At the Network of enlightened Women’s 2021 Leadership Retreat, Mary Kate Cary, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and practitioner senior fellow with the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, addressed campus chapter leaders on what it means to be a conservative in America, the future of conservatism, and how to make a compelling case for conservatism across issues.
Professor Cary highlighted important goals for political leaders when making their case for a particular policy. Political leaders need to be likable, optimistic, understandable, quotable and persuasive. Combining these elements will make a political leader’s message strong and clear.
They need to treat their audience members as equals and never assume that people are stupid. They need to appeal to everyone, not just a party. And they need to rely on a healthy balance of personal stories that appeal to emotion and proven statistics to communicate their argument.
According to Cary, every successful persuasive speech follows Monroe’s Motivated Sequence.
The speech starts with an attention-grabbing statement, describes what the problem is, finds a solution, visualizes how great the solution is and provides a call to action. Although she wasn’t aware of it at the time, Cary said that the speeches she wrote for President George W. Bush followed this exact pattern and were successful at persuading his audience. However, even when following this pattern, political leaders can face problems. Everyone might agree on the problem but not the solution, or one of the elements of Monroe’s Motivated Sequence may be too long and leave the speech unbalanced.
For conservatives on college campuses, following Monroe’s Motivated Sequence can help communicate their ideas more effectively and reach out to their more liberal friends and professors.
With these tools of persuasion in-hand, Cary broke down the developments in the conservative movement in America and where public opinion in the country is today. American conservatism focuses on respect for founding values, support for Judeo-Christian traditions, commitment to free markets and entrepreneurship and limits on the size and scope of government.
Even with the strong leftist movement stemming from college campuses, America is still a center-right nation. According to recent polling cited by Cary, 70% of Americans say they are either conservative or moderate, while 25% say they are liberal. Eighteen different polls have demonstrated that there are more conservative Democrats than liberal Republicans, and most Americans do not identify as liberals.
The future of the conservative movement is now at a critical point at which it can redefine the word “conservatism.” The conservative movement wants to bring back the founding values and promote positive agendas. Cary believes there are three priorities for the conservative movement going forward: Be positive and look forward rather than backwards; create a platform of issues; and focus on policies, not personalities.
No matter what the future holds, Cary reminded the attendees that each one of them is the future of the conservative movement and that conservatives need to make a better case for the American people. With tools of persuasion and a better idea of the history of the conservative movement, Cary is optimistic about the future of conservatism on college campuses led by the chapter women.
This blog post was written by Julia Canzano, NeW Campus Program and Events Associate.