Last Saturday, September 11th, the local Republican Party held our fifth annual Chili Cook-off. There were over twenty booths in four rooms at the Fairgrounds. Randy Parks, a vocalist from Kansas and childhood friend of State Representative Dennis Johnson, was featured along with the Cowboy Church band. Parks sang an original song entitled, “Let’s paint America Red,” that was wildly received by the crowd. In the other three rooms, there was karaoke, a kid’s carnival, and a replay of the OU/FSU game. Over five hundred people milled through the building, sampling chili and talking to candidates and/or their representatives. The mood was light-hearted and festive. There were no ‘political stump speeches’ or appeals for money.
Adam Smith did an amazing job of organizing the event. Smith has been the event coordinator the last three years and just keeps taking this event to the next level. An army of young volunteers recruited by Adam manned the kid’s carnival room, several booths and the concessions. These teens and young adults were laughing, talking and clearly enjoying themselves. How is that possible? Don’t these kids know politics is serious business? Don’t they realize our country is in danger of going bankrupt and it’s all the other parties fault? Don’t these kids know that Social Security is going bankrupt and that our monetary system is on the verge of collapse? How can they paint little kids faces, make cotton candy, and sing karaoke with a smile knowing those catastrophes loom in their future?
First, never take people who have fun as not being serious minded. In his book, ‘A Leadership Primer, former Secretary of State Colin Powell says, “Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play hard. Seek people who have some balance in their lives, who are fun to hang out with, who like to laugh (at themselves, too) and who have some non-job priorities, which they approach with the same passion that they do their work. Spare me the grim workaholic or the pompous pretentious "professional;" I'll help them find jobs with my competitor.” Dale Carnegie says, “People rarely succeed if they don’t have fun in what they’re doing.”
Second, politics doesn’t have to contentious and confrontational. Politics has become a full contact sport. Ask any candidate, elected official or activist. That’s probably why your great grandpa said to never discuss politics and religion. The tragedy is those two subjects(politics/religion) are the ones that most clearly define who people really are. Many people go through life never discussing their innermost convictions with others because they hate confrontation. But rational people can disagree without being disagreeable. We should be able to debate politics/issues in a civil way. The problem is when the issue of politics comes up many people mistakenly believe they are guest commentators on Fox News or MSNBC. They attempt to insult the other person’s position to make their point. That’s unnecessary, uncivil and unchristian, but it has become the way modern politics is discussed.
Third, campaigning should be fun. As we head into the last fifty(50) days of campaigning before the election, you will see a lot of candidates and volunteers attempting to interact with you. It may be on your doorstep or at a ball game. Make their job a little easier by being nice to them. If you are supporting the opposition, you don’t have to attempt to demoralize them by giving them a dissertation on why you are supporting the other person. Just smile and politely say, ‘No thank you.’ Don’t be mean-spirited or confrontational with candidates. In a civil way, ask candidates their position on an issue. If you disagree, state your argument with passion, but not with anger. Candidates should observe the same rule. Some candidates act as if they are running for monarch and not for a public ‘servant’ position. They certainly don't appear to be having fun.
Adam Smith did a masterful job organizing an event that efficiently dispensed election information to hundreds of people in a setting that was fun and festive. Adam’s ability to energize, motivate and encourage volunteers reveals leadership skills beyond his years. I don’t know what God has planned for Adam Smith’s life, but if politics is his plan, he has a very bright future. And rest assured Adam will have fun!