The following is the text of a speech I gave to a virtual student convention at Wahpeton High School.  It's not a perfect list, and I could have 20 chapters to this book, but this speaks to most of what's on my heart right now about the country we live in. I'm posting this on my twitter account too, so please comment for or against on Twitter.  I'd be interested to hear what you like, what you don't, and what you'd say instead.  -Steve

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Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this virtual political convention!  I think it's really important in our democracy for young people to thoughtfully consider what our country looks like and feels like - since you have a lifetime ahead of you to take care of it.

I don't want to talk about Trump and Biden... there's enough of that out there....I want to talk about ideas  And the principles that we need to promote.  And I don't want to talk about DC and Bismarck.  I want to talk about you.  And your hometown.  And the places you walk every day.  Because real change happens when people come together in the truck, on the way to hunting.  Or in the bus going to a game or at restaurant where real people have real conversations.

There's a growing group of people in our country who are promoting the idea that we need to start over again and rebuild the country.  That what we have here doesn't work so we need to start over.  But I'd suggest to you that those things that they want to do away with are the things that we need to fight for and protect.  

So here's why I'm a conservative - and why I tend to vote republican.  Not always but most of the time, the candidates I vote for believe in most of these things. 

I'll call this "My 10 Rules for a Healthy Country."

First, capitalism is essential to hope.  People are hiking thousands of miles through the Mexican desert because in our country, there is opportunity. for anyone.  With the advent of technology and the internet, simple people can do amazing things if they only work hard enough and are smart about the decisions they make.  Technology is the great equalizer.  I have had jobs where I've made lots of money and jobs where I haven't.  I can tell you that money doesn't make you happy but it does let you sleep a little better at tonight. Our free market society allows this to happen and for every day people to improve their place in this world.   Socialism is the opposite of freedom. And it limits where you can go and therefore it limits hope.  When there's only so far you can go, you'll never push yourself as far as you can go. 

Second, we need to stop penalizing those who have earned more by unfairly taxing them.  You hear it all the time.  Wealthy people need to PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE.  OK, let's talk about this.  Over here is Bob and he's making 30-grand a year.  Betty is over here and she makes a million dollars a year.  Bob is in a 15% tax bracket so he's going to pay $4,500 in taxes.  If Betty was being taxed 15% she'd be paying $150,000.  Is Betty paying her FAIR SHARE?  Of course!  We'd probably say she's paying MORE than her fair share.  Thing is...Betty doesn't get taxed 15%.  She pays 37%.  Do the math and that's $370,000.  So 15k vs. 375k.  Is that fair?  Way more than fair.  But the liberal politicians want Betty to pay 60-70- even 80%.  Those people have lost their minds.  We have to stop villifying the people who have done well in this world.  The class warfare that hates the rich, only punishes the people who contribute most of the money to our country, state, and local governments.  If you make it too harsh, they'll leave the country.  Make sure you examine what your presidential candidates are saying on this.

Third, we need to protect right to keep and bear arms.  We can argue all day about why mass shootings happen, and we all can agree we wish they wouldn't.  But I'm a realist.  And reality tells us that we can try to make all the rules we want but there are millions of guns in our country and if you try to take them away from everyone only the criminals will have them. And we have to  stop this childish discussion of banning some sorts of guns just because someone thinks they look scary. An AR is a semi-automatic weapon.  It works just the same way as a semi-automatic pistol, which is used more of ten than any other gun for self protection.  Many a young lady living in the big city sleeps well at night cause she's got one near the bed.

Fourth, we need to fight for the unborn.  There's an entire political party who openly cheers at their convention when they talk about murdering living fetuses in the mother's womb.  Let's just be honest.  If we can't get this right what does the rest of it matter?  Nobody who's honest with themselves, thinks that dismantling a living fetus inside a woman's body seems like a pretty good idea.  This isn't a Democrat / Republican issue - this is a common sense issue.  How can we expect God to really bless America when we allow this to happen?

Fifth we need to limit our govt spending.  When taxes were first introduced a couple hundred years ago people said - what you want to take away some of my money that I worked hard to earn and just give it to the government?  But at first those taxes at least made some sense...they were for things that people couldn't do for themselves....roads, national defense, law enforcement....But slowly and surely we've gotten away from that and have turned taxes into ways to "make peoples' lives better".  The problem is when you start doing that... when do you stop?  Did you know that our country 27 trillion dollars in debt?  And the interest???   Well, every 2 seconds we add $100,000 to the debt because like any other loan we have to pay interest...that's a million dollars every 20 seconds.  Let that sink in for a minute.

Sixth, we need to prevent people from illegally coming into our country...this is way different than legal immigration.  We are a nation of immigrants - that came here through legal means.  It's only common sense to say that we need to know who is in our country.  And that's not hard to do.  Our country has enormous wealth and assets.  Of course, people will want to come here.  But if all of those people cost money instead of help us create money, our country will get weaker financially.  When we don't know who is coming in, we tend to see more people who need help.  Doesn't make them bad people, but it's obvious to understand that this kind of math doesn't work for very long.  There's still room for immigrants here, but coming to this country is special and it needs to remain so.

Seventh, we need strong law enforcement.  There is no peace and no American dream when our safety is at risk.  Where law enforcement needs to be held accountable lets do that - once we know all the facts and can understand the whole situation.  and lets remember that there are MILLIONS of interactions between American people and law enforcement EVERY DAY.  MILLIONS.  And let's not let the small fraction of bad decisions define how we see law enforcement.  We don't do that in any other area of our country -- let's not do that with law enforcement either - especially knowing they are working in some of the most awful places in our society with some of the most evil and wretched people - black white brown you name it -- that live among us.

Eighth, we need a return to personal responsibility.  The liberal anthem today seems to be based on 2 ideas:  One - if something bad happens to you it's someone else's fault.  Two, if something is hard for you, you need government to save you because you are incapable of saving yourself.  Both are dangerous to you because they make you feel like a victim.  And when we keep telling our friends of color that they need the government to help them or they can't do that themselves, that is the definition of racism.  You know, looking down on them because of their skin color.  But the worst thing you can do to a child is teach him that he's a victim.  Because then you never look for a way out, you never get tough, you never have to fight, you never have to take the blame.  And you never get better, you never learn and grown and achieve and conquer yourself.  Winners look in the mirror to solve their problems - Losers look out the window to find someone to blame it on. 

Ninth, we need airtight voting processes.  The foundation of our republic is a fair election.  And so anything we can do to preserve the integrity of the process has to be done. The further you move away from in person - check your id at the door - fill out your ballot and put it in the hopper -  that the more chance you have for corruption.  We know that politics is more of a "win at any cost" game than it's ever been before.  So we need to make sure that people "are who they say they are" and what that ballot says is an accurate reflection of what that person believes. 

Tenth and finally, we need to learn to disagree again.  What ever happened to "you are my friend no matter what your political beliefs are?"  But today we now have a culture where if you say something I don't like that I proclaim me right and you wrong and I am now offended so you first need to be silenced and then you need to be punished.  Our constitutional right of freedom of speech is gone - in way too many places. What ever happened to - I disagree but you are entitled to your own opinion.  We have gotten so sensitive that we can't even state facts anymore because your facts don't fit my beliefs so you can't say them.  Remember this one thing - The truth is never controversial. 

Wahpeton High school, you have a decision to make as to what you will stand up for and what you will hold to through your life.  And you are not too young to do that. Maturity is saying - I'm going to ignore my feelings/emotions/voices around me when it comes deciding what I'm going to base my future on.  When we're young we base all our decisions on how I feel right now, but as time goes on we learn that feelings are bad ingredients for decisions and policies. I believe that these conservative values I've talked about today are the best set of answers for what our country needs to day and will need a thousand years from now.  Make sure the candidates you choose have grown up as much as you have.

Thank you and Go Huskies!  Take Care.