Some people say, some people repeat what other people say, and then there are people like Pete Hegseth who leads. We need someone who is a proven leader ilk Pete Hegseth.
After three days travelling across Minnesota -- meeting delegates in Grey Eagle, Alexandria, Fergus Falls, Deer River, Virginia, and Duluth -- I'm back at our campaign headquarters in time to write my second letter. This one is on leadership, and why I have the background to be a leader in the United States Senate.
My father was a public school teacher and high-school basketball coach--and a good one at that. He taught my brothers and I to dribble a basketball before we could eat solid foods. As a youth, I lived, ate, and breathed basketball. But it wasn't just about the game for my father, it was about how you played it. He put an emphasis on picking Captains for his teams who were strong leaders, both on and off the court. He taught us that leaders fight for what is right, especially when it's difficult or unpopular--and in doing so, set the tone for everything. Good leaders breed success; and poor leadership can derail even the most talented team.
Leaders will never make all the right decisions--and nobody is perfect--but if you have core convictions, and the courage to stand up for them, good things will happen. Leadership is not about being popular or being liked, it's about knowing what is right, pushing through the inertia of everyday life, and having the backbone to stand up and fight for what you believe in. In 2001, I attended a prayer breakfast with Attorney General John Ashcroft and his prayer that morning, as a leader, said it all: "Lord, give me with wisdom to see what is right, and the courage to do it."
Those lessons were burned into my brain, and I've done my best to carry them through life. It started in high school when I captained the varsity basketball and football teams at Forest Lake High School, doing my best to lead both on the field of competition and in the classroom. While many kids were out partying, I was studying, working, or working on my jump shot. It was hard work, and not always fun, but it paid off. Our teams were good, and my grades--and my jump shot--were good enough to get into and play basketball at Princeton University, which I attended on an ROTC scholarship.
Captain of the Forest Lake football and basketball teams
Once at Princeton, I was confronted with a liberal world-view that was completely opposite of what I had been taught at home in Forest Lake. As a Christian, conservative, and patriotic American -- I was appalled by the anti-God atmosphere, anti-traditional values, and the "blame America first" crowd that permeated the campus. But rather than be a go-along-to-get-along student, I decided to fight back. I didn't go to Princeton to be a conservative advocate, but instead, I felt compelled to lead. I took the helm of the Princeton Tory--the only conservative publication on the university, and turned it into the most widely read political publication on campus.
As the Daily Princetonian (our campus paper) recently wrote, "Hegseth was the leader of the campus' conservative movement" -- and I was proud to do so. When "peace protests" broke out on campus after September 11, 2001--we fought back. When the homemaker vocation was under assault from liberal feminists--we fought back. And when professors smeared Israel and blamed America for the world's ills--we fought back.
I made many great friends in the process. But, as the Daily Princetonian also wrote: "As the figurehead of a magazine that forcefully and aggressively argued the conservative position on campus, Hegseth made his fair share of enemies." Again, it wasn't about being popular, and it wasn't about making friends -- it was about being unafraid to stand up for what is right, no matter the consequences. Leadership requires a backbone. Tangling with liberal academia equipped me well to fight for conservative values and our great country.
In the Princeton Tory office
Serving our country as an officer in the Army has also honed my leadership skills. Nothing teaches you more about courage, decisiveness, and fortitude than leading men in combat, and I will never have a higher honor. It was the culmination of my leadership training, and always keeps the political "battlefield" in perspective. But when I came home from Iraq in 2006, it was clear to me that liberal, anti-war groups were dominating the media coverage of the war. As you know, modern wars are fought not only on the field of battle, but also in the realm of public opinion on the home front. Rather than sit on the sidelines and watch groups like MoveOn.org, Code Pink, and the ACLU disparage the service of our troops -- I decided to fight back. Many people said to me, "Don't do this, the Iraq war is a lost cause." I didn't believe them, because I had seen it with my own eyes--and believed the Iraq Surge could be successful. Again, it wasn't about being popular, but instead about standing up for what is right.
As the leader of Vets for Freedom--a national, non-profit veterans organization--I made it my mission to ensure that the voice of the soldier and Marine on the ground was included in the mainstream media. We fought on television (where I was a FoxNews military analyst, and regular on MSNBC and CNN), we fought on the airwaves (with hundreds of national radio appearances), we fought in print (with op-eds in dozens of national newspapers), we fought across the country (with a 3-week, nation-wide bus tour), we fought on Capitol Hill (bringing hundreds of Iraq war veterans to Washington to hold politicians accountable), and we fought against Barack Obama's liberal agenda (which included raising $8.5 million in 2008 to expose his dangerous policy positions). It was the right thing to do, and we made a difference.
In Minnesota for the Vets for Freedom National Heroes Tour
At every step in my life, I've tried to to step up, serve, and lead. Today, this includes stepping up to run for the U.S. Senate in order to defeat Amy Klobuchar and the liberal agenda she supports. Leadership is not easy, but it is rewarding -- especially when you're standing alongside men and women like you. Thank you for what you do as a delegate, stepping up to fight for our country. Together, we can change the course of our nation and restore America to greatness.
God bless America and our great state,