It could be that I'm writing this post for my children, because it is their history, and it might as well be written down.
In case you've ever wondered why I am so political, I can only offer that it's in my blood. I have always been a political animal, and I live with another political animal, my husband. In fact, it's how we met.
I grew up in a Republican household as a proud patriot and a fiscal and social conservative. I am the younger daughter of an Arab immigrant/Navy veteran/doctor father and a Protestant-turned-Catholic/nurse mother who was raised poor in small-town Ohio.
I have voted in every election since I was eighteen, and in 1985 I went off to Boston College as a conservative Republican. Nothing could sway me, even liberal Massachusetts and the university's Jesuit influence. I was rooting for Robert Bork's confirmation in 1987 and was outraged that the left derailed that good and brilliant man. I voted for George Herbert Walker Bush (and had a Bush/Quayle placard on my dorm wall) when he ran against the Massachusetts governor, Michael Dukakis.
I have also always been pro-life. I was raised to believe that abortion is wrong, but the truth of it was hammered home to me while spending a lazy afternoon browsing through my mom's well-stocked bookshelves one day. My 10- or 11-year-old self came across a full-color booklet called "Handbook on Abortion," which included several pages of photos of aborted children from the earliest stages. I was rightly horrified, and concluded then that such an obvious evil should never be legal. (This was in the first few years after Roe v. Wade sullied our land.)
At Boston College I studied English, but politics and Washington, DC (the city where my own parents met) was calling to me. So, while most of my friends went on study-abroad programs during junior year, I became the first English major at BC to be accepted into the Washington Semester Program at American University. There were a few concentrations to choose from, and I chose Foreign Policy.
A big part of the program was completing an internship. I had an interest in journalism, so I interviewed and got the job at a now-defunct national TV news station, Independent News Network (INN). I helped to edit news stories and raw feed, and I occasionally went on assignments, sometimes with a camera crew, but always with my trusty notebook and pen (there were no Smart phones or tablets then).
Some of the highlights for a 20-year-old girl: I sat in on the Oliver North trial, I covered press conferences for Dick Gephardt and Al Gore (it was 1988, a presidential election year, and they were running -- and dropping out), I said hello to Vice President George H.W. Bush in the lobby of INN offices (he would go on to win the presidency that year), and I ran into Senator Teddy Kennedy on the sidewalk near the Capitol (he gave me the creeps).
I understood clearly that I and another intern were the only conservatives in the newsroom. I'm pretty sure I kept that on the down-low, but my memory is hazy. I do remember that my boss and the lead male reporter both hit on me, subtly and overtly, but I just chalked it up to "dirty old men" and didn't give it much of a thought. In fact, I probably haven't thought about it in a quarter century.
It was fun taking a camera crew into the White House Press Room and then heading out to the South Lawn of the White House for the annual Easter Egg Roll, where President Reagan gave a speech to the egg-gatherers for the last time in his presidency. Emmanuel Lewis was the celebrity entertainment that day.
Here I am with my camera crew that day. I'm on the right. In the skirt.
(My apologies to the nameless camera lady for showcasing her in those heinous
parachute stone-washed jeans that I am sure she has since disavowed.)
The White House Easter Egg Roll took place on April 4, 1988. How do I remember the date so precisely? Well, it was the very day that I officially began to date my future husband! I had just turned 21 the previous week.
Yep, a handsome Jewish guy named Dean Miller was on the Washington Semester Program that spring as well, a political science major at Emory University in Atlanta who also was entrenched in the political scene, but on the opposite side of the aisle. When I met Dean (who was in the American Politics concentration), he was a diehard liberal, pro-"choice" Democrat.
Dean's first real foray into the political world was as a teenager in Las Vegas, when he canvassed neighborhoods door-to-door on behalf of candidate Harry Reid, who was running for his second term as a United States Congressman. (Let's just say that Dean is, ahem, no longer a fan of Harry Reid.)
When he went off to college, Dean interned at the Carter Presidential Center, which is located on the campus of Emory University. There are many good stories from his days at the Carter Center, but that's for another day.
|Dean with President Jimmy Carter|
When Dean arrived in Washington junior year for the exchange semester, he got an internship on the Hill with Democrat Senator Wyche Fowler of Georgia.
When Dean and I met, we obviously did not agree on politics; as we began to fall in love, we tolerated a lot of what the other had to say.
Except when it came to abortion.
I remember sitting with Dean in my dorm room (in a building that was was formerly a Catholic convent, by the way!), listening to him recount the recent talks his American Politics group had attended, one at Planned Parenthood and another at National Right to Life. He was complaining about the pro-lifers, saying that they were "a bunch of nuts" and "loonies" (if I remember that correctly). I reminded him that I was staunchly pro-life, and I told him that his words were offensive to me personally. He walked back his words a bit.
It amuses us both, looking back, as we consider that Dean is now 100% pro-life, sits on the board of our local crisis pregnancy center, and often leads his children at our bishop's rosary in front of local abortion clinics. It's fun to see what God can do, isn't it?
By the time we were married a couple of years later, politics were still a huge part of our lives and discussions, and although Dean was still a Democrat, he was starting to let go of some of his liberal leanings.
During the 1992 presidential election, I was uninspired by President Bush (the elder) and not so convinced about third-party candidate Ross Perot, and so I personally did something unthinkable: I registered as a Democrat and voted for Bill Clinton for President of the United States. Dean voted for him as well. I was "inspired" by his wife Hillary's "advocacy for children" (I had a baby by then), and I convinced myself that her pro-abortion views could be ignored because of how much she "helped" born children. (I know, I know. But it gives me insight into others who use the same arguments today.)
Dean knew within one day of voting for Bill Clinton that he had made a huge mistake. I was more optimistic for a few months, but by the time Clinton gave his first State of the Union address, I was filled with regret. I re-registered as a Republican and never looked back. Within a couple of years, Dean registered as an Independent, and by 1997, he was a registered Republican.
Although still registered Republicans, Dean and I have long been disgusted with the establishment Republican Party, and consider ourselves "conservative" more than any other political label.
Dean's career path has kept him in the mix of politics. His first job was for a non-profit taxpayer watchdog group, and then he worked in state government for a long time (Arizona Department of Commerce, Arizona Corporation Commission) before moving to the private sector of consulting and lobbying. He helped to draft and pass many bills within the Arizona Legislature during those early years, has worked with countless politicians and private businesses on regulatory issues, and knows a lot about the process and the people.
Meanwhile, my public writing began in 1994 when I became an editorial columnist for The Arizona Republic, and my co-writer Kim Manning and I discussed and dissected politics as a matter of course. In fact, it was the exercise of writing about truth and goodness through a political lens that brought Kim to Catholicism and me to a full embrace of Church teaching and practice.
As you can see, there is a deep history and love of politics in the Miller home, and a passion for the direction of our beloved country. So when folks suggest that I become less political, I can honestly say that I don't see that happening. And, I wouldn't want it any other way.
Our Catholic Faith encourages and even obligates us to be engaged in the public square, and so long as I am not transgressing the moral law or the laws of our Church while doing so, I am happy to oblige.
God bless America! It is a privilege to live in this still-great land.