The 22Q: Bonnie Kristian, Communications Director of Young Americans for Liberty
April 17, 2013 | By Abigail Alger
Enjoy the 22Q with Bonnie Kristian, Communications Director of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), the largest, most active, and fastest-growing pro-liberty organization on America's college campuses.
The 22Q is an informal interview series with young conservatives, connected to LI, who are working in the public policy process. The 22 questions ask them to explain what they do, and how they see politics and the next generation of the conservative movement. Their opinions are their own, and are not endorsed by the Leadership Institute.
Part 1: What I do
How I describe my job in 10 words
Writing, editing, and adding GIFs to all of YAL's communications
My day-to-day at work...in three sentences
I write a lot of emails, reports, and activism guides for YAL members and donors. I manage a social media intern, a graphic designer, and a team of 250+ student bloggers. And I serve as human Google for coworkers' miscellaneous grammar questions.
I couldn’t do my job without
The internet. Obviously. When the internet goes down, I can do little to no work. Almost everything I do is online.
Most important moment in my career (so far)
This is hard. But I've got to go with getting an internship on Ron Paul's 2008 campaign. That was my first introduction to working in politics, and it opened doors which led to my positions first at the Leadership Institute and now at YAL.
As a bonus, it's where I met my husband.
Unexpected skill that has helped me the most
Microsoft Paint! I'm mostly kidding, but it is helpful for quick (read: awful) mock-ups of what I'm trying to order from our graphic designer. He tells me my Paint works are fantastic, but I think this might be a lie.
The best advice I have received
People have half the attention span online that they have when consuming physical, printed information, so when writing online communications -- from emails to blog posts and everything in between -- always keep it short.
Brevity is not just the soul of wit; it's also a major determining factor of whether your online audience is ignoring you.
Part 2: Politics
The biggest change I've seen already in politics
Simple: the rise of the liberty movement. In 2007 Ron Paul was laughed at for his consistent support for small government at home and abroad. Now the Republican Party is increasingly willing to come our way.
The CPAC 2013 straw poll results -- especially the questions about drones, foreign policy, and attendees' top priority in politics (not to mention the presidential picks) -- are very revealing of the change we are seeing in the GOP.
The element of working in politics that most surprised me
It really is who you know. This is a cliche, I know, and probably something I should have expected, but the extent to which personal connections play a role in getting jobs, cooperating with other organizations, and succeeding in most aspects of working in politics can't be overestimated.
The most important issue many don't see yet
War is just one more big government program. If we're going to be serious about limiting government, there can't be any more sacred cows.
Defense is the primary purpose of government, of course, but having troops in more than three-fourths of countries around the world while maintaining multiple no-win wars is aggression, not defense -- and conservatives would (rightly) oppose any similarly out-of-control program here at home.
Where I think the movement will be in five years
The conservative movement is heading slowly but surely in the direction of liberty -- and I think that's fantastic. It's clear that the enthusiasm among young conservatives is overwhelmingly on the libertarian end of the spectrum, and in five years I think the movement as a whole will be much more in line with where the youth are already going.
How I formed my political beliefs
I got interested in free-market economics in high school after reading Henry Hazlitt's classic Economics in One Lesson. From there, it was a matter of figuring out where I stood on a larger range of issues, having already established a commitment to individual liberty and small government. I majored in political science, so I had plenty of opportunities to do that in college.
Part 3: The next generation
What I'd say to my 18-year-old self
Don’t stop reading. All the studying to finish college early will be worth it.
Don't be so quiet. People want to hear what you have to say.
Don’t get that perm. It will not turn out well.
Skill or experience I'd recommend students get now
Above all, learn to write well. It's an employer's market these days, and no one wants to hire a kid who can't write a coherent sentence. When I review intern applications, I place far more weight on writing ability than, for instance, the applicant's college major -- and everyone I know in a hiring position does the same.
As a very close second: pick up some HTML, CSS, and more advanced coding skills if you have time. In any office setting, if you're the one who can troubleshoot the blog until tech looks at it, that's a good thing.
Three things I'd tell every young political junkie to read
Liberty Defined by Ron Paul. Even if you don't agree with everything he says, this quick overview of his ideas on 50 major issues of our day is perfect for those who want to systematically think through their own political convictions.
Books and articles by people you disagree with -- especially if you're worried that doing so will make you change your mind. Insulating yourself from conflicting ideas puts you in danger of being more interested in feeling right than seeking truth.
Nothing too serious on the weekends. Okay, so it doesn't have to be the weekend, but take a day off from politics from time to time. Read a novel. Watch TV. The country won't go to hell in a handbasket because you missed one news article.
My most useful class in college
Logic. No question about it. It's not like I'm making syllogisms on a daily basis, but in politics it never hurts to fine-tune your logic deficiency detection tools.
Three future leaders from my generation
Rep. Justin Amash. One of the youngest members of Congress, Rep. Amash is smart, principled, transparent, and he personally runs a hilarious Twitter account.
Jeff Frazee. Is it sucking up to list my boss? Probably. But Jeff is the founder of Young Americans for Liberty as well as our Executive Director, and YAL is the largest, most active, and fastest-growing liberty organization on America's college campuses. All this, and Jeff only just turned 30!
Sen. Rand Paul. OK, so he's old enough to be my dad, but Rand Paul's pro-liberty ideas represent my generation -- and compared to members of the GOP establishment like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, he's young too.
Part 4: Me, personally
The most fascinating figure in world history
It's a three-way tie among C.S. Lewis, Gladys Alyward, and Beyonce.
My heroes in fiction
Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, Peter Wimsey, Doctor Who (technically TV, yes, but not reality TV, so I'm going with it), Hercule Poirot, Father Brown -- are you noticing a trend? I read a lot of late 19th and 20th century British mystery novels.
The most inspiring art I've read, seen, or heard
There's a band called Gungor, whose music is at once modern and liturgical. Their last three albums -- and particularly 2010's Beautiful Things -- are simply incredible in terms of musical skill, lyrical beauty, and ability to communicate theological truth. I say this as someone who is really terrible at appreciating music.
I’d star in House of Cards or West Wing (choose one)
I've never seen West Wing, so I guess House of Cards? But I think my role would be really short because I'd be too naive and get fired or something.
I can't get through my day without
Hanging out with my guinea pig. Contrary to popular belief, guinea pigs can be pets for grown-ups!
My connection to the Leadership Institute
Morton Blackwell, LI's president, hired me straight out of college and gave me my first "real" job, as he has done for so many young people who want to get their foot in the door of politics. I was able to move to the DC area and helped LI launch Campus Reform as its first dedicated staff member.
My current organization, Young Americans for Liberty, rents office space from LI, so I haven't strayed too far.