Former U.S. Treasurer Bay Buchanan talks moving ahead in politics, not being afraid to voice opinions
Former U.S. Treasurer and conservative commentator Bay Buchanan spoke to an audience of students and faculty Wednesday night about the importance of self-confidence and strong convictions in politics.
At the Kennedy Political Union event, held in the SIS Abramson Founder’s Room, Buchanan told students she did not know what she wanted to do in college. Encouraged by her brother Pat, she took a leave of absence from graduate school to work on President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign, giving her the political bug that would shape the rest of her career.
“There is such a level of excitement in [that] office because it is about what’s on the front pages,” Buchanan said. “There was such an electric sense in that campaign, it was completely contagious.”
She later got involved in Ronald Reagan’s 1976 presidential bid as an accountant working “in the back room.” To others working on the campaign, Buchanan became well-known and admired not for her master's degree or her previous experience, but for her ability to repair the Xerox machine.
“No matter where you end up it’s so important to do everything. Don’t think that because you have a master’s in Economics that you can’t fold or stamp or do whatever you need to do that night because there’s a crisis in your office,” Buchanan said. “Do everything. You never know when somebody is going to notice you, and being a team player is always good.”
When Reagan finally got elected in 1980, Buchanan fought tooth and nail for the Treasurer position. Although she had been doing accounting and treasury work with Reagan for the past five years, she said that once a candidate starts to win, people who are less able start to appear, asking for positions.
At the time, when asked what jobs she would be interested in during the administration, she answered only with Treasurer of the United States, because she knew that if she named a second choice that would be the position she’d end up with.
“How did I stick this out? I knew that I was good at what I did. I knew that no one was going to do a better job and that I was going to do the work,” she said. “I wasn’t going to sit around and let them roll over me either. I may have been only 30 years old but I was not about to let that happen.”
Buchanan said she eventually got the role at the age of 32 because she knew her worth and was confident she would be the best person for the job. Despite this, she said that dealing with economics on a large scale and public speaking were two things that proved to be a challenge to her. She saw the new position as a way to improve herself in these areas.
“You shouldn’t be intimidated by a new position but be smart enough to know that there’s things you don’t know, and be smart enough to take time [to learn it],” Buchanan said. “I didn’t want to open my mouth but I read like crazy.”
The majority of audience questions following her speech focused on her thoughts on the current candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.
“I really love Ted Cruz because of his passion,” Buchanan said. “I know if Ted Cruz became president, I know what he’s going to do [but] not everything will I agree with. I don’t agree with his foreign policy but [with him] I know where we’re going. I’m not so certain with Rand.”
The most prominent message of Buchanan’s talk, however, was standing up for one's beliefs.
“One of the things that made Reagan different than all the other candidates with whom I’ve ever worked is a couple of things,” she said. “One, he had the courage of his convictions. Not only did he believe it, he had courage, he debated all the time. Debating was what made him so comfortable with who he was.”
She said that it the right of Americans to stand up for what they believe in, let no one intimidate them and not hesitate to be as bold as they can be. She also encouraged people to be willing to thoughtfully debate with those who disagree with them.
“If you’re pro-choice you have to be prepared to take that Planned Parenthood position, not just rip up all the banners. That’s a juvenile and shallow statement,” Buchanan said, alluding to a recent incident at AU.