The just-concluded Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C. was punctuated by standing ovations. Among them: a few for the President, who spoke decisively but without pugnacity; for Bannon and Gorka, the red-meat guys; for Alveda King, bringing the crowd to its feet to join her in song.

And then there was the one for Steve Scalise.

Months after a gunman’s savage and politically-motivated attack left him near death, Congressman Scalise made his way to the Values Voter podium last Friday to the sound of appreciative cheers. He moved with the aid of crutches, the only visible sign of his injuries. Once at the podium, he spoke in the strong and steady voice of a man eager to get to work.

As House Majority Whip, he has the unenviable task of herding the GOP cats when it’s time for votes on the House floor. HIs position is probably what earned him an invitation to speak at Values Voter. He understands first things first, though. Before he spoke about policy, he spoke about gratitude.

After he was shot, while he was in the hospital, he and his family received countless prayers and good wishes, including messages from people who are not in political harmony with him. That touched him deeply. He understood that the messages were not merely routine.

“You knew that this was an attack on the values of our country….I cannot thank you enough for those prayers and that love.” This from a man who spent three and a half months in a hospital.

He was candid in his speech about the tough times past and to come, as he and his family face long-term challenges arising from his injuries. His candor made his enthusiastic demeanor all the more meaningful. “We have a great and mighty God,” he declared, “and I am a living example of the miracles he can produce.”

Then, and only then, he addressed specific policy initiatives. He said, “I came back with an even sharper focus” on family, friends and America.

He Considers the Pain-Capable Act a victory. That’s the measure to restrict abortions after 20 weeks, the point in pregnancy when science indicates that unborn children can feel pain. Passage of the measure was a near thing. “As Majority Whip, I had to put that coalition together. But we did.” Now, the bill is in the Senate, its prospects uncertain in view of the particular batch of Republicans now serving. “Tell your Senators to pass it,” Scales urged. The President “wants to sign this bill into law.”

The bill includes cutting federal funding to the nations’s largest abortion provider. That gives me pause, as voter who questioned (and still questions) the depth of the President’s roots on the life issues. Scalise has no doubts. “He wants to sign this.”

He’s determined to support the President’s tax reform proposals. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone give a snappier summary and smile while doing it: reduce personal rates; reduce business rates to encourage families to bring jobs back to this country; repeal the death tax, double the child tax credit (now there’s a pro-life initiative).

He did not dwell on the unhappy fate thus far of efforts to repeal Obamacare, beyond saying “let’s not give up fights. President Trump wants these on his desk.”

All this was said in a tone that most other speakers at Values Voters didn’t approach. He was passionate and determined without breathing fire. He didn’t sound as though we were all under siege; in fact he radiated hope, both political and personal.

HIs final words to the crowd, coming after all he has experienced these past months, rang with truth that brought the audience to its feet yet again: “It’s great to be alive.”

Ellen is a New Hampshire writer and pro-life activist. Read more by and about her at

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by baldilocksgrillz

A relative of mine—not my parents or siblings—once opined that I had accomplished nothing in my life. When I pointed out that I had learned two foreign languages, retired from the military, and published a novel, he discounted those things!

Once I got over being angry and hurt about that conversation, I realized that my relative’s opinion had one meaning that is two-pronged: that 1) nothing is a real accomplishment unless it has produced vast quantities of material things and/or awards in order to 2) be seen and show-off in front of on-lookers. (My relative didn’t deny it when I, still angry, said that he didn’t think that the things I had done were real accomplishments because none of those  were things that he could brag about; none of his ignorant friends cared about such things.)

Having recently lost almost everything I owned spurred a conversation I’ve been having with God and a continuation of a philosophical “conversation” I’ve being having with myself since that other conversation. What’s the true purpose of using your talents—meant in the biblical sense? Is it so you can buy stuff to enjoy? Or to look good in front of others? Both? I know countless people who push to get their degrees and well-paying jobs for those reasons, especially the latter.

“Floor-showing” was what my great-aunt (RIP) called the fruit of this type of thinking.

It seems to me that floor-showing as an ultimate life goal is the full-flowering of ingratitude and entitlement. It is also a sign of a deep-seated inferiority complex.

And that’s what this whole thing with Jada Pinkett-Smith is about. It isn’t enough that her husband, Will Smith, is an accomplished actor and that the two have raised their children in great opulence. They must have validation! And not validation from the lowly consumer, but from the Big Guys! And, through that kind of validation he can say “I’m an Academy Award winner! Look at me!” And she can say, “I’m married to an Academy Award winning actor! Look at me!” The alleged scorning of black actors by the Academy is a mere vehicle to get others on their side.  Will Smith’s former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air co-star Janet Hubert sees right through this tactic.

Outcome-based education and employment–otherwise known as Affirmative Action–are two sophisticated types of floor-showing; they are the reasons that hard work has almost become irrelevant. Only the title accrued means anything, no matter how dumb-down the curricula or qualifications are made. This mindset has become so pervasive that even material gains and box office receipts are no longer good enough for people like the Smiths. They have to be crowned by the establishment they serve and, if not, they will take their ball and go home. And, in the name of tribal solidarity, they want other black actors to do the same, regardless of whether the latter have mortgages to pay or not, as Ms. Hubert mentioned. I’m guessing that the Smiths will not be putting up any boycotting actors in one of their mansions.

That said, what should any final life goal truly be? To give glory to God, which I think, is why He gives us personal talents/gifts in the first place. Achieving milestones in order to “be seen of men” seems to lead to chronic hunger. And anger. And unhappiness.

Investing our individual talents is what we are asked of God to do. And when we do it, we receive manifold interest: happiness, peace, and, maybe, vast material possessions; at the very least, enough to sustain us. But those first two are priceless and, as I recently discovered, hard to dislodge.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel, tentatively titled, Arlen’s Harem, will be done in 2016. Follow her on Twitter.

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