How to Live Free

Mia Love

by James A. Bacon

When Mia Love spoke at the University of Virginia last night, she could have told insider stories about her two terms as the only Black female Republican elected to Congress. She could have dished juicy details about what it was like as the sole GOP member of the Congressional Black Caucus, or the frustrating conversations with President Trump about recruiting Haitian immigrants into the Republican Party, or the $450,000 she had to raise and hand over to GOP party leaders to secure preferred committee assignments. She could have talked public policy about issues she cares about such as abortion or the nation’s profligate fiscal and monetary policies.

But she didn’t. Since losing a razor-thin re-election bid in 2018, she has been residing happily with her husband and three children in Salt Lake City. Although she appears as a talking head on CNN, she is writing a book and her thoughts have turned to a more inspirational direction.

Drawing heavily from personal experience, Love used the speech to explore how to live a life of freedom, integrity and purpose.

Love was raised in New York City as the daughter of Haitian immigrants. Her father, she told the audience without elaboration, fled the dictatorship in Haiti. (Her Wikipedia biography notes that he had been threatened by the Tonton Macoute, the Haitian secret police.) Her parents came to the United States — legally, she said pointedly — on a work visa and never left. It was the old “my father arrived with $10 in his pocket” story. Neither parent spoke English. Although Love was born in the U.S., her two older siblings remained in Haiti until the family could be reunited five or so years later. Her parents worked hard and climbed into the middle class, her father as a paint-company manager and her mother as a nurse.

Love said she learned from her father how special freedom is. “The flame of freedom in my life was sparked by my family. … My parents’ dream was to educate their children free from dictatorship.”

She told the story of the day her brother and sister arrived at JFK airport to rejoin the family. She had been the only child for five years and didn’t quite know what to make of her older siblings — “I was wondering who these people were.” Overjoyed to see their children after so many years, her parents showered them with love and attention. Feeling left out, little Mia fell behind as the family walked through the airport parking lot. Her father took notice of her disconsolate appearance and put down her nine-year-old brother whom he was carrying in his arms, ran back, and picked her up. “I haven’t forgotten you,” he said.

As she reflects upon that moment, she says, it was transformative. “My family has always been my light.”

Love alluded in her address to political issues of the day, not with partisan intent, but to illustrate disconcerting flaws in the public discourse. She takes issue with what she calls “false choices” — either you’re pro-environment or you’re pro-oil company, either you’re pro-choice or pro-life, as if there were no positions to stake out in between. In a similar vein, she made the case for civil dialogue: “It’s OK to disagree.”

As individuals, we can’t control what other people do, she said, but we can control ourselves. We can maintain the highest standards of personal integrity. We can think for ourselves. We can question authority. We can have respectful conversations with people with whom we disagree.

Love touched upon the Critical Race Theory controversy raging in schools, but said it was “just one idea out there.” She told a story of when her daughter was in the 4th grade. The teacher was talking about slavery and civil rights for Blacks, and then pointed to her daughter (who is bi-racial) and asked the students, aren’t you glad that things are different now? The kids had never paid any attention to her daughter’s race before then. After the teacher’s well-meaning comment, they zeroed in on her daughter’s differences.

She also recounted how her son came home from school one day and said, “Mom, I don’t think there’s a god.” They’d been studying Greek mythology, and the teacher had explained how the Greek gods were made up by men. Love and her husband are strongly religious, but her response was measured. She explained her perspective but added, “Don’t take my word for it. Think for yourself.”

The struggle for freedom in the face of power was a recurrent theme in her speech. But her outlook was optimistic. Her advice:

Find a sense of purpose. “Choose a big goal and move to it relentlessly.”

Achieve mastery over self. “Self-discipline equals freedom.” If you are driven by impulse, you will go nowhere. Don’t drift.

Learn from adversity. Failure is not final. The only thing that makes it final is if you choose not to learn from it.

Be the author of your own life. Speak up for yourself. Think for yourself.  Act, don’t stand by — but always think before you act. “You don’t want to wind up on YouTube.”

In conclusion, she said, “You get to choose how ordinary or extraordinary you’re going to be.”

Full disclosure: Love’s speech was co-sponsored by The Jefferson Council. I serve on the board of directors.

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23 responses to “How to Live Free”

  1. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Nice writing, James. I suggest one edit, seriously. Maybe the term “talking head” has obtained respectability nowadays, but I seem to recall the term was a pejorative, e.g., “bubble headed bleach blond who comes on a five…”

    1. If she was once a member of the band Talking Heads it would be okay, though…

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        I dunno. Still doesn’t sound like a compliment…
        “According to Weymouth, the name Talking Heads came from an issue of TV Guide, which “explained the term used by TV studios to describe a head-and-shoulder shot of a person talking as ‘all content, no action’.” See wiki.

        1. Yeah, but they kind of reshaped it into something positive when they used it as their band’s name..

          By the way, I have no idea whether or not you like their music, but if you’re even a casual fan and you have not watched the video at the link I posted, please give it a whirl – it’s an excellent “live” version of Life During Wartime.

          I enjoyed it, anyway. I’d almost forgotten how positively energetic they were in concert. At least I know what I’ll be listening to on my drive home tonight…

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            This was a parking lot! Big fan. Have a couple of CDs. Hey, I’m old.
            There are some good 80s groups. Cars. When I futz around on the boat, the Cars just loop and loop.

          2. Eric the half a troll Avatar
            Eric the half a troll

            Pretty sure that footage is from the Stop Making Sense movie. It is indeed excellent.

          3. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Good God! Hell of a performance! No wonder they’re in shape, running a mile in place while playing guitar. I don’t recall that particular song, but the urban insurgent theme? Let’s hope not.

            Here, after that we need something uplifting…

  2. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “Achieve mastery over self. “Self-discipline equals freedom.” If you are driven by impulse, you will go nowhere. Don’t drift.”

    I appreciate this is her opinion and advice but I know many individuals who are not traditional Type A, are driven by impulse, do tend to drift, yet are going “places” (maybe not the same places Mia wishes to go but places that are right for them) and living a very free life. I suppose this may be a form of “self-discipline” but it is unlikely what she is talking about.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    Ms. Love is a principled Conservative who is willing to appear on CNN and advocate for genuine Conservatism. As far as I can tell the GOP does not ‘love” her these days.

    She could have talked about a LOT of political things but chose to talk about personal values. Good for her.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Which kinda makes you wonder why BR would have an article about it. I mean, no rant?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        yes, weird…. maybe an Epiphany of sorts?

  4. VaNavVet Avatar

    A very empowering and encouraging talk by Mia. Unfortunately, as a person of high integrity and one who believes in compromise and civil discourse, she has no place in today’s Republican party.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      “Although she appears as a talking head on CNN,…”
      She could have been a commentator on Fox.

    2. walter smith Avatar
      walter smith

      Are your eyes brown? I think they have to be.
      Please list all the “moderate” Leftist loons….
      Since I desire to live, I won’t hold my breath…
      It is precisely your elitist pretense that ruins discourse, but since Leftists are merely credentialed (I graduated from HAAAAVAAAHD or whatever) and not accomplished, you fear stories like hers and have to pretend you’re better. But you’re not, and the bloom is off the rose.

      1. VaNavVet Avatar

        So much for civil discourse and point made.

      2. walter smith Avatar
        walter smith

        So let me see if I get this right.
        Jim Bacon writes a story of triumph – an American story about Haitians living the American dream.
        You deprecate the story and insult the Republican types who uphold this story as the promise of America, and I am the one not being civil by calling you out?
        Sorry. That ship has sailed. Particularly with unearned condescension. Alinsky rule of ridicule right back at you until YOU (and a few others who know who they are) try engaging on a substantive and civil level.
        I’m done being civil with you Leftists while you insult first. See how you like it.

        1. VaNavVet Avatar

          Of course the decision to forgo civil discourse is yours to make. I did instead appreciate the story by calling it “empowering and encouraging”. I am by no means a Leftist whatever you mean by that term. It might surprise you to know that I did actually vote for some Republicans in this November’s election.

          1. walter smith Avatar
            walter smith

            But…you deprecated an inspirational article, and then insulted all Republicans.
            Again, I have learned the abuse of language and the way Leftists avoid argument. One way is use words and totally change the meanings. Black Lives Matter. DEI. Equity – destroying equal opportunity for “equal” results – racism, straight up, contravention of MLK’s dream, hidden behind a similar sounding word. Another way is ridicule, dismissing as conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxer, racist, and another way is attacking, and finally demanding proof, while offering none themselves. So when I see those patterns, I assume typical Leftist. I’ve experienced it too many times. And I’m not taking it any more. I particularly dislike the faux, unearned condescension… All the essential workers who allowed the laptop class to stay home, while they worked, and many caught Covid, and now don’t want the shot, shot, shot…and are now being demonized. It’s totalitarian, illegal, unConstitutional, violative of the Nuremberg Code and historic medical ethics. But, other than that…

    3. …she has no place in today’s Republican party.

      Isn’t that for her to decide?

      1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
        Eric the half a troll

        I think his point is “no, it is not”…

        1. So he’s a totalitarian?

          Funny. I’ve not gotten that vibe from his other comments…

    4. John Harvie Avatar
      John Harvie

      So none of us present/former members of the GOP is a person of high integrety? If so, sad that you have such a low opinion of so many of your fellow countrymen / countrywomen. Pretty wide brush.

      1. VaNavVet Avatar

        Mia was/is a politician and the reference was in regard to elected officials with high integrity. Think Liz Cheney and the other Republican members of the House who voted for the bi-partisan infrastructure bill. Or you can go back to those GOP members that exhibited their integrity by voting to impeach Trump. What it brought them was death threats from the so called “base”.

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