I had just started college at the University of Tampa

and it was very different than I had expected. The classes were interesting and difficult. Meeting people easy, but making friends, hard. I had never been around so many people my age with so many different views and personalities. Part of me loved the challenge of learning to communicate well and respectfully with such a wide variety of people, and part of me realized the challenge I faced as a Catholic Christian in the environment of a liberal, secular campus. There were so few people in conversation who would even approach the subjects of politics or religion, much less be willing to hear me out or discuss differing opinions. Those who were open to it were a refreshing change from the rest.

I remember auditioning for this speech. I had not given a speech in a while, and I really wanted to compete in the Late Night Speech Contest hosted by the speech department at UT. However, due to an application I was submitting for a scholarship, I did not get to write up the final draft of my speech until right before, so I brought a script in with me. "It will be memorized for the final performance!" I assured the public speaking instructor viewing my speech. "No, I know you can do it now!" She took the paper from me and threw it in the trash. Okay. I took a deep breath. "Give me a few minutes." I knew the topic was familiar to me, and based on my impromptu experience from high school, I felt that I could give a convincing audition.

I went outside the building and practiced it twice. Then, I walked back in the room and threw the script back in the trash. "I'm ready."

Fast forward a week, Friday night and the contest was beginning. It was on the top floor of the Vaughn Building, where only hours earlier I had been pacing back and forth. Memorizing. Slowly, the room became more and more crowded, and afterwards I learned that there were over 300 people in attendance. My speech was last, which I was grateful for since I knew I could keep my cool throughout versus some of the other girls who were more nervous. I was glad they could go first. Also, why not end with a bang?

The speeches were engaging and well-presented, I was getting nervous. To occupy myself, I took photos of the others speakers. When it was my turn, they mic-ed me, which made it feel all the more legitimate, and I walked out. I smiled so big... my adrenaline was high but I was so excited. Once I started speaking, beginning with an interactive analogy, I could feel the energy of the crowd and I had to calm myself down to keep my speaking voice slow and understandable.

My goal was subtle persuasion

In my experience, all of us crave respect. And yet, the agenda of the liberal progressive movement degrades many aspects of life that provide that foundation for respect. Respect and conversation require mutual self-awareness. We have to be less easy to offend and more open to disagreement. When issues become so personal, as they have in our current polarized political environment, then we avoid debating them in fear of offense.

Instead, my hope is that we as Americans can become less easily offended by remembering that the goal in conversation, in debate, is ultimately truth. Since we all have the same goal, we should not be upset or opposed when one of our ideas is shown to be false. That is one step closer to discovering the truth.

It was amazing to see how many people came up after my speech and told me how it was exactly what they didn't realize they were craving. Many women, especially, were drawn to the analogy at the beginning, wanting respect from men but not realizing that the root of the disrespect is the progressive push for an improper idea of equality. This topic resonates with everyone, no matter their political leaning, which is why I want to continue to share it. If we can put aside polarized ideas and focus on commonality, conversation can be so much more productive and enlightening.

Deep down, we all crave respect. Let's bring respect back in style.