Twitter Personality of the Week #14: 10 Questions for Sarah Smith (@mamaswati)

                 I met Sarah Smith at a tweet-up I organized in Washington, DC, on the evening August 28, the day on which Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally was held. We sat and chatted for quite some time about areas we held in common, as well as subjects where our views diverged somewhat. As our amiable back-and-forth concluded, I told Sarah that our dialogue was a prime case in point, proving my assertion that conservatives of all stripes must never stop speaking to each other, in spite of our differences. We often, in the end, discover we are not as philosophically disparate as we may previously have assumed. Sarah concurred!

                I was chatting on Twitter a few days later with Brittany Cohan about the new Twitter friends I had finally met for the first time and Sarah’s name came up. I shared an impression of Sarah with Brittany that Sarah will read here for the first time: “Sarah Smith exudes such an infinite reserve of goodwill; it simply envelops everyone she befriends, from the moment of initial encounter.” And Sarah is warm and accepting, the kind of person who, on paper, seems too authentic to be true, but happily, proves to be just as genuine as you dared to hope she would be.

                As you absorb the minutiae of Sarah’s bio which she shares below, you will discern that she has not arrived within our ranks by well-beaten paths! Her life constitutes a patchwork of influences and traditions that is, for instance, radically distinct from my own upbringing in sawdust-trail, teetotalling, evangelical Christianity (which I still embrace today, incidentally). Yet, Sarah and I are not merely acquaintances; we have become good friends. As our mutual friend, Dina Fraioli, often reiterates, the limited-government, conservative movement is, indeed, a BIG TENT.

                I have watched Sarah’s rapid rise on Twitter over the last few months and rejoiced as her follower numbers continue to swell. I have no doubt that this trend will continue; you might as well jump on and ride the wave with @mamaswati!

10 Questions for Sarah Smith

1. We have talked about your route to the conservative movement, which has been a little more circuitous than some! How have you reached a point where you self-identify as a conservative and how do you define the term today?  

Up until somewhere around the time of George W. Bush’s re-election, I was never even remotely politically intrigued.  I recall rolling my eyes and scoffing when turning off the radio in my parents’ kitchen that seemed to forever be playing Rush Limbaugh.  In college, I would mostly ignore the talks about the Big Oil war and stupid President Bush.  I didn’t even know who Halliburton was.  Yes, I said “who!”                      

Sarah, posing for a photo shoot with the catering company.

I’m not sure how it all happened.   I began discovering personal outlooks that I had never given thought to.  It wasn’t until I considered what leadership and strength meant to me that I could recognize it in those who seek it.  It wasn’t until I learned the content of the US Constitution that I knew I wanted to defend it.  It wasn’t until I started paying attention that I saw the bias of what I had been taught, demonstrated even through my refusal to take part in attending to the topic. 

For me, Conservatism comes from faith in the individual.  Knowing that people inherently want to achieve success.  But more importantly they want to be able to define their own terms for success.  Our individual journeys are up to each of us to seek out, realize, create and build on.

“But this is politics!!  You must be a nutterbat.” 

…Maybe so.  Welcome to the dome. 

2. Your background is a fascinatingly scintillating mix of influences: musical, cultural, religious…quite a milieu. Tell us about it!  

I love that you start my background question with music.  I have never known a life that lacked a soundtrack.  Music is the thread that connects my entire existence, from birth to this very moment. 

The upbringing is not easily defined, but very simple.  I was raised in an enriching and stimulating household in a rural area.  My mother’s family is Jewish and my father’s is Christian.  As one of 4 children in a non-sectarian home, I always valued faith and exploring the potential of the human spirit.  My best friend from childhood was raised Quaker; my time with her at Meetings had the most direct and immediate influence on my religious meme.

Above all of my outward influences, a devotion to the theatre shaped who I am today.  At the age of 7, I was in my first musical at a summer drama camp. [Not a “this one time at band camp…” kind of camp.]  In my teens, summer productions were joined by winter productions as well as the opportunity to student-direct the summer camps I had attended in my youth.  I was fortunate to attend middle and high schools that had thriving art departments.  I was cast in the theatrical productions held every season and directed plays for the school’s Dinner Theatre.  I participated in the annual music review that was in its 29th year when I graduated and still takes place every spring. 

Theatre kids are a rare-breed and I consider myself lucky to have been immersed in their culture.  I may or may not have dabbled in witchcraft.

I attended Towson University and earned degrees in Theatre Arts and Communications.  By that time, I had lost interest in studying, stage acting or technical design.  I developed interdisciplinary course work, incorporating interactive learning in early childhood development.  I designed field studies in Inner City Baltimore schools with 5th graders intending to enrich their interest in the written word beyond memorizing facts to regurgitate for a test.  The project turned out to be teaching them to read children’s books, such as Click. Clack. Moo.  The experience served as a most valuable lesson in the quality of our public school systems.  Post-grad studies in Education were not out of the question, but my attentions went elsewhere. 

 3. Tell us about your previous life in the catering industry. 

I spent several years as the Personnel Director for a gourmet catering operation.  Have you ever attended a wedding with offensive amounts of silverware on the table and food you had never heard of?  We threw those kinds of shindigs.  During my tenure, we celebrated 30 years in business, a milestone not often reached in the service industry.  The Event Planners and Chefs were some of the most talented and passionate people I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  We catered to the elite, socialites and celebrities.  I will admit to putting off running payroll on more than one occasion to sample the delectable treats and fine wines that passed through my office every day.  A pastry chef 8 feet from my desk is a perk that I often miss.  (Put your hands up if you love cake!  Word.)  

A food station shot taken by phone before a party...BUT not a tough view to spend an evening with. One of my staff almost fell over the edge of the building that night. #goodtimes

My job was to take the mind-numbingly detailed expectations of our clientele, following months of design by the event planner and to present the final product effortlessly, with style and grace.  I handled a staff of close to 200 people.  I take pride in being responsible for teaching countless college students not only the importance of exceeding expectations, but also how to properly open and pour a bottle of wine.  Skills I can only hope have served them well. 

4. You’re fairly new to Twitter, though you have definitely taken to it! What brought you here?   

 I opened a Twitter account because social media sources were a valuable resource for me at the catering company.  @SSmith was taken, so my twitter handle is a combination of my nickname since freshman year of college–mama–and saraswati–the Hindu goddess of music and art.  Totes my fav deity. 

The Twitter personality you know and love today was exposed to the world, thanks to the keen eye of Ms. Brittany Cohan (@bccohan).  She is the first person who followed me & whom I followed, whom I did not know in real life.  She was the source of my very first #FF (Follow Friday, for the uninitiated) and has been a dear friend.  Between her and the guidance of my appointed Twitter guru – the inimitable  Kevin Eder (@keder), I’ve learned everything I know about tweeting.  So you can thank or blame them, whichever reaction my 140’s may inspire from you.

I find the relationships I am developing through Twitter to be unexpected blessings.  If last year, you had told me I would have a bunch of real-life friends whom I met on the Internet, it would have made me lol a lot.  #becausestrangerdanger

Through Twitter, I have discovered multiple media outlets and been exposed to a whole new world of information sharing and caring.  I’ve learned about countless political figures and had some of the best yucks of my life thus far.   I am an advocate of the process.  The past 6 months have been ripe with transition and uncertainty, but you guys have been solid.  Sending much respect and a ton of love to each of you.

5. We enjoy learning each week about the favorites, so this time it’s your turn: books, movies, musical artists, TV shows, vacation spots, hobbies, foods…and any other random items you’d like to add to the list?

“Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 2” is my favorite video game.  I will beat the high score on any Ms. Pac Man machine you can find.  I’m a steak and potatoes kind of girl.  Movie theatre buttered microwave popcorn dipped in hot fudge is my favorite thing to eat.  I will never willingly give up deserts, unless my health is in immediate jeopardy. 

Books!!  Reading is fundamental.  Some suggestions: Bill Graham Presents: My Life Inside Rock and Out; Stephen King’s Eyes of The Dragon; Ken Wilber’s Boomeritis

I wouldn’t dare to choose a favorite film, for fear the other movies might hear…

Music speaks truth and spirit to me in a way that no other medium can.  I recommend listening to music.  It matters not what you listen to.  Just do it.  I love jam band hippie dippy music, because concerts and the festival scene is where I feel the most at home.  I love classical music for its passion and formula.  I love jazz for its organized madness.  Rock and roll because it evokes exceptional force.  Country music for the genuine way it speaks to the human condition.  I love hip-hop for the pulse and lyricism.  I love vocalists of any and all genres because since childhood, one of my ideal careers was to work as a back up singer.  Fun fact: I hate the camera, but I love the stage. 

Misty mountain tops: Morning time at All Good Music Festival.

Have you ever sat on a beach and thought about the force of the ocean meeting land?  I think that feels pretty special.  Traveling is basically the best.  Ideally, employer funded travel with a mission and purpose.  I like moving around; I’m restless and interested. 

6. It has been enjoyable watching the #UndercoverCrunchy movement cover several progressive events lately. Tell us about it and what its purpose is. 

I have been called many things, but “Hippie” would be the most common.  Since it is not 1967 and I am not against the Vietnam conflict nor an activist for woman’s rights, I never personally found it to be a fitting characterization.

A Crunchy accepts the natural order of humans being that we are all equally amazing and messed up in our own special ways and understands that having the freedom to place values on our strengths is the foundation of a free market.  A crunchy wants self-sufficiency and independence.  They celebrate individuality because it is the one and only thing that every single person has.

I struggle with the Left-leaning majority of crunchy, hippies and the like… those of my generation tend to believe the key to releasing one’s full potential is to have the government pick up the bills, i.e., the standard costs that hold them down to their mundane jobs.  While they may have well-intended lifestyles, the solution is sullied by misinformation.  And they are right, sh*t is too expensive.  It’s not the universal want and desire that is different; it is the path to achieve it that is either left or right.

But I digress… I looove me a good Rally. It’s like going to a concert, but my ears don’t ring the next day.  I like walking through crowds.  I like watching people.  I like hollering things and acting a fool.  I am fortunate to live close enough to the belly of the beast to be able to attend a good number of the rallies held over the past 18 months. 

No way would I have missed the Rally of Mockery and/or Apathy.  That had “great time” written all over it.  Besides, realizing the influence of media bias was what sparked my conservative awakening.  I would be doing myself a disservice if I did not observe the happenings of both sides with my own eyes.

The “One Nation” rally was a specific thrill.  One of our very own provided the feature videos for the Glenn Beck show.  (h/t @hostagehoosier)

Stay tuned for future adventures of #undercovercrunchy. 

7. One aspect of getting acquainted with you that I have thoroughly enjoyed is the fact that we have discussed a number of substantive subjects, even though we’ve only met on a couple of occasions! One of those topics is faith. At this point in your life, what is your view on the influence that faith should have in the public square and in what philosophical sources are those views rooted?  

No matter what religion you identify with or not, faith can expose common ground between people.  If you believe that a higher power has a plan for you, or that the road past that hill up ahead continues beyond what you can see…you have faith.  I know people who have faith in science and those who have faith in the extraterrestrial.  They all have faith. 

In the public square, faith can be embraced and nurtured, but by design, can’t be indoctrinated.  It is not faith that drives a person to hate and discriminate against others.  That is inspired by a belief that your way is the only way.  I have faith in what I believe, but it comes from inside of me and is specific to my experience.  Putting it on someone else interferes with his or her journey, and negates the core value of liberty.

8. I know your father was active in the music business at one time and your career may also be taking a turn in that direction in the near future. Tell us about that.

Have I mentioned how much I love music?  My father is responsible for that.  He is a self-taught musician and has made multiple careers over the years sprouted from his love of music.  My sister and I were singing duets at the piano with him at a very young age.  A message to all you fathers out there: learn songs on the guitar and sing your daughter to sleep whenever possible.  At the time of my upbringing his career was in concert promotions.  He took me to my 1st umpteenth concert, but it wasn’t until I hit my teens and peers began going to their first concerts, that I truly really realized how fortunate I had been. 

Throughout college, my best friends were all musicians and music lovers.  Sitting around dorm rooms recording was a regular activity, as was attending live shows.  Towson had multiple music venues within walking distance of campus and my participation in concerts and music festivals continued strong and hard throughout my twenties. 

I may be relocating in the near future to work with a heartfelt, soulful, gypsy folk band, Star & Micey

Dollar cones in Memphis with my sister and Joshua Cosby of Star and Micey.

The group is signed to an established recording studio in Tennessee, to financially and legally support tours.  I would be working on the production and promotion process for live music events designed to spread the ever-growing fan base, an opportunity that had an early home on the bucket list.  Chances are I will make my way there sometime soon.

9.Who are 3 people, either personal acquaintances or names that everyone would know, who have been inspirations in your life? Also, who are 3 others whom you find hard to tolerate? 

My father has been a mild influence on me… </sarc>.  My two elder brothers have both played active roles in the development of my worldview and have tolerated me through my most blissful ignorance.  But none of you know any of them.  So what good does that do you?

Decisiveness is not one of my strong points, so I’m closing my eyes and picking the first 3 images that come to mind…Ready?

Carol Burnett, Natalie Merchant, Dave Matthews.

Shout out to 630 WMAL’s Chris Plante–my latest and greatest hero of Talk Radio.

I am inspired by productive communications amidst disagreement.  Inspired by people who refuse defeat as an option.  I am inspired by a strong sense of self and personal responsibility.   

I find it hard to tolerate people who spout a tolerance that really only applies to views they agree with.  And people who don’t use their turn signals.  The handle thing is right at your fingertips.  I’m not a mind reader…I’ll let you in my lane…just give me some warning.

10.  We’re going to revive the “bucket list” terminology with this interview, Sarah. If you had to compile 3 aspirations for one, what would they be? 

A)     Live on a ranch.  With horses and dogs and outdoor cats. 

B)     Fly in the cockpit of a plane. Learning how to fly would be ideal… but I’d consider being a passenger in a private plane of equal importance.

C)     Be in a movie.  An extra would be fine; no screen credit required.

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