Lt. Col. Allen West Shares Lessons on Leadership at Fireside Chat

Lt. Col. Allen West Shares Lessons on Leadership at Fireside Chat

Liberty University’s Office of Inclusion, Diversity, & Equity, in partnership with the Helms School of Government, welcomed former Congressman and retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West to a fireside chat on Thursday in Demoss Hall.

West served in the U.S. Army from 1983-2004. His service included deployments for Operation Desert Storm Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Following retirement, he was elected to the House of Representatives for the 22nd District of Florida, serving from 2011-13. He was the Texas GOP chairman from 2021-22.

During the fireside chat, facilitated by fellow former Congressman and Helms School of Government Dean Robert Hurt, West shared his appreciation for his rights as an American and addressed some of the biggest problems plaguing the country.

West started by emphasizing five crucial aspects for strong leaders: courage, competence, commitment, conviction, and character.

“As a leader, sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe in, but you have to have the confidence to be able to understand what you believe in and the ability to be able to articulate it when people are challenging you to believe in something else,” West said. “You have to have the commitment to those principles and values.”

He challenged students to continue to do what is right, even if it is difficult. Referencing Liberty’s mission of Training Champions for Christ, he urged students to live out their faith long after they leave the university.

Growing up in the 1960s, West said that he learned early in life to work hard to surpass any standard set upon him and to not focus others’ perceptions of him based on his skin color. Because of the wise words of his father, he said he now lives every day free from judgment from others. He argued that in order to be oppressed in modern day America, whether as a result of racism or any other injustice, someone must first willingly give up their God-given rights to freedom.

“Anyone who gives over power to someone to let them believe that they are keeping them from being successful just surrendered all the rights, freedoms, and liberties we have in this great nation. No matter where you come from, no matter where you were born, whatever you want to do, you can do it in this country.”

West also emphasized the importance of overcoming a victim mentality. Comparing it to his time in combat overseas, he said people should fight to overcome the barriers they face instead of complaining that their specific situations are unfair.

On the issue of border security, West stated that a secure border is necessary for American freedom to remain unchanged. Citing fentanyl and human trafficking as two issues that remain unchecked with an open border, he called for the current presidential administration to slow the flood of undocumented immigrants entering the country.

Hurt asked West about his feelings regarding the recent removal of American troops from Afghanistan by the Biden administration.

“It hurt. I spent two and a half years in that country,” West said, noting the 13 U.S. military personnel who died at the Kabul airbase as a result of the retreat. “There were some calls from friends of mine who were close to committing suicide and they said, ‘Colonel, you’ve got to help me.’ And I spent hours on the phone because we saw our friends lose their lives. We saw our friends lose limbs. We helped young girls be able to go to school. We did all these great things, all those sacrifices, to come around and have the greatest debacle in U.S. military history.”

West also took time to discuss the United States’ support for Ukraine and noted that while the U.S. should provide some aid to the country, it should not forsake its own citizens in the process. He cited that between 20-22 veterans commit suicide each day and remarked that homeless and jobless veterans should be receiving some of the assistance that President Biden has sent to Ukraine.

Following the discussion, West answered questions from students, which ranged from the ongoing conflict with China to the issue of educational freedom and the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, West claimed that it was unethical and unconstitutional to force on people. He also noted that even calling it a “vaccine” was inaccurate, because it did not eradicate COVID-19 like vaccines typically would do.

Stating his opposition to state-controlled education, West argued in support of increased school choice.

“The most important elected position in America is (a member of) the school board,” West said. “And that’s why you’ve got to start off at the local level. Educational freedom and parental rights have become a preeminent issue, and we have got to fight to get (these issues resolved) at the state level, but also at the county level.”

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