Acknowledging that the Republican Party's compass is askew, former congressman Bob Beauprez makes the case for the GOP to return to its founding values and principles. Analyzing the successes, failures, and lost opportunities of the Republican-controlled Congress and White House, Beauprez identifies several crumbling foundations that led to the election defeats in 2006—including his own. He explains his own guiding principles by drawing upon his real-world experience to examine why he became both a conservative and a Republican, reaching the conclusion that trust from voters must be earned through substantive action, not bought by empty political rhetoric.
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About the Author
Bob Beauprez is a former US congressman who ran for governor of Colorado in 2006. He currently maintains A Line of Sight, an online resource focusing on commonsense solutions to the United States' policy issues, and serves as president of the Rocky Mountain Community Foundation, which focuses on promoting free-market principles, entrepreneurship, and traditional values.
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A Return to Values
A Conservative Looks at His Party
By Bob Beauprez
Fulcrum PublishingCopyright © 2009 Bob Beauprez
All rights reserved.
A GOOD EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW
As I remember it, I wasn't quite seven years old, so it would have been the summer of 1955. My older brothers, Mike and Mel, were off in the fields on their own that day as was often the case. After all, at twelve and fifteen, they were plenty old enough to put in a very full day's work — and they always did.
Dad was going to fill the '46 Ford truck with grain, which usually was a one-man job. But since the grain bin in the barn was nearly empty, he would need to be inside shoveling the grain from the corners of the square room to the mouth of the auger that lifted it up and into the truck. To get the truck as full as possible, someone else would need to be up in the truck shoveling the kernels to the corners of the truck bed. Since no one else was around, Dad gave me one of the very first grown-up jobs that I remember.
I was to shovel the grain fast enough to make sure the truck didn't overflow as the auger continually spewed grain in a concentric mound, fill the corners of the truck with all it could hold, and shout to Dad over the noisy auger motor when the truck was full. It was a remarkably simple job that Dad must have figured even his scrawny third son could handle.
I didn't do so well.
Dad was a powerful man who only worked at one speed — full speed. He shoveled the grain as fast as that auger could take it. The mound of grain in the truck quickly got out of control, and just as quickly, I had the first backache of my life. Panic at the thought of the grain running over the sides of the truck set in. I knew I had to do something, so I started screaming, "Dad!" to get his attention, and crying right along with the screaming.
After becoming a parent myself, I learned that it was perfectly normal for a six-year-old to behave like I did that day. But in the family in which I grew up, tears weren't seen, aches and pains went with daily work, and, since they were normal and everybody had them, they weren't discussed. Most of all, failure was not an option — certainly not failure to work hard enough and long enough to get any job done.
After what seemed like forever, as I stood at the edge of that truck bed, shovel in hand and the grain piling higher to nearly overflowing, Dad finally stuck his head out of the door of the grain bin. "What's the matter?" he asked.
"My back hurts," I sobbed.
He looked up disappointedly at me, not saying another word. I would spend the next fifty years doing my best to never again see that look of disappointment from him.
He pulled himself up into the truck and with a couple swipes of the shovel leveled off the grain pile that had intimidated me. Then he turned his eyes back on me. He, of course, was covered with the dust of the grain and soaked in sweat, as he was most hours of every day of his life.
"Now, are you going to be able to keep up?" he asked.
"I don't think so," I said, having regained a little composure, but still crying.
He gave an irritated glance over the two sides of the truck and said, "Well, I don't see anybody else here to do it, so I guess you'll just have to."
That day is seared in my mind. A lot of lessons about myself, my dad, and life took root that day. Though I thought he most certainly was the meanest man on earth for a good bit of my life, I came to realize he just had very high expectations — mostly of himself — and by extension, if he was a good father, he'd pass along his high standards to his children. He understood both the beauty and the blessing of work, and having faced financial ruin before, he pushed himself daily to produce enough so that no one would ever take what he owned away from him.
I'm embarrassed to admit it, but for many of the early years of my life, I failed to appreciate my parents and the character and virtue they possessed, as well as the wonderful experience of growing up on the farm. I envied other kids whose parents wore ties to work instead of bib overalls. I didn't know how to explain that my dad literally made his living by the sweat of his brow and couldn't wash the smell of the cows off no matter how much he tried. I didn't live in a neighborhood with friends to hang out with right across the street. We didn't have a vacation home, and I didn't go to Mexico or San Diego for spring break. I was busy helping with the spring planting and hauling the manure out of the corrals after the long winter. Throughout my high school years, I gave my parents no reason to doubt my aversion to that farm or their lifestyle.
I went to the University of Colorado in 1966 fully intending to get a degree in something that would get me as far away from that farm as fast as I could. Fortunately, for whatever reason and by whatever means, I came to my senses before graduation. In December 1969, I announced my intentions to ask my longtime sweetheart, Claudia, to marry me and to ask my parents for a job on the dairy. It wasn't quite the return of the prodigal son, but close enough. Dad not only gave me a job, he built a house for Claudia and me next door to his, and shortly after, he put in place a plan to make Mike and me partners in the farm (Mike had already returned home and was clearly going to make it his life's work). Dad turned over enormous responsibility for the dairy herd to me and gave me latitude and opportunity that I never fully appreciated until years later. It was at this time that the land and the responsibility truly began to have an effect on me, and I began to notice how the changing world, and politics, were affecting our way of life.
* * *
My parents both grew up in very traditional large Catholic farm families. Mom's family was 100 percent German with ancestors on both sides who had immigrated to Iowa and then to Colorado several generations earlier. She spent her early years on a farm next door to the Convent of St. Walburga, founded by German contemplative Benedictine nuns who had fled Germany as Hitler rose to power. Sisters of that order have been friends of the family throughout her life.
Dad's father, Arthur, emigrated from Belgium on the steamer SS Campania, leaving Liverpool for Ellis Island on March 9, 1907. Like the vast majority of immigrants in the early twentieth century, he was poor (he had to borrow the money for his ticket) and had limited education. He was listed as a laborer on the ship's manifest. His young wife, Irma, and son stayed behind for a couple of years until he determined that they could indeed make it in the new country and that he'd saved enough money to bring his family to the rural area between Lafayette and Louisville, Colorado, where he had eventually settled. Seven more children were born in the United States. Joe, my dad, was the fifth of six boys.
It was sometime in 1939 that Art Beauprez sent my dad-to-be to look at a spring-fed watering system that Mike Stengel had developed on his farm just east of Boulder on Valmont Road. There was groundwater on the Beauprez place, and Art was hoping to make a similar improvement. I suspect that Dad was plenty willing to go, as Mike had three daughters.
As the story goes, Dad arrived on a day that Mike was butchering hogs, and his oldest daughter, Marie, was helping. He first saw her as she was lugging a five-gallon bucket of boiling hot water in each hand up the hill from the spring to scald the hogs. Witnessing that kind of ability to work, Dad knew he'd met the woman of his dreams, and shortly after his visit, he found a phone and called back asking for a date.
My parents were married June 5, 1940. Like a lot of farm and ranch people, they struggled mightily just to survive. I was the third son, coming along in 1948, and by my count they were living at the fourth place in their first eight years of married life. Water came by buckets from a nearby spring to the house where I was born, as there was no indoor plumbing. Wind whistled through the house so badly that Mom still says you could throw a cat through the walls. She recalls not being able to buy postage stamps to send her mom a postcard, and needing to cross groceries off her list for lack of cash. Dry years complicated life even more, and they faced financial disaster on more than one occasion. In 1952 a compassionate banker saved them from threatened foreclosure and loaned them enough to buy the first dairy cows that were the beginnings of the herd that proved to be ultimately so important and valuable to me.
Desperate to do everything in their power to never again face financial ruin, they worked that much harder. They never took a day off together, never slept in or took a sick day, never failed to show up. In 1965, when I was a senior in high school, with both of my brothers still home to help out, they finally took an overnight trip to the state fair in Pueblo. Working as hard as they did, you can imagine that one thing my parents didn't like was paying taxes. It felt too much like government taking away what they'd worked very hard to earn.
I was thirteen when Grandfather Art — or Pa, as Dad always called him — died in 1961. We were living as sharecrop tenants on the home place, as we all called the farm north of Louisville, which he had bought in 1917 with a loan, sealed with a handshake, from a neighbor. He spent most of his life, and nearly wore out his body and those of his six boys, paying it off so he could leave it as a debt-free estate to them. That farm represented the American Dream he sought when he landed at Ellis Island fifty-four years earlier: the chance to raise a family and own something of his own to leave behind so they might have it a little better than he did. After he died, the federal government wanted estate taxes to be paid on the place. So the farm got mortgaged all over again and the next generation went to work to get it debt-free for a second time. That's still a vivid memory and bitter lesson for me.
Dad certainly didn't have much use for regulation or bureaucrats who felt it necessary to tell him how to run his business, either. He understood that milk quality needed to be regulated since it was a perishable food source. But when they started talking about the smell, noise, water runoff, pesticides and herbicides, flies, and prairie dogs, it bothered him. Then there were the people riding horses and having picnics in the middle of his fields, which they assumed were public open space since there weren't houses built there. It was getting to be a little too much.
His entire life was dependent upon his careful stewardship of the land, the animals, and the water. In his opinion, he personified the definition of a real conservationist. He had long been sufficiently motivated to adopt best practices and new technologies. For him it was all about survival from one year to the next. The people with a lot of opinions and titles never seemed to show up to help with the morning milking, to get the cows fed and bedded during a blizzard, or to irrigate so we'd even have a crop to harvest. By the time we sold the cows in 1990, it was a true test of will to continue operating as he knew best in Boulder County.
* * *
I don't remember Dad or Mom ever wishing out loud that life could be different for them. They never complained about their circumstances, never wished they could be like other people with weekends off and summer vacations. They were products of the Great Depression, and their first thirty years of marriage weren't much easier than their childhoods. Dad's schooling ended at eighth grade and Mom's at ninth, but they never used lack of education as an excuse for anything. When they were needed, they both stayed home to work on their respective family farms. And work they did. Throughout their lives, if they had an idea, if they wanted to get something done, they found a way to do it. Typically, it was through sheer will and determination.
Later in life, when they finally could, Mom and Dad tried to travel, but quickly found out that they didn't enjoy being away from home with strange surroundings, food, and people. Never having time to develop hobbies or outside interests, all they needed to be happy was each other.
I lived with them right up to the day I was married. For the next twenty-four years, Claudia and I lived just a hundred feet south of them and worked with them every day on the dairy farm. And, until I went to Congress, I was never more than a quarter mile away from them, and I saw them very frequently, if not daily. So I kept a pretty close eye on them. They certainly had their struggles, and there were times when they got a little testy with each other. "Your dad's bully again," Mom would say, and the silence between them would be palpable, but would quickly pass. Never did I wonder where Dad was spending the night or if he still loved my mother and the four of us kids.
Right up to his death, Dad always called Mom his sweetie. In his later years, unable to remember anymore what he had for lunch — or if he had even eaten lunch — he still knew who he loved and who loved him unconditionally. They would sit in their chairs in their small apartment at the assisted-living center, and he'd look over at her and say, "Isn't that one beautiful woman!" and she'd blush and tell him to stop. I expect he still had that vision of the beauty he saw packing buckets of water up the hill back in 1939. Claudia often says that the greatest gift a man can give his children is to love their mother. My dad passed with flying colors.
With such an example, is it any wonder that I value and defend the institution of marriage and believe that the family is — as it always has been — the cornerstone of our society? Some think it has changed with time. They say traditional marriage is old-fashioned or impossible in today's world. Well, I don't. A healthy marriage is the greatest gift anyone can hope for.
Before Dad died in 2004 after struggling with Parkinson's disease and dementia, he and Mom spent a good portion of each day sitting side by side in their reclining chairs. Dad's memory had deteriorated to the point that he sometimes couldn't remember who I was, although I visited him every week. They could no longer play dominoes — about the only game I ever knew them to play. But he could still say his prayers, and he and Mom would pray multiple rosaries each day. Whatever age took away from Dad, he always had his love for Mom and his faith. That never changed throughout his entire life, and it was a powerful example to witness as a son. My mom gave him a rosary when they were engaged in 1940. He used it all his life, and it and the pouch he kept it in are among my most cherished possessions today.CHAPTER 2
GUIDED BY FAITH
Education was important in our family, but a Catholic education was treasured. My mother's father walked with his brothers about three miles to Saint Louis Catholic School in Louisville, Colorado, when it first opened in 1905. Dad received all of his formal education at the same school, and my parents sent us there as well. Though lacking in any science curriculum and some of the bells and whistles of the public schools, the discipline and religious education were coveted and served us well. There was an expectation that all children could learn, and we did. Years later, Claudia and I sent our four children to the same school, and today I have a grandniece at Saint Louis, making her the fifth generation of our family to attend.
Growing up, attending Mass on Sunday was an absolute in our family. On the farm, there were a lot of Sunday mornings when the work or weather made it difficult to make it to church, but we always did. No matter how much hay had to be baled or how deep the snow was, we knew where we'd be at 8:00 am — in the third pew on the left side. Sunday Mass was completely nonnegotiable. Mom made sure our bedrooms had a crucifix high on the wall and a statue of the Virgin Mary on our dresser. Prayers were said at meals and before bed.
My parents taught me that faith was more than just showing up to Mass on Sunday. The teachings of the church went with it and were also nonnegotiable. Faith might have seemed like a rigid set of demands rather than something we did out of a sense of desire, but we knew we were accountable to God. And He was a forgiving, loving God who had blessed and cared for our family, but He was also a God who had rules — a code of absolute right and wrong. We realized one of the core beliefs is that we are all given a free will, which meant we could choose to be Catholic and believe and obey all that the church taught, or we could pick and choose or even bail out completely. With examples like I had, and seeing how well their faith had sustained them, is it any wonder that I bought in hook, line, and sinker?
Excerpted from A Return to Values by Bob Beauprez. Copyright © 2009 Bob Beauprez. Excerpted by permission of Fulcrum Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
3. Part I,
4. Part II,
6. About the Author,