My charge, when I started writing this column many years ago, was to keep it about the local area. Today I must deviate from that because I want to say thanks. As a youngster here on the mean streets of Brunswick I had four major influences to my way of thinking. Four people who taught me how, what I was thinking, could shape the future me.

My grandmother and my mother grounded me. They taught me that family was important. My father impressed upon me that there were things worth fighting for and as Jefferson wrote, “…that all men are created equal.” They all taught me about hard work and that you should never be afraid of putting in the effort, whether in school or on the work site.

That fourth person who impacted me was Rush Limbaugh.

I was barely in high school when I first heard this brash guy on the radio. I was mesmerized by his delivery and the way that he presented an idea. He could be serious. He could be funny. He got on people’s nerves. He got people to listen.

While he was not everyone’s cup of tea, he demonstrated through his ideas and his commentaries that it was okay to have an opinion. He demonstrated that it was okay to have a belief and to not allow someone to change that belief. He made it okay to believe that we live in the greatest nation in the world. For a young man this was not what I was normally hearing in the media or in school.

Throughout the next decade or so I would listen to his show whenever I had the chance. Limbaugh promoted for me an education that one was not getting in the traditional school setting. He encouraged reading the founding documents. He encouraged taking a stand no matter how unpopular with those around you. He encouraged doing the research and putting in the work to win your argument, whatever it may be.

Without a doubt, I am better able today to form an opinion and produce evidence as to why that opinion is valid because of what I took away from his shows.

By the time I went to college I was firmly entrenched on the right side of the political spectrum. Among my group of friends and acquaintances, we had pitched conversations about the matters of the day. Being that this was during the Clinton Presidency there was no shortage of topics. Those lessons learned about having an opinion and backing it up came in handy. In my classes, I was able to hold my own defending my ideas in part because of what I had gleaned from listening to those hundreds of hours of broadcasts.

In the spring of 1994, I went to New York City on Spring Break to go to a taping of his television show. While waiting for the show to start Rush came out and started to warm up the crowd. For 10 minutes he picked out audience members and just chatted away. He got to know us as well as he could in those brief few moments.

When the show was over he took the time to thank everyone for coming to the show. He stopped where I was seated and pointed out that I must have been a college student. He then took a few moments to ask me about my college and where the college was located. Then he told me to never back down when I knew I was right and to never let someone else demand that I conform to their ideas or act the way they do.

Those words have stayed with me over those many years, not because they were prophetic, not because it was some amazing piece of information. Those words have stayed with me because it implored me to be confident in myself. Those words reminded me to not let someone step all over me and my ideas.

Rush Limbaugh helped me to understand that no opinion should matter to you more than your own. He helped me to understand that our country is special and should be treated as such. He demonstrated that hard work and a positive nature, while being funny, could make one successful.

It is a sad day for many Americans that someone so cherished has now left us. For me, I think about those lessons and that brief moment in New York City and those words so many years ago. Thank you Rush for being you, you will be missed.

Jonathan Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]

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