Recently, I was temporarily placed on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s watch list for extremism simply because I vocally support traditional marriage. I remember thinking: When did advocating for lifelong love between one man and one woman become a hate crime? Fortunately, the group saw the folly of its ways and apologized, removing me from the list.
It was a small battle, a blip in the daily life of someone who has entered the political arena. And I enjoyed the support of many who rallied in the conservative media to my cause to help reverse such a silly distinction. But it wasn’t that long ago when liberal extremism tried to suffocate traditional values, and there were few media voices to come to the rescue.
There was one, though, so powerful and elegant, persistent yet graceful. Her name is Phyllis Schlafly. And for the last 90 years she has been a tireless advocate for the nuclear family, for traditional marriage and for common-sense conservatism that resists injecting government into every aspect of our lives. On Wednesday night, she will be honored at the Paul Weyrich Awards dinner that precedes the start of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
Mrs. Schlafly fought battles most lacked the courage to fight, and time and again she won. She has been credited for single-handedly stopping the Equal Rights Amendment, which in the 1970s was racing on a media freight train toward ratification. Phyllis stopped it dead in its tracks. It was not because she didn’t believe women deserved rights, but rather because she rightfully recognized the ERA was skewed toward favoring young professional woman and that it would punish middle-aged and older women who chose to stay at home and raise their families by taking away “dependent wife” benefits under Social Security and alimony.
In those days, it took courage and lots of hard work to roll back what a liberal media had started in motion. But Phyllis succeeded because she was intellectually honest, impassioned and skilled in not only communicating the fight but also in waging it. Likewise, she has relentlessly fought for life, recognizing early on the Roe v. Wade decision would be one of the courts’ worst decisions.
Through good and bad economic times, and the ebb and flow of conservative activism, Phyllis has remained a steady voice for common sense and traditional values. Her speeches, books, TV appearances and radio commentaries blazed the way for modern conservatism while also protecting the rights of traditional families from the onslaught of Hollywood’s culture wars.
Her voice is as relevant and strong today as it was more than a half-century ago when she made the famous case for Barry Goldwater’s conservatism in her great book “A Choice, Not An Echo.” In her 2014 book “Who Killed the American Family?” she eloquently touched my heart with her keen insights on how President Obama’s agenda and decades of prior liberal tax code changes and court interference had substituted government intervention over parenting, and federal dependency over self-reliance.
Like she has for most of 90 years on this planet, Phyllis cut right to the chase in diagnosing the problem with America today. In plain, simple and compelling language she rightfully declared that “the government is making ordinary decisions about what the kid does that ought to be made by the mothers and fathers.” So simple a declaration, yet so true.
For those who believe this battle is already lost or isn’t worth fighting anymore because the cards are stacked against conservatives, I implore you to step back and examine the extraordinary life of Phyllis Schlafly. She has proven that what seemed impossible can be achieved. She has lived a life of virtue, and has never been tempted to compromise. And she has made the most compelling case that the family unit must be preserved in order for America’s greatness to extend into future generations. For that extraordinary contribution, I salute her on this special day.
• Ben S. Carson is author of the book “One Vote: Make Your Voice Heard” (Tyndale).
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