I’m plagued with a wandering mind. I find most speakers unsensational and my mind goes sideways about the people I am dutifully supposed to listen to. I wonder what they had for breakfast, what they wanted to be when they were a kid and what books sit on their nightstand these days.
So who can hold my interest? Today, as when I was in college, it tends to be the real-world adventurers, the story tellers, those that had the guts to start businesses, invent stuff or start a crusade. That’s how it was, fortunately, last Thursday and Friday at the 35th Annual Heritage Foundation Resource Bank held at the stunning Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs. The conference theme was Strategies to Lead, and theclosing speakers on Friday noon wrapped it up powerfully with a pair of talks headlined “The Battle for America.”
The first speaker, Hannah Giles, is the young woman who took down ACORN, the outfit that the Washington Times called an “embezzlement-prone, voter-registration-fraud-plagued community organizing group.” Giles created a plan to expose the billion dollar organization by employing some good old-fashioned hidden camera journalism and exposed the fraud squad. The Los Angeles Times just called her “a rock star of conservative activism.”
Ms. Giles single-handedly brought down ACORN by exposing ACORN’s willingness to advise a prostitute and a pimp on tax evasion and child sex trafficking. She is best known for her portrayal as a prostitute in her series of hidden camera exposés and was greeted with a very warm welcome.
Having only seen her work through the ACORN videos, I was pleasantly surprised by what a thoughtful, well-spoken and sincere young woman Giles is. She remarked on how before her adventures in investigative journalism, she spent most days honing her surfing skills and training in jujitsu. Giles clearly conveyed an astute point of how Obama spent $700 million dollars winning the 2008 election, while McCain spent $300 million losing the 2008 election. She and her colleague spent a little over $1500 bringing down the criminal organization known as ACORN, the largest, most shifty, and insidious radical organization to ever exist in America, which ultimately imploded under the pressure Giles shined on their activities.
After getting married, Giles, launched the American Phoenix Foundation a non-profit organization based in Austin Texas to “recruit and train select young leaders to transcend the traditional media by becoming independent truth-seeking journalists who relentlessly pursue truth with courage and creativity” in an effort to “protect the American Republic through ethical, innovative, and technologically driven journalism.”
It was refreshing to find this young woman drop seeds of wisdom and inspiration for everyone in attendance. “We must be in the business of changing hearts and minds and disrupt the false narratives the left has constructed,” said Giles. “We need your help. Help my generation enjoy the same liberty you all have enjoyed during your lifetimes and use your time, talents and treasures to disrupt the false narratives pushed by the left.”
The final speaker at this April 27 luncheon, clearly an effort by the Heritage Foundation to save the best for last, was Mark Stevens, an entrepreneur, CEO of MSCO marketing and business advisory firm and author of Your Marketing Sucks. Stevens was recently the target of harassment when the left waged a jihad against anyone associated with radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh. His inspiring presentation reflected what he had learned after thousands of domestic terrorists attacked him and his business, his employees and family and that it’s about fighting fire with fire by boycotting the boycotters.
Mr. Stevens started his remarks by speaking of his frustration with the warm and fuzzy linguistic obfuscations we find ourselves engaged in during these times. “We are not having a ‘national conversation’ as they like to call it. It’s a war, and if we treat it as if it is anything less than that we will not win. We’re playing with water guns while they’re playing with scuds.” he exclaimed to loud applause from the captivated audience.
Stevens, one of the advertisers who was boycotted due to his association with the Rush Limbaugh show, spoke of the contemptible behavior of those protesters of Limbaugh’s show for effectively committing acts of “internal American terrorism” against his employees and company.
Despite never uttering a single word about Sandra Fluke or Limbaugh’s disparaging comments about her, Stevens says he and his employees were targeted with all kinds of threats, harassment and abuse via phone and email. He spoke of how people would call up his offices and call his 30 year old executive assistant a slut and women hater. People sent emails telling him they were ‘the police of the internet’ and ‘they knew where he lived,’ and ‘say goodbye to your family.’ I doubt I was the only one in the audience who had chills running down their spine at the retelling of these stories.
“They called women in my company and called them some of the most despicable, most horrible terms, ever to be uttered,” said Stevens. He received tens of thousands of emails, most of them positive, but a small group, said things like ‘I’ll tell ten people, and they’ll tell ten people,’ The email subject lines would say “Mark you’re in danger,” or ‘your house is going to be shown up by buses,’ ‘your businesses are going to be destroyed, your people are in trouble.’ “This is terrorism, why don’t we start calling it what it is?” said Stevens. “You don’t have to commit an act of bloodshed for there to be terrorism, you have to invoke a sense of fear.”
“When we ask our troops to go into battle they know they may lose their lives, but they do it anyway, because they are fighting for what they believe to be the right thing to do,” he said. Stevens decided he was not going to cave. “If you cave, they win.” he said. Stevens made a decision that his country is more important than his business, and that if his business crumbled under the pressure, he’d just build another one. This profound statement and his courage against so much strain slayed me.
He also had a few comments about President Obama and the current trend of debating people who wish to impose their will on others. “So many people say, ‘he’s a nice guy. Anyone who wants to destroy America is not a nice guy.’ We have to stop believing we can have debates with these people. We can’t win a culture in an election and we have to fight fire with fire to protect our culture and stop debating with the hissyfitters of the world.”
Both Hannah Giles and Mark Stevens made me think about what it means to be a leader. Mark Stevens is an incredibly engaging speaker. He deserves to be a speaker at the Presidential nominating convention as he’s a small business owner that has done what so many others in America have done, he worked hard and now enjoys the American dream. He’s also not a politician. I’d like nothing better than to see the GOP put forward a fresh face like Mark Stevens. I am on my way to consuming every little bit of delicious goodness, mindful stories and thoughtful wisdom and wit he imparts in his blog, Unconventional Thinking.
Both speakers were riveting. Now and then life throws you a bone and you get to experience a great, life-changing, profound experience. That rare, exalted, sought-after experience that emerges when you meet someone with great stories, when listening to someone who is truly passionate about something and in this case, it’s maintaining the greatest country in the world. Both Hannah Giles and Mark Stevens are walking the walk and attempting to inspire others to do the same.