DES MOINES, January 20, 2016 — What started out as a day of political celebration turned tragic and reminded Americans everywhere what truly matters in life. As always, that valuable lesson came at too high a cost.
January 20th was supposed to be about a bombshell political announcement. Former Governor Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump for President. Trump and Palin held a rally in Ames, Iowa that had many people standing outside waiting to get in.
Not to be outdone, Senator Ted Cruz was promoting his upcoming rally with Glenn Beck. Florida Senator Marco Rubio was doing events in Iowa, enjoying the backing of South Carolina Senator Trey Gowdy. Good conservatives were having deep disagreements over ideology and philosophy.
Trump had his crowd cheering. Palin, as always, is a rock star. She noted that exactly one year from today, on January 20, 2017, President Barack Obama would be out of our lives. There were so many great lines from Trump and Palin. Normally those lines would be played on an endless loop.
Then everything changed.
On Tuesday morning, a car crash on an icy Iowa road injured four young staffers working for Dr. Ben Carson. At the time of Trump’s rally, all that was known was that one of the four men was in critical condition. In a very classy gesture, Trump asked the audience to pray for the young man. The crowd agreed. These are Iowa people. The term “Iowa nice” is very real. Palin also referenced the car crash and called for prayers.
Later that night, the worst-case scenario played out. Braden Joplin, only 25 years old, was dead.
Carson’s team suspended all campaign activities for the day. Several presidential candidates took to social media to offer condolences. Trump, Palin, Cruz, Rubio, and several others dedicated heartfelt remarks for Joplin’s family. A visibly shaken Carson fought back tears as he spoke about the friend he had lost.
These candidates have children older and younger than Joplin was. They know that every parent’s nightmare is to outlive their children. The moment it was confirmed that Joplin had died, every other political story seemed to be less important.
On a normal day, Sarah Palin endorsing Donald Trump would be a very big deal. In the coming days, it will be.
For now, many people in Iowa who attended Trump’s rally will be thinking something they do not want to think. Those attending the upcoming Cruz rally will also have to contemplate the one thing none of us wish to contemplate.
We traveled these icy Iowa roads. We were driving to a political event. Snow was coming down. We went out in dangerous weather because we believed it was our civic duty. By the grace of God, we made it home safe and sound. We were lucky. Braden Joplin was not.
Yes, it is arbitrary. It is not right, or fair, or just. No, it should not happen. We expect that driving from place to place should be as routine as listening to a political speaker talk about their campaign.
It very well could have been any one of us.
Knowing that makes it difficult to focus on what one person thinks about tax cuts, illegal immigration, or foreign policy.
So what happens next?
We live our lives, but hopefully in a better way than before. We hug our loved ones. We try to practice the greatest ethos in the history of mankind, love thy neighbor. After all these centuries, it still works.
We remember that the most powerful person in the world needs the help of hundreds of young, dedicated volunteers who toil in the shadows.
Whoever wins the White House can thank Braden Joplin. He was a citizen. He volunteered his time because he cared about improving his country. He will not be around to see the results of his labor, but he did not die in vain. Many people in Iowa brave dangerous weather to meet and listen to politicians because they care about improving America.
After praying for Mr. Joplin’s family, honor him by behaving as he did on the last day of his life. Care enough about your country to brave the bad weather. Do not sit home and complain about what is wrong with America. Go out and try and fix things. Meet candidates personally and listen to what they want to do. Scrutinize them closely.
While you do this, be careful on the icy roads. The loss of one life this way is one too many. Let us not lose another one.