Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, in the same neighborhood where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once preached, West is the third of four generations of military servicemen in his family. During his 22-year career in the U.S. Army, Lieutenant Colonel West served in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and later in Afghanistan.
Speaking from the heart, West recounted his journey to Fort Lauderdale 11 years ago when he “left Fort Hood, Texas, with his wife, two daughters, and two Pomeranian yap yap dogs” and settled in South Florida. “I asked the Lord, ‘What would you have me to do here?’ ”
Having made a decision in Iraq to protect the men serving with him, West said that door had closed.
During this transition, West spent a year teaching history at Deerfield Beach High School before he volunteered to go back to Afghanistan. He remarked, “If I was going to be in a combat zone, I needed to be armed.”
While in Afghanistan, wearing his flack vest with snipers outside the wire, West said God communicated to him, “I am preparing you to go back for a bigger mission.”
In November 2007, he ran for Congress and “without anyone knowing who [he] was,” West won 43.4 percent of the vote. “Many said to me, ‘don’t quit,’ ” so he ran again and was successful.
Referencing the peaceful Wade-Ins opposing segregation on Fort Lauderdale beaches in the summer of 1961, West said, “Fifty-four years later the person that represented Fort Lauderdale Beach was an African American, the first black representative in this area since the reformation.”
But West said, “It’s about a test of your faith, opening yourself up to a higher call than your will. I did not win re-election. There were some issues with voting in St. Lucie County. But you don’t stop believing in the call on your heart.”
When asked what he would say if the next U.S. president asks him to be vice president, West replied, “I’d have to ask God if that’s His will for me, and I’d have to ask God’s representative on earth, my wife.”
West said he feels, “we’re starting to lose sight of who we are as a nation.” He said, “We need to restore a sense of family in the United States.” Growing up in the South, West said his family “made sure you went to Sunday school.” And after growing up in the church, West said he made a personal commitment to Christ when he was a freshman at the University of Tennessee in January of 1980.
“Now when weakness comes, I know where to turn for strength,” he said.
Although West is taking on a new position as chief executive officer at the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas, Texas, a conservative, free market policy center, he said, “This (South Florida) will always be a part of who I am.”
On minimum wage
When taking questions from the audience about his views on raising the minimum wage, West said he felt that was something best handled at the state level.
“We need to establish fiscal monetary policies that enable our businesses to grow — a government system empowering individuals, economic growth and opportunity. You still see closed store fronts; we need to get those opened back up. Main Street is not doing well, and this will only be restored through individuals’ initiative and investment.”
On America in the world
Asked about our relationship with Cuba, West said “We can’t negotiate from a position of weakness.” He expressed concerns about supporting communist regimes.
And commenting on ISIS, West said, “We need to admit the enemy is our enemy. In past weeks four Christian children under the age of 16 were beheaded. I’m not saying this is a new crusade, but we have to recognize evil and stand against it. This enemy wants to see us destroyed and the only thing people in that part of the world understand is strength and might. . . .God called Joshua to be strong and courageous. We are not called to be weaklings,” West said.
Asked to share a time when he was afraid, West talked about the first time he jumped out of an airplane. “I was in charge of airborne students, and I was the man in the door. When you are travelling at 135 miles per hour and the door opens and you’re looking down 1,000 feet, the ground is moving quickly. I’m afraid of heights . . . but God took me out of my comfort zone and put me in leadership. I could not freeze in that door.”
He left them with a reminder of Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (NLT).
West said, “God brought me here 11 years ago, and He will be with me wherever I go – 13 different countries, three combat zones – He’s never let me down and He won’t let you down.”
To learn more about Allen West, visit www.allenwestfoundation.org. The primary objective of the Allen West foundation is inspiring the next generation of conservative minority and veteran leaders.