Retired Lt. Col. Allen West has had his values tested time and again, by everything from battlefield threats to congressional chits, and through it all he has stayed true to what he believes is right. His experiences serve as a valuable lesson for anyone heading out into the world armed with a new degree and a lifetime ahead of them.
“My mother used to say that a man must stand for something, or he will fall for anything,” West said while serving as the culminating speaker for Northwood University’s Values Emphasis Week. This annual event is a highlight of the academic year in Midland and an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to reflect on moral and ethical values relating to their personal lives, involvement in the community, and work in the world of business. It would be difficult to find a better example of Northwood values in action than West.
“He is very Northwood-like,” Northwood President Dr. Keith Pretty observed while introducing West to the crowd gathered to hear him speak inside Riepma Arena. West, 55, was quick to credit his personal character, at least in part, to his upbringing in innercity Atlanta, just a few yards from a church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached. West was just 7 years old when King was assassinated, but the dedication to freedom took hold.
“I learned values because I was born in the shadow of one of the greatest men this country has ever produced,” West said of King.
West went to the University of Tennessee intending to be an engineer, but like so many others, he couldn’t quite bring the Goliath known as statistics to its knees. He graduated with a degree in political science and an ROTC commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
His natural ability with math helped him excel as an artillery officer, and he moved up the ranks quickly. He commanded an artillery battery in Operation Desert Storm, the brief, successful campaign to drive invading Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. Later, he was named the Army’s top ROTC instructor for 1993 while stationed at Kansas State University. During these years, he married Angela Graham, who has a Ph.D. in education, and they had two daughters.
After commanding a battalion in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, West retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 2004 and began his adult civilian life. He has been a high school teacher, a private military advisor in Afghanistan, a Fox News contributor, author of a memoir (Guardian of the Republic, 2014), and served in the U.S. Congress for two years as the Republican representative of Florida’s 22nd District. West is currently president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a public policy research organization dedicated to developing and promoting private, free-market alternatives to government regulation and control.
“We don’t want you to take a degree from Northwood University and just hang it on the wall, we want you to take that degree and go out and build something,” West told the students gathered in Riepma Arena. “At some point in time, we’re turning this country over to you. And we are going to hold you accountable for it.”
West warned of the threat posed by an overreaching government, alleging that its goal is to subjugate people rather than to serve them. Education, he said, is an important defense against that threat. “An educated person is a citizen. An uneducated person is a subject,” West said. “Northwood University is doing it right. When you walk out of Northwood, you will be a citizen. You will not be a subject.”
Values Emphasis Week
This year’s presenters during Northwood’s annual Values Emphasis Week:
Kim Yost, CEO of Art Van Furniture, and Donna Yost, CEO of The Life Chest
Peter Shin, Director of Community Relations for Shinola
Jack Krasula, President of Trustinus, LLC
Allen West, President and CEO, National Center for Policy Analysis