the Bible fit into history, how archeology seemed to confirm events in the Bible, and how Christianity so effectively described the human condition.
My conversion to limited government came in the mid-70s while stationed with the Army in Berlin. I lived near the wall and spend my time listening to the phone calls of Communist East Germans. In the late 70s I began a graduate program in Modern European History at a campus of the University of California, where I specialized in totalitarianism (specifically Fascism, Nazism, and Communism). In 1976 I voted for Jimmy Carter, but by 1980 my enthusiasm for big government solutions began to wane. In 1984 I tried to convince my grandmother to vote for Reagan instead of Mondale. She replied that she was a Texan who had never voted Republican, and that to vote for one would be to disgrace her ancestors who were all from the South.
My conversion to free market economics came in the 80s, after teaching high school several years on the east side of LA. The state of California passed legislation requiring that every high school senior take a semester of economics. In less than a year an economics teacher had to be found for every high school in the state. My principal discovered that I was the only member of the faculty who had taken several economics courses as an undergrad, so he told me that I would teach the new course. Unfortunately, I had attended a Cal State campus, where my professors were Keynesian and taught economics is a manner which seemed incomprehensible. I told my principal that I was not up to the challenge, but he informed me of a summer program at UCLA run by the Academy for Economic Education, where I could be adequately equipped to teach the course. My instructor was an economics professor from Pepperdine, who convinced me that free market economics was vastly superior to what I was taught at Cal State. Over the next several years as I taught the course, the superiority of the free market was confirmed by how Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan had transformed their economies.
There are still a few conservative ideas which I have a few problems with, but in every case they seem to be far better than the liberal or socialist alternative.
('76 Editor) Hearing from Greg Schaller, my CCU professor pal, about an online book club starting up at Redstate.com, I compared their list with mine as compiled a few years back at the suggestion of Kevin Teasley, my school-voucher activist pal. The overlap is interesting, and either list is a needed reminder that we're well repaid by devoting more time to the writings that endure, and less to the ephema of journalism, TV-radio, or blogs (this one included).
So first, here's the read-and-respond shelf recommended by Redstate:
1. A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard
2. Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg
3. Economics in One Lesson by Hazlitt
4. Liberty & Tyranny by Mark Levin
5. The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek
6. The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk
7. Free to Choose by Milton Friedman
8. Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater
9. The Federalist Papers
10. Democracy in America by Tocqueville
11. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
12. God and Man at Yale by W.F. Buckley
13. Witness by Whittaker Chambers
14. The Political Writings of St. Augustine
Then here's my list as put together for Teasley back in 2003. He asked for my "ten best" in terms of books that had the greatest impact on my life. The order in which they are listed is a combination of chronology and categories, not necessarily the most impactful from 1 thru 10. 1. Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy It taught me to love the Bible.
2. The BibleIt engaged me with Jesus Christ. 3. The Everlasting Man, G. K. ChestertonIt grounded me in Christian tradition. 4. Mere Christianity, C. S. LewisIt showed me the beauty of truth.
5. The Conscience of a Conservative, Barry GoldwaterIt awakened me politically.
6. The Law, Frederic BastiatIt was my primer in political economy.
7. The Road to Serfdom, F. A. HayekIt set me against collectivism.
8. Ideas Have Consequences, Richard WeaverIt bonded me to the permanent things.
9. The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. TolkienIt convinced me that life is a sacred quest.
10. A Man for All Seasons, Robert BoltIt inspired me with the possibility of heroic integrity.
In looking over the authors on both lists, I'm gratified to have met, or seen in person, Bill Buckley, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Russell Kirk, Jonah Goldberg, and Barry Goldwater. This is said not to name-drop, but rather to record my sense of obligation for helping to hand on our heritage of faith and freedom to the rising generation of the 21st century, in return for having known -- if only slightly -- some of the giants who handed on that heritage in the 20th century.
Editor: Fire up a group blog and you never know who may want in. A Denver businessman asked me if his daughter and her college pal could try out as contributors for us. Three minutes into the first meeting, after getting past the unnerving impression they were twins, I knew the conversation here would improve with Kari Ann and Corinne taking part. But what was to be the byline for this sister act? They've dubbed themselves "Roommates Rally," and here is their debut contribution:
Everyone has heard...
...their fair share of college roommate horror stories. Thankfully, ours is not one of them. We are two conservative Christian college roommates that met at a small, private, liberal arts school in the small but quaint town of Lexington, Virginia. Our little slice of paradise is Washington and Lee University. During our first, very awkward, phone call, Kari Ann learned Corinne’s name isn’t pronounced “cream,” and Corinne began to stress about possibly having a Midwestern hippy for a roommate. However, now we both believe that it was God that brought us together. We feel so blessed not only to attend a great university, but also to have made such a strong, life-long friendship with each other. Since this will be our first blog entry here, we thought that we would introduce ourselves.
My name is Kari Ann Pfannenstein.
I am a Colorado native, and have lived in Littleton all my life. I am one of two daughters of John and Rama; my older sister is Amy. I am so grateful for my parents; they not only planted and nurtured my relationship with God, but also continue to provide me with the best advice and support. I attended Cherry Hills Christian School k-8 and transitioned to Heritage for my high school career. I was the drummer for an all-girls Christian rock band called “Forever’s Beginning,” but unfortunately my music career ended when all the older girls went off to college. I played four years of varsity basketball for Heritage, summers for the Colorado Hoopsters, and continue to play for W&L. Though I haven’t declared a major yet, I plan to be a Journalism and Mass Communications and English double major. Almost nightly dinner discussions and my daddy’s humorous, politically-charged e-mails first sparked my interest in politics. I am not a Midwestern hippy as my roommate once thought.
My name is Corinne Smith...
...and I am the Southern counterpart of the Roommates’ Rally. I was born and raised in Greensboro, NC and attended a catholic elementary and middle school. I then transitioned to a large, public high school where I played soccer throughout my four years there. Once I got to college, I continued to play soccer, but I also broadened my horizons and got involved with the Catholic Campus Ministry as their service chair. I also serve on the Executive Committee at W&L as the student representative to the faculty. Right now, I plan to be a Politics and Business Administration major. I first became interested in politics after taking an inspiring AP Government class taught by a teacher whom I would consider one of my most influential. I hope to some day work with a political interest group in Washington, D.C. that caters to my conservative Christian background and beliefs.
Now that you know...
...a little more about us, we hope that you will continue to read as we tackle some of the current, debate-inducing topics.
As recent transplants to Colorado from Pennsylvania, we are overwhelmed daily by the beauty and majesty of our new home state. As a family, we have enjoyed hiking for several years. Many of our family vacations (New Hampshire, Virginia and the Grand Canyon) were planned to experience hiking in these areas. And now that we are residents of Colorado, we no longer need to leave the state to experience the greatest hiking in the country!
Of course, the biggest challenge for hikers in Colorado are the “14ers” (the 54 mountains that surpass 14,000 feet above sea level). There are many hikers who have made it their goal to summit all 54 of them, including my family. So we figured it was time to get started. Unfortunately, my wife had to work, so it was just going to be Daddy and the girls (Zoe, 14 and Madeline, 11).
We decided to make our first 14er one that is ranked on the easy side (and also fairly close to home): Mt. Bierstadt. Behold...
While we have hiked as much as 16 miles in one day (we did the Grand Canyon, up and down, in one day), and have done some fairly significant elevation gain hikes (over 4000 feet), we had never before hiked at 12-14,000 feet above sea level and, as most hikers know, altitude makes a big difference.
We started at 7:00 am and reached the summit at 11:30. Mt. Bierstadt is a 7-mile round-trip hike with a 2850 foot elevation gain from the trailhead to the summit. While it was at times a struggle for the girls, they managed very well. It was great to see them overcome the difficulties, including shortness of breath, achy muscles, loss of appetite, and the occasional anxiety of wondering whether or not they could really do it. They could!
The summit does indeed make all the work worthwhile. It was great to see my daughters’ relief and sense of achievement when they reached the top. And, of course, the views are magnificent! Mt. Evans is nearby and to the west the majestic Rockies seem to go on forever. God’s creation is awe-inspiring indeed! Whenever I experience the magnificence of the Creation, it is easy to find the proper perspective: we are small and God is great; the troubles of the world are temporary and God’s reign endures forever; the pleasures of spending quality time with family; and the privilege of knowing a gracious God who allows us to enjoy His Creation.