This article originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.
My dad’s family immigrated to America from Poland to escape communism. My dad was raised by his single mother who worked in a factory. He began working in a restaurant at a young age to send himself to a private high school and then to college.
They were able to seek a better life, then work their way up from nothing, following the American dream.
I credit a lot of my conservative beliefs to seeing first-hand how a family can follow the legal immigration process and make something of themselves.
I was bitten early by the political bug.
Take Election night 2008. I was in fourth grade, so excited to see the poll results start coming in. I spent the afternoon decorating a white board with a hand-drawn donkey and elephant. My parents agreed to let me stay up late. I followed the election results on the news and kept a tally on my white board. I knew then I wanted to spend my career involved in this country’s great political process.
What I didn’t foresee, however, was that my personal and political stances would affect my grades.
During the second semester of my freshman year, I was enrolled in an introductory class titled “Comparative Politics.” Initially, I performed really well and received an A on the midterm. I also took advantage of the extra credit offered in the class, writing three extra credit papers, the maximum allowed. Then came our final exam, which asked an opinion question. I thought for sure I had earned an A in the course.
On my way home for summer break, I got the notification on my phone that final grades had been posted. I eagerly looked them up and was disappointed to find out that I had received a B+ in Comparative Politics. I figured it had been a mistake, so I reached out to the professor. He informed me that I failed the final.
After some back and forth, I was informed that I received this grade because the teacher’s assistant grading the final did not agree with what I had written. I was floored. This was the first time I was discriminated against because of my conservative principles.
During my sophomore year, I eagerly became involved in Washington, D.C., politics. I volunteered on a Republican gubernatorial election campaign, interned on the Hill for my Republican member of Congress, and tried to get more politically involved on campus. At this time, a few peers and I decided to create a Catholic University Network of enlightened Women chapter. Catholic University is more of a conservative university, so luckily many right-of-center students do not face the backlash seen on other college campuses. But a newer addition to our school, “Women of CUA,” a left-leaning feminist group, had also formed. With our NeW chapter, we saw it as a place for young conservative women to come together to empower each other.
Meanwhile, I grew in my passion for conservative politics and viewpoints. That is when I started hearing pushback from peers. I was asked: “How could you even be female and conservative?” and, “Do you have any respect for yourself?” I was undeterred.
Hearing these taunts strengthened my love for being female and conservative because, yes, it is possible to be both. I became inspired to grow our NeW chapter and invite more people to join the conversation about how you can be pro-woman and also have conservative beliefs. Just because you are female does not mean you have to believe everything on the Left or everything on the Right.
My advice to any woman is to read up on the things you care about. Read unbiased factual statements and then read opinion pieces from both sides. Figure out what you believe and develop a base of knowledge to use to have intellectual conversations with people. One person may not be able to change the world, but through the calm exchange of ideas, you may be able to change one person’s world.
This free exchange of ideas doesn’t happen in communist countries. I am incredibly thankful for it in the United States.
Sophie Czerniecki is a junior at The Catholic University of America majoring in Politics with an interdisciplinary minor in Counterterrorism. A native of South Jersey, she is president of the Network of enlightened Women chapter at CUA. Sophie is secretary of the Student Government Association and a general member of the Pre-Law Society and College Republicans.