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Celebrating Independence Across the Country (with Gov. Scott Walker)

Gov Scott Walker Headshot

Earlier this week, we celebrated Independence Day. Amidst the cookouts and fireworks, though, is a movement undermining America’s history and values. It is so important that we teach people from a young age the truth about America’s history and why it matters.

This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes Governor Scott Walker, President of the Young America’s Foundation, to discuss the importance of teaching America’s foundational values and the significance of our independence.

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Family Policy Matters
Celebrating Independence Across the Country (with Gov. Scott Walker)

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. As Americans celebrate Independence Day this July 4th, it’s a great time to remind ourselves of the amazing influence this grand experiment has had all over the world. And even though this form of governance is far from perfect, as you would expect from any system created by human beings, it is worth celebrating. We’re joined today by the president of one organization that is working hard to help young Americans understand and be inspired by America’s foundational principles. Scott Walker, with Young America’s Foundation, is best known as the 45th governor of Wisconsin. He joins us today to discuss Young America’s Foundation and why its mission was important enough to lure him away from the halls of government. Governor Scott Walker, welcome to Family Policy Matters.

GOV SCOTT WALKER: Thank you so much for having me on.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So in the opening, I mentioned America’s foundational principles. I hate that we actually need to do this, but could you reiterate what are those principles that were so unique at the birth of our country?

GOV SCOTT WALKER: Well, that’s just it. Sadly, a lot of people, particularly young people, think the Fourth of July is just fireworks, hot dogs and parades. Those are all exciting parts of it, but it’s really about celebrating our independence, and even that they sometimes get wrong, in the sense that it wasn’t just independence as colonies from the British government, but really and why it’s lasted nearly 250 years and been a model around the world, it was about our independence as individuals from an oppressive government.

So declaring our independence on that July 4, originally, was about saying, not only do we want to be free of the oppression coming out of England, but we understand that our rights come from God, not from the government, that they are fundamental rights, and that the sole purpose of a government is to defend those rights, and when those rights are being infringed upon, we as citizens have a right to counter that government, which is what they were claiming at the time. Now thankfully, we haven’t gotten to that point, but it is really important, not just for every American citizen, but particularly for office holders, be they the president, others at the federal level, the state or local levels, to understand the government’s there to protect those freedoms, not the other way around.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: People, especially young people, they look around, they see other countries that have emulated our government and may not understand the uniqueness of it. Are you finding that to be the case?

GOV SCOTT WALKER: Yeah, there’s no doubt about it. And sometimes they just, sadly, have an assumption out there. I know one of our great speakers, Yeonmi Park, is a defector from North Korea, and she talks about not only escaping the oppression and communist control of North Korea, going through China, making her way to America, but how shocked she was when she went to Columbia University years ago to find so many of her classmates hating America. And it’s a clear failure of our educational system to only offer really one narrow point of view, as opposed to telling people how to think critically instead of what to think. So it’s not just what some may call liberal indoctrination from a single point of view. It’s also this larger context of just not being aware of not only what’s happening in United States, but around the world, and that we’ve seen these sorts of oppressive governments fail time and time again, and not just fail as a government, but fail the people they were supposedly in place to serve. Young people just don’t get that.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: I think you’re right. They need to travel to some of these countries,


TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: And see firsthand. So you served as governor of Wisconsin, and you got, with that, a very intimate look at government and the uniqueness of American self governance. Are there some special lessons that you took from that?

GOV SCOTT WALKER: Yeah, again, we have a lot of debate about this lately, being a democratic republic. We’ll talk about democracy. We’re not a direct democracy. We don’t have referendum votes on every issue is we don’t come to a town hall. So we’re not a true democracy in the sense that everything is out on the table. We’re a republic, but a democratic republic, and I think, as a governor, as an elected official, and before that, at the county level, it’s one of those things where, sadly, and we’ve seen it, particularly in Washington, where people really strayed from our founding principles. I think our founders would be rolling over there in the graves as they saw the size and scope of the power concentrated in Washington, DC, because that was never the intention. It was really to have these United States, but that push power and responsibility and decision-making back, not only to the States, but ultimately, to the people. They felt so strongly about that they didn’t just include it in the original Constitution. It’s the 10th Amendment as a part of the Bill of Rights. It is inherently the rights of the states and ultimately of the people. As a governor, I saw that firsthand, and something I tried to fight for, we need to continue to fight for and not just one party. The Democrats, probably, are more focused on embracing concentrated power in the federal government, but there’s still plenty of Republicans who unfortunately feel that way too.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: I know we’re all constantly frustrated at how slowly things can be done or maybe stalled even, but our system was set up like that, wasn’t it? And explain that because that, I think that’s an important point that people miss.

GOV SCOTT WALKER: Well, checks and balances are really important. Again, why it’s a republic. You don’t want mass rule. It’s why we have not just within the legislative checks and balances, for example, in the federal government, with the House and Senate. Different checks and balances in terms of the structure and the rules of those institutions, even the three branches of government being a check and a balance the executive, the legislative and judicial branch really important, because by living in a democratic republic, that means we understand those rights, again, rights given to us by God, by our Creator, not by the government, must be protected no matter what the will of the masses is. You can’t take away those fundamental rights, and that’s just so critically important to reinforce right now, this idea that sometimes people think, well, the masses think that, or they think this, no, it’s all about protecting the rights of the minority. We see that particularly at Young America’s Foundation where, sadly, we’ve seen a creep, not just from a liberal bias, but from outright radicalization of college campuses where they don’t want voices. They being either the college administrators, or in many cases, the student government officials, don’t want voices. And we constantly have to go to court. And even in the very liberal West Coast, in California, we’ve prevailed, because even there, as liberal as that state is, the Constitution still triumphs.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So let’s talk about once you left the governor’s office, you were drawn, apparently, to this organization, the Young America’s Foundation. What was it about it that you thought I could really make a difference working here?

GOV SCOTT WALKER: Well, ultimately, you know, for us, training the next generation of leaders in the fight for freedom is important, not only for Young America’s Foundation. If people are interested,, you can find out more as well about the work that we do, but I’d started one of the many projects that Young America’s Foundation has is the Reagan Ranch. And I was a huge fan of President Reagan as a young person coming of age, my wife and I were invited early in our first year as governor and first lady of Wisconsin. It was a much needed respite between the riots on our State Capitol and the recall election that came about not too long after, in the next June. And so going to the Reagan Ranch Center was a great reminder about President Reagan’s history of being a leader, of not listening to the critics, but focusing on what was important and how those changes, those reforms he made, stand today, just as ours do as well. And so after my two terms as governor, after three elections statewide in a key battleground state, I thought one of the best things I could do to further the things that I fought for as a public servant was to instill those principles and provide information, not just instill those in those who share our beliefs as young people, but particularly, then, inspire them to go out talk to their fellow students who probably, up until now, have only heard one side of the story, and that’s critically important to get the message out.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So you keep teasing us about what happened, and folks in North Carolina may not have followed closely what happened with you. Can you give us a quick synopsis of the very unique time that you served in the governor’s office?

GOV SCOTT WALKER: Yeah, within the first month and a half or so, I knew we faced a budget crisis, and I knew we needed to make structural reforms. That was the time to not just put a band aid on, but fix this permanently. And so we changed what’s called collective bargaining. That took away power from the big government union bosses and transferred it not only to the taxpayers, but also to the people they elect to run their schools, their counties, the municipalities, and their state government. The union bosses, a lot of the Liberal National leaders didn’t like that, so they originally started out with hundreds and thousands, and eventually, some 100,000 people occupied our state capital for nearly a month to try and intimidate us from doing what we said we were going to do. And the good news is we were unintimidated. We didn’t back down. We prevailed. Those reforms are still in place today. They’ve saved over $30 billion to the taxpayers, and probably more importantly, like you said, they put power back in the hands of local officials, to hire staff based on merit, to pay based on performance, to put the best and the brightest in the classroom and in other positions. And it’s still working today, but it was critically important, and it was part of what we see ongoing not only in college campuses, but in governments at all levels, an effort by those in power to intimidate and we need to stand up against that, and that’s why it’s so important for me to help important for me to help inspire and equip young people to do the same.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So you keep mentioning college campuses, and yet you’re working with children or young people that are not there yet. Is that a tactic on your part?

GOV SCOTT WALKER: Absolutely, we can’t give up on college, but in many cases, people are largely formulated in their views by then, and so Young America’s Foundation, YAF, the original Young Americans for Freedom, started at William F Buckley’s home in 1960. Two years later, Ronald Reagan got involved. At that time, it was exclusively a college, and we still are of students in about 2000 campuses today. We provide more conservative speakers than any other group out there. But we’ve also expanded. We took over President Reagan’s ranch 26 years ago, and included a high school program. In fact, in a few days, I’ll be going to another one of our high school programs at the Reagan Ranch itself. But recently, we added a middle school program because we knew that radicals on the left were getting to younger people at younger and younger ages, and we wanted to start reaching out to them sooner and sooner. We don’t just do it at the Reagan ranch. We have the Reagan Boyd home in the middle of the country, in Illinois. We have activities out in the East Coast, in Virginia, and then we have regional events all across the country. So conferences and programs, we also, as I mentioned, do lectures, campus activism, and then we broadcast all of this. So some of our most popular people, like Ben Shapiro, Matt Walsh, Michael Knowles, literally attract thousands of people on campus. But when they go to places like YAF TV on YouTube, we literally get millions of views, and folks are interested in YAF TV on YouTube, listening to these lectures, and particularly the Q and A that I think is what’s most dynamic on our campuses.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So I’m assuming you’re seeing some fruit from these efforts. Encourage us with the kind of young people that you’re seeing out there.

GOV SCOTT WALKER: Two years ago, I talked about the red wave didn’t happen. It was more of a red mist because of not candidates or issues, but the data clearly shows, because 18 to 29 year old voters went overwhelmingly in key states with the more liberal, more radical candidate. And so I said, the problem is not that I’m afraid of younger voters. I’m afraid of younger voters only hearing one side the story. We’ve seen through our work and that of others, the positive shift in that regard. We were just in the field recently with a poll that showed amongst college students nationwide, number one issue is the economy. We asked some other questions, things like fairness is a really big issue to this generation all across the spectrum. As conservatives, we think logically, but we don’t always talk emotionally. We need to pair the two because fairness is a big issue for younger people, and we found when you ask things like, “Should someone born a boy compete against someone born a girl?” more than 60% say that’s not fair. When you talk about using race for employment or for enrollment in college, overwhelmingly students say that’s not fair. And so it’s a good lesson for us that as conservatives, we don’t just need to think with our head, we need to talk from our heart and share the two together. When we do, we can make inroads with young people.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: And I’m assuming that you continue to speak into some of the federal speech and strategy?

GOV SCOTT WALKER: We need help at all levels, so the federal government, I love, for example, former President Trump’s been talking about withholding funds for schools that are involved in restrictions on free speech and some of the other radical, woke things happening that are oppressive on campuses. At the same time, we need governors and state lawmakers to stand up. It’s not just at private institutions. Many of the most egregious offenses are at public institutions. So governors and lawmakers don’t provide all the funding for these institutions, but they provide a significant amount. That paired with a number of donors like Bill Ackman and others pushing back, those things combined, we need help at the federal and state level. We need everybody, not just elected officials, people across the spectrum, speaking out for free speech, the right to be heard and not be obstructed on campus or anywhere in public.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Well, we’re about out of time. But before we go, this show is going to air through the week of July 4th, reflect on what July 4th means to you and what your hopes are for our nation.

GOV SCOTT WALKER: I have incredible gratitude as a kid growing up, maybe I was a geek, but I thought of our founders like superheroes. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I got to go to Independence Hall, the old Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, and see the place where they gathered, not only to sign the Declaration of Independence, but subsequently to take the next step, eventually with our US Constitution. And I’m have such gratitude. You know, these were ordinary people at the time, although they certainly had wealth, but they risked everything. They risked their businesses, they risked their political careers, in many cases, they risked their lives for the freedoms that far too many take for granted. So I have an incredible amount of gratitude. I hope young people and old alike and everywhere in between, take some time this week to think back to what it was like, that original July 4th, what was at stake, what they risk and ensure that we never take it for granted, particularly not just in their case, but all the men and women who’ve served in our military since then, particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Let’s not let them down. Let’s continue to fight for freedom, for justice, and liberty for all.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Okay, Governor Scott Walker, president of Young America’s Foundation, and that again, is, you can go there to learn more. Thank you so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters

GOV SCOTT WALKER: My pleasure.

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