The attention-grabbing vocabulary of Ann Coulter is not what conservatives want as a newsworthy talking point. Instead of shocking the public into listening with unfortunate comments, how about grabbing attention by celebrating the party's positives -- like Jennifer Gratz. Instead of the stand-up-and-outrage-them message Coulter typically exudes, Gratz counsels: "I'd give the same advice my parents gave: Stand up for your beliefs. And I'd add that you really can do anything that you set your mind to."
That's the kind of mindset that helped Gratz pass Proposal 2, lauded by her peers at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where she received its Ronald Reagan Award. Gratz was executive director of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which amends the state's constitution to prohibit "state entities from discriminating or granting preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin." With 52 percent of the vote, its passing was no small victory. But Gratz's other contributions should not go unnoticed.
Before November, Gratz already had a place in the history books. She is the Gratz of the 2003 Supreme Court decision Gratz v. Bollinger, which struck down the university of Michigan's racial-preference program. Gratz had been rejected unfairly by the school despite a stellar academic record. Turns out it was reverse discrimination -- thanks to the positive-sounding "affirmative action" policy in place there. The experience encouraged her to become a civil-rights leader.
But she does not have to give any specific advice to leaders in training: They just have to watch her. Gratz's leadership stands in dramatic contrast to the misleading and hyperbolic rhetoric of her opponents in Michigan. One of the ads, for instance, that dropped in the fall by the opposition declared:
"If you could have prevented 9-11 from ever happening...would you have?" "If you could have prevented Katrina from ever happening...what would you have done?" "On Nov. 7th there's a national disaster headed for Michigan...the elimination of affirmative action." "And on Nov. 7th there's only one way to stop this disaster ... by voting No on Proposal 2."
But these cheap attacks haven't thwarted Gratz. And they haven't discouraged her colleagues' praise. Ward Connerly, veteran of these civil-rights fights and leader with Gratz in the Michigan effort, says of Gratz, "Jennifer Gratz is an extraordinary individual. She has an innate sense of fairness, enormous courage and a profound appreciation for individual liberty -- all qualities of a true conservative and the definition of a good American. I often find myself inspired by her."
The MCRI win was no easy thing. Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness (and Michigander), in nominating Gratz for the award, wrote, "Along the way she was reviled by demonstrators and her integrity was probably questioned by a liberal judge, whose derisive words were used in the well-financed campaign against the MCRI. Jennifer and Ward prevailed in spite of the opposition of most Republican leaders, including gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos. I was completely impressed with Jennifer's natural skill, maturity, good judgment and courage under fire. No matter what was thrown at her, she never lost her poise and determination."
The conservative moment is grounded in ideas. We believe those ideas, as expressed and as acted upon, have consequences -- because they do. Every politically interested college student knows Coulter; many have heard her on campus. They should know and hear Jennifer Gratz.
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