U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley spoke to a group of conservative high schoolers this week with some advice they may not have been expecting. Haley began her speech for the High School Leadership Summit at George Washington University by asking her young audience if they had posted any messages online reading, "own the libs," a popular phrase among today's conservatives. Most raised their hands and applauded.
But, that wasn't quite the message Haley was trying to send. Taking a different tone, the ambassador suggested the students show more grace to their political opponents. Being so confrontational will not convince any of their peers to join the movement.
"I know that it's fun and that it can feel good, but step back and think about what you're accomplishing when you do this - are you persuading anyone?" Haley asked. "Who are you persuading? We've all been guilty of it at some point or another, but this kind of speech isn't leadership - it's the exact opposite."
"Real leadership is about persuasion, it's about movement, it's bringing people around to your point of view," she added. "Not by shouting them down, but by showing them how it is in their best interest to see things the way you do."
If these students had been following Haley's political rise, they may not have been so surprised by her remarks. When she was governor of South Carolina, she found herself in the middle of a battle over Confederate symbols. Tragically, several black members of a local church had just been gunned down by a young man who identified as a white supremacist. In response, citizens demanded the state house's Confederate flag come down. Some resisted the effort, but Haley took a different path.
“This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state,” she said at the time, before signing a law banning the flag from state grounds.
Politico predicted that this "decisive action" and act of compassion would propel her into national politics.