Why Day One of the Republican National Convention Made Me Proud to Be a Conservative

I’m not going to lie: sometimes it’s hard to keep the faith. Living in a community where I fear getting keyed if I place a Romney-Ryan bumper sticker on my car, it’s often difficult to be open about my stance as a Republican.

But be sure: I have never felt more proud to be a Republican than I did the night of Aug. 28.

Earlier that day at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney was formally nominated as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate—but the excitement didn’t come until late that night, when Romney’s wife, Ann, and N.J. Gov. Chris Christie made electrifying speeches, closing the first official day of the convention. In fact, they spoke about virtually polar opposite topics.

Mrs. Romney, who stated loud and clear that she wanted to talk about love, not about political issues, spoke of her and Mitt’s personal past and also paid rightful homage to American women—“I love you women!” she openly shouted.

Though his wife’s words, Romney, who has taken though hits in the media for appearing impersonal and glossy, became far more intimate and relatable, considerably more human: “I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a ‘storybook marriage,’” Mrs. Romney said. “Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters on M.S. or breast cancer.”

By the end of her speech, it was impossible not to feel more closely connected to the Romney family, and Mrs. Romney assured Americans they “can trust Mitt.” While her speech avoided politics for the most part, I found her most hard-hitting line to be when she spoke of the ultimate choice voters face this fall: “We’re smart enough to know there aren’t any easy answers, but we’re not dumb enough to accept that there aren’t better answers.”

Even more compelling than Mrs. Romney was when Gov. Christie took center stage, delivering an instantly rallying speech, which spoke to American exceptionalism and a second American Century. He spoke with characteristic bluntness and charisma, in a way that made me feel almost like he had received the party nomination.

He didn’t beat around the bush, but rather hit the political issues right on the head: “I know this simple truth and I’m not afraid to say it,” Christie said, referring to the two political parties. “Our ideas are right for America and their ideas have failed America.”

In contrast to Mrs. Romney, Christie spoke of choosing to be respected over being loved. He drew, with incredible frankness, sharp distinctions between the two parties, generally aiming at a notion of Democrats pandering to voters. In one of his boldest statements, he claimed, “They believe in teacher’s unions. We believe in teachers.”

At the end of his speech, he encouraged the audience to stand up for America’s future and to fight for Mitt Romney.

“Tonight, we choose the path that has always defined our nation’s history. Tonight, we finally and firmly answer the call that so many generations have had the courage to answer before us,” said Christie. “Tonight, we stand up for Mitt Romney as the next President of the United States.”

Mrs. Romney’s address and Gov. Christie’s keynote reminded me what this election is really about: not only the economy and jobs and balancing the budget, but restoring American exceptionalism.

At Staples, we learn in our U.S. history classes how decades of immigrants saw America as the land of hope and prosperity. No matter what your political perspective, it’s undeniable: at this very moment, America is simply not that exceptional country any longer. That’s why we must make a change this fall to begin restoring our standing in the world.

At first, I was apprehensive to bring my laptop to school, what with my two Romney bumper stickers plastered across the back of the case. But after hearing the speeches at the first night of the Republican National Convention, I am prouder than ever to express my political opinion with conviction.

Although I will miss voting in this year’s election by two months, I’m honored to take any step I can to follow through with Christie’s call: I will proudly stand up, once again, for America’s greatness.