Human stories are powerful; they encourage, inspire, and give hope. They are what shape, in the general sense, policies, opinions, and the agendas of interest groups and individuals alike. I found this to be true as I traveled the country, sharing my own battle with anorexia, as Miss America 2008. Many of you that read this blog and keep up with Future Voices of America will wonder how advocacy for mental health issues and politics relate, if they do at all. As both a conservative and an advocate, I have found that service to fellow man is a valuable asset to survival. After my year of service as Miss America, I started a non-profit organization, the Kirsten Haglund Foundation to raise money to help financially support the families of young men and women with eating disorders in treatment. Treatment costs for eating disorders, like many unique health issues, are exorbitant due to many failures within the health care system. In my opinion, however, it is not the government’s job to solve this problem, and honestly, they don’t have the power of efficiency or skill to be able to do so. I began the Foundation to try to help fulfill a need; people helping other people. This is where politics and service come together. As conservatives, we hold to the beliefs of the Founders: the principles of John Locke that state man has liberty and opportunity to make the best of himself, or to fail. Each must take responsibility for his own actions. In order for a government to protect liberty, it must be limited and often checked. This great freedom however, comes with a responsibility; in order that we don’t become a nanny-state, we must be compassionate and serve our brothers.
In a more cynical expression, helping others serves our self-interest as well, as we ‘feel good’ when helping others, and sometimes even get a tax deduction. Either way, the benefit as opposed to the cost of serving or meeting a need is much higher than not – allowing the government to mismanage people’s needs and make us all worse off in the end. In my many speaking engagements, political and otherwise, I try to encourage young conservatives to not simply be ideological in rhetoric, but also in their action. Service and compassion are uniquely conservative values. It is time we reclaim them. I would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Future Voices of America for recognizing the need for the mobilization of young conservatives toward service and support of good causes.
I feel honored that my Foundation is featured as this month’s charity. I urge you to go on our site and check out what we do, and take some time to think about what inspires you. What human stories challenge you? Who among you needs someone to listen to them, needs the warmth of friendship, needs a visit, would be blessed by your company? How can you serve your fellow young man or woman, your peers? What larger issue, perhaps, calls you to serve? While I have recently returned to school and am pursuing my education, meeting simply MY needs is no longer enough for my heart. I stay connected to others vis-à-vis the work of my Foundation and volunteer with my church group on Emory University’s campus. Let us together show by the work of our hands that we are not content to simply talk about issues, we act. We help to serve needs that only other humans can serve; not government checkbooks.