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Reflections of a College Republican Chair

There is a phrase from the charism of the Xaverian Brothers: “give the gifts you have received as a gift to others.” There is no better phrase than that to describe my term as Chairman of George Washington University College Republicans. The past year has been a time of great achievement and growth for our organization. I have seen members of artistic inclination channel their gifts to improve our organization’s social media and digital presence. I have seen our politically inclined members give their gift of connections to hundreds of our members in the form of superb speakers on a variety of topics. And, perhaps most importantly, I have seen our members who have the gift of leadership express it in their hours of hard work, commitment to excellence, and advocacy for conservative ideals.

It is no secret to our membership that my ideology is not always in line with the party platform.

I admit that I have a rather large “independent” streak — sometimes to a fault. But you all have graciously taken that in stride. You recognized that our organization is not only a big tent with a big heart, it is also a group that is pursuing a broader horizon, a better future, and the maintenance of a way of thinking that must endure in the next decade — not just the next six months. And through it all, you showed up.

You showed up to a stellar event with one of the GOP’s youngest stars: Rep. Dan Crenshaw. You showed up to events on our party’s future on crucial issues like LGBT equality and environmental sustainability. You showed up to debates on the economy and foreign policy. You showed up to campaign events in northern Virginia where we worked for candidates who saw the R after their name as more than a partisan talking point. The local candidates we assisted saw the Republican label as a mark of their commitment to good, efficient, effective government. Our members are the best of the best. Their passion matches their pragmatism. Their commitment to our shared conservative principles mimics their unflinching devotion to serving others.

And that is what being in the arena is all about: the service of others. Recall the phrase I mentioned above: give the gifts you have received as a gift to others. Imagine if we, the students of the next generation of politics, thought of ourselves as public servants before we were politicians. Think of the good we could do. Think of the bridges we could build. Think of the relationships, good faith, and results that could “set the world on fire” from such a subtle change in mindset. In the past year, I have recognized the importance of this way of thinking, and I know that our membership has, too. The service of others is all that matters. No letter after a name, no endorsement, no plank in a platform can substitute for an honest day’s work for your fellow man. In a phrase: “love one another.”

In closing, I want to share a thought that I offered to the Project on Ethics in Political Communication. When thinking about College Republicans we must remember that the operative word in that ubiquitous moniker is ‘college,’ not ‘Republican.’ Above anything else, we are students at a renowned institution of higher education. Our purpose is to learn. Our mission is to broaden our horizons. And our challenge is to remind ourselves to not take things too seriously. That’s not to say our Republican identity is unimportant; it is, and it should be synonymous with our pursuit of compassionate, effective governance. But at the end of the day, we’re at GW to grow, we’re here to have fun. And, if you have the courage, we are here to make a difference in the world.

In the past year, you have given me a collection of gifts that has touched my heart and molded me into a more effective leader, kinder friend, and better man. To the most involved members to the least, I have but one message: thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being the unique group that you are. For all your flaws, quirks, and whims I wouldn’t have it any other way. Here’s to the future, and don’t forget to give your gifts to the world…we need them.

John Olds

Chairman, GW College Republicans

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