I once had the distinct pleasure of meeting the Libertarian presidential candidate, Gary Johnson. I’d like to share that story with you:
It was early May, at the Libertarian Party of West Virginia convention. In the midst of a long and busy schedule the attendees were given the opportunity to listen to Gary Johnson and Austin Petersen, two of the candidates for Libertarian nomination, speak. After a short speech, the floor was opened for questions.
And so, after Gary gave a short speech, I felt compelled to ask him a rather difficult and critical question. In all honesty, I was playing devil’s advocate. It was a lengthy and complex question, and while I could go into detail on the question, such a digression holds no bearing on the purpose of this article.
To be quite honest, Gary didn’t answer my question. To his merit, he gave it his best and most earnest attempt, but he simply didn’t understand the question. I thanked him for his response, however, and the Q&A session continued on.
Once Gary’s Q&A session ended, he left the stage and began meeting with the attendees for pictures and the like. I waited my turn, and once it came about, Gary recognized me. He joked around with me, and I had him sign my lanyard and took a photo with him. He then thanked me for my question, and said that he hoped he answered it satisfactorily. Every fiber of my being wanted to tell him that, yes, he answered it. It may sound silly, but I was talking to a man I admire, and I didn’t want to say anything that might aggravate or disappoint him.
My integrity won out, however, and I said, as politely as I could, something along the lines of “You actually didn’t really answer it, but that’s okay, it was a complex question”, and made to exit the conversation, because there was still a line of people waiting their turn to meet with Gary. What happened next is what really struck me.
Instead of leaving it at that, instead of letting me walk away as he so easily could have done, Gary pulled me back to continue our conversation.
Bear in mind, Gary had no obligation to continue our conversation. There were no cameras rolling, few people could hear our conversation, and I doubt those that could were following it. I could have walked away and Gary and his campaign would have been no worse for the wear.
And yet, he still pulled me aside, for several minutes, to discuss the subject with me. He asked questions and we exchanged dialogue. It wasn’t a simple or short exchange. It was a complex and reasonably lengthy discussion. It may seem like such a simple gesture, but upon reflection, I believe it speaks volumes about the man’s character.
You see, when Gary pulled me back, he pulled me back because he genuinely wanted to hear me out. He wanted to give me a satisfactory answer. He wasn’t saving face, he wasn’t grasping for an opportunity to look good on camera, he simply felt convicted to do the right thing. It was that moment when I knew I wasn’t speaking to another run-of-the-mill politician. I was speaking to a genuinely kind and honest man.
What my question was, the content of our conversation, none of that matters. I won’t remember the details of the conversation in ten years. What I will remember is Gary’s honesty and integrity. I’ll always remember that the millionaire presidential candidate genuinely wanted to hear out some random 21-year-old. That unlike most other politicians, Gary wants to learn. He wants to understand concepts he doesn’t yet understand. He wants to hear conflicting views. He wants to come to the best conclusion. It’s not about partisan politics to Gary. It’s about what he believes is best for the American people. And I, like many other Libertarians (and libertarians), don’t always agree with him, but at least I can know with certainty that, even when he’s wrong, he’s got the right intentions.
Can you imagine Trump or Clinton doing that? Can you imagine them, without cameras rolling and under no obligation, taking several minutes of their time to have an intimate, one-on-one conversation with some nobody? To congenially respond to a critical question without getting defensive or angry? To yearn to understand complex concepts and see through the eyes of others? Maybe you have a different perception of Trump and Clinton than I do, but I sure can’t picture them doing what Gary did. There’s a clear contrast in the quality of the character of these individuals.
I’m not sharing my experience so I can tell you to vote for Gary. I can’t tell you who to vote for. Only you can make that decision. I’m not interested in giving you a monologue on policies or the economy or the contention that Jews should be forced to bake Nazi cakes. I don’t know where you should draw the line when you have ideological differences with a candidate. My only interest in sharing this story is to give you, the reader, a better understanding of who Gary is as a man, not just as a presidential candidate. I can’t make you decisions for you. I can only give you information so that you can make the most well-informed decision possible.
I can tell you this, however; come November, I will be voting for Gary Johnson. Though we may have some ideological differences, I am not voting for the lesser of three evils. I can proudly say that I am voting for a good man. I genuinely hope that you, the reader, can say the same.
* Christopher Andrew Ryman: When not working to keep the free market free, he can be found hiking, longboarding, and, more often than not, arguing on social media.