HAWAII, February 14, 2012 - There’s something very special about the Lone Star State and its people. In spite of the global banking crisis and the gloom of its economic fallout, Texas has routinely outperformed the rest of the nation and ranked as the top exporting state for an incredible ten consecutive years.
Fiercely competitive, unapologetically independent and never shy to taking charge, Texans are an exceptional breed and the secret to their state’s success.
It comes as no surprise that Texans are also front and center in American politics. One of America’s rising stars from the Lone Star State is Jamie Story, president of the Citizen Leader Alliance, managing director of the Alliance for Self Governance and the former Miss Texas 2004.
As an economics graduate from Rice University and an experienced policymaker, Story is a brilliant and beautiful leader who champions the cause of liberty and self-government. Truly a career to watch, Story exemplifies the kind of talented, principled and charismatic young leaders that are now rising to lead America.
I had the opportunity to interview Story for her thoughts on pageantry, politics and predictably the question of world peace. What follows is a transcript, with edits for length and clarity.
Danny de Gracia: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what it’s like being you.
Jamie Story: I grew up in Bedford, Texas, a city of about 50,000 people that lies between Dallas and Fort Worth. I’m the oldest of three daughters, and my parents still live in the same house where I grew up. My dad is a cost analysis engineer at Bell Helicopter/Textron, and my mother has had a variety of jobs, from elementary school teacher, to paralegal, to floral designer.
When I was in elementary school my father pursued his life-long dream of owning a restaurant, which he opened in the shopping mall near our house. Business was great initially but the Desert Storm conflict and an economic recession drove down mall traffic and thus restaurant sales to almost nothing.
After a year of bleeding his savings and borrowed money, he had to close the restaurant. Lawyers advised him to declare bankruptcy, but he declined, knowing he would repay his debtors anyway.
We went through some lean times as a family, but a decade later every debt had been paid, and I don’t believe any of us would trade the experience if we could. I learned the value of keeping one’s commitments, no matter the circumstances, and I now have an incredible appreciation for the courage of an entrepreneur.
DDG: What inspired you to get into pageantry and be Miss Texas?
Story: My mother volunteered for a local pageant when I was growing up, so I had a great appreciation for the Miss Texas Organization and the opportunities it provides for young women. I initially competed for two reasons.
First, my student loans were starting to stack up and I knew I could use the scholarships. Second, I’d played the piano since I was five, and I thought it’d be a great way for me to continue using that skill. I began competing my sophomore year of college and won the title of Miss Texas four years later.
In retrospect, I benefited in so many ways that I would never have guessed. My year as Miss Texas was devoted to public speaking and volunteerism, with about 400 appearances across the state and country.
I had the opportunity to speak to school children throughout Texas, to visit injured veterans at Walter Reed and Brooke Army Medical Centers, and even to emcee the Texas-Wyoming Ball during President George W. Bush’s second inauguration. These experiences were blessings in and of themselves, and helped equip me for professional and civic opportunities to come.
DDG: Today, if you had to platform an issue, what would you say is the single most important issue facing America?
Story: It is so hard to choose just one, but I think the most overarching crisis is the size of government, particularly at the federal level. We’re all familiar with the enormous debt and how that will impact the prosperity of future generations and even related areas like foreign relations.
But more fundamental I think is how the growth of government has replaced the virtue of personal responsibility with a dependency mindset. People now look to government for their wages, education, healthcare, childcare, food, transportation, retirement income - the list goes on and on.
By the way, I use those first several terms loosely! And we’re not only dependent on government for material things, but for security also, since in many cases government has restricted our ability to protect ourselves.
DDG: Both Rick Perry and Ron Paul as Texas candidates brought a lot of attention to your state. Now that Ron Paul is the only Texan in the race left, what do Texans think about that? Are they rooting for their congressman?
Story: I live in Austin, and I see more support for Congressman Ron Paul than I see for anyone. Just this weekend the Ron Paul activists were sign-waving at more than 20 locations around town. Many conservatives in Texas were also supporting Governor Perry while he was in the race, so it will be interesting to see which candidate they now migrate towards.
DDG: Some say that America has become more and more divided and politically polarized over the last four decades and that this has led to the rise of combative media and candidates who advocate “shock and awe”-style extreme positions just to snag populist approval but not necessarily put reality or reason first. Do you agree?
Story: I don’t agree that Americans have become more polarized, but I do agree that our politics have become more polarizing. Much of that is due to our primary system. Low primary participation which some would say is suppressed, or at least not actively encouraged, by the parties means that only a small portion of the population chooses the candidates who make it to the general election.
Moreover, those who vote in the primary tend to be the more extreme of either party. This results in general election candidates who are markedly different from each other, but who may not adequately represent the middle 80 percent of Americans.
DDG: A lot of people are talking about “liberty” and “freedom” these days. Are those words interchangeable or do they mean the same thing? What do they mean to you?
Story: I believe they mean the same thing, which is the absence of compulsion, although I do try to use the term “freedom” whenever appropriate, as I believe it resonates better with people. I believe our rights to life, liberty, and property are given to us by God. It is government’s role to defend, not restrict, those rights, so long as our liberty does not restrict another person’s rights.
DDG: Let’s talk a little bit about political fashion and style. Do you think that male politicians overuse the “dark suit, light blue shirt, power maroon tie” combination? Is that getting boring or what?
Story: No complaints from me. I just like a guy in a suit.
DDG: Do you think it might be better if, when asked about foreign policy, presidential candidates took a page from the pageantry book and simply said “World Peace”?
Story: We’d certainly have less combative debates! But that certainly wouldn’t highlight the differences between candidates, since they seem to differ on foreign policy more than anything, at least in the Republican Party.
DDG: As someone who’s been a role model and a spokesperson her entire life, what is your advice to America’s young women today?
Story: My advice is the same as the advice my dad gave to me: Do what you love. I think he was primarily talking about pursuing a career, but it applies to so many other things: participating in extracurricular activities, selecting a college major, committing to volunteer opportunities, or even weighing options such as working or raising a family.
Psalm 37:4 says to “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” There’s nothing more exciting than the feeling you get when you’re fulfilling the role you were created for.
Danny de Gracia is a political scientist, an ordained minister and a former senior adviser to two committee chairs of the Hawaii State House of Representatives. He currently lives in Hawaii.
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