Sunday, May 03, 2009

I Remember Jack Kemp

The Jack Kemp I was Fortunate to Know

In 1979 I started getting interested in politics. I had every intention to cast my first vote, at the age of 18 in November of 1980. My interest in the ideas of free enterprise and the importance of a free society flourished when I stumbled on a recently released book entitled An American Renaissance. The book, by a former professional football player turned politician named Jack Kemp, plotted the future of the Republican party for years to come and described with prophetic clarity what would become know later as "Reaganomics."

After that book I moved from "interested" to "committed" and found myself an outsider in a family which had a FDR dad and a socialist (right off the boat from England) mom. My life has never been the same. I knew of Kemp from his book and the news, I received the privilege of actually knowing him shortly thereafter.

In 1980 I found myself in the role as a regional coordinator in the Students for Reagan campaign in Texas. It was "heady" times for an 18 year old because our efforts (including our region) were enjoying national media attention. Unfortunately for me, it also drew attention from Abilene Christian University where I was a student. As a group we decided to have a demonstration at a Jimmy Carter rally coming soon and we told the media, which in turn asked questions at my school.

During class one day someone walked in and handed my professor a note from Dean Beauchamp, who was the Vice President of Student Affairs. The professor was a friend of mine as well as my teacher and he turned slightly pale and looked at me. "Kevin, Dean Beauchamp would like to see you immediately after class." If he was slightly pale, I turned white as a sheet. Mr. Beauchamp was the enforcer on campus, the equivalent of the assistant principal in a middle school. Visits with him often preceded departures from the school.

I said, "May I go now?" He shook his head yes and said, "See me after your meeting" with genuine concern or morbid curiosity. When I got to his office there was little wait (thank God) and was quickly in his office. He cut straight to the chase, "Kevin, this is a Christian university and we expect our students to not embarrass us, we don't like the idea of you protesting our President." I said, "Oh no Dean Beauchamp, we are having a pro-Reagan rally." He stared at me and didn't smile. He said, "It is a free country, I can't stop you, and although I like Reagan, I will not tolerate this school being embarrassed, understand?" I understood.

On the day of the event we had media coverage from TV, radio, and newspapers and the local Republican Party publicly criticized my efforts because they were independent and drew far more attention than the establishment party received. Congressman Jack Kemp came the day after that event and got his hands on one of those newspapers. At a party for Reagan that night which included Kemp, I got an invitation from the Congressman to attend. When I got there, it was awkward. The party regulars had wished I chose to not attend. Kemp arrived fashionably late and he immediately asked "who is Kevin Price?" I sheepishly looked up and he motioned me to come over to him where he patted me on the back and shook my hand. He turned to the GOP county chair and said "we need more heroes like this to save the future of this country. If anyone is not happy with his efforts, they need to answer to me. Any questions?" Now the poor county chair turned white and was completely silent. Kemp turned and whispered to me, "I heard you were having problems at school too, do you need me to make a call?" I pulled my jaw up and whispered "no." I think he may have made a call because Dean Beauchamp later grabbed me in the hall and told me how proud he was of what I was doing for our country.

That was the kind of person Kemp was. I grew to disagree with him on some issues, but he entirely changed the debate in Washington and we went from a country that saw high taxes as "patriotic" to one in which individuals should fight for lower rates. In fact, I think he was the most influential American in the 20th Century to never get elected President. But as in the case of his conversation with me, Kemp was very real and interested in every day people, like me.

Football player, Congressman, Secretary of HUD, Vice President nominee of the GOP. He was a great American. He will be missed.

Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business, the longest running show on CNN 650 (M-F at 11 am), AOL Radio, and CBS Radio. Eric Bolling of Fox News and Fox Business says that Price’s Blog “is very influential and moves the blogosphere.” Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal calls Price the “best business talk show host in the country.” Find out why and visit his blog at www.BizPlusBlog.com and his show site at www.PriceofBusiness.com. You can also find Price on Strategy Room at FoxNews.com.

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