Basic Manual Speech 1:
Good evening. My name is Luke Setzer, and my question to you tonight is, "Why should you care who I am?"
As you will learn, the biography I am about to present to you, brief though it may be, can provide all of you with valuable lessons in the importance of forming a valid personal ideology for your own well-being. Those who know me will tell you that you will have a difficult time separating Luke Setzer the person from Luke Setzer the ideologist.
My parents owned a farm, so I learned early in life and first-hand about unpleasant work. I decided at a young age that I was going to find an easier way to make a living. Fortunately, my folks sympathized and made sure I got a strong education starting from kindergarten onward. No slacking was allowed! I progressed through the grades and eventually earned the term "gifted", allowing me access to those "special" classes with which many of you may already be familiar.
My hard work paid off, and I was able to attend a six-week "Governor's School" program during the summer between tenth and eleventh grade. This was my first real exposure to people outside my rural "box" of thinking. This program placed a heavy emphasis on liberal arts while also allowing students to focus on their special areas of interest. (Mine was "Natural Science".) What I found particularly mind-blowing and disturbing during this period, though, was the philosophy course. My Christian upbringing did not prepare me for radical ideas ranging from Zen Buddhism to hedonistic subjectivism. By the end of the course I felt sandbagged and blindsided.
I graduated high school in 1984 and spent the summer working in a furniture factory. That fall, I began earning my Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering at N.C. State University. During my sophomore year, I applied to various companies for employment as a student intern. I finally landed an offer from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. I had always dreamed of working for the space program, so I was delighted. I started work January 9, 1986. Almost three weeks later, the shuttle Challenger exploded. During the lengthy stand down, I had plenty of time to ponder other issues to the point of absurdity. I had finally decided that there was no God, but did not really have any clue about how to form my own philosophy or how to go about forming opinions on any issue. As a result of this void, I fell in with a religious cult called "The Baptists", and thought I had finally discovered the Absolute Truth.
When I returned to N.C. State for my final semester of schooling, a friend encouraged me to write my conservative viewpoints in a regular opinion column to balance the school newspaper's very liberal slant. After reading my first article, another classmate loaned me a book that changed my life for the better. That book was The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand. Her writing promptly influenced my own opinions. I was already having nagging doubts about my faith. Rand's essays were the final nails in the coffin of my theism.
Ayn Rand termed her philosophy "Objectivism" because of its emphasis on the primacy of objective reality over subjective experience. The ideology is straightforward enough. In her own words, "My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." Rand's worldview encompasses a view of an objective reality knowable through our senses, human reasoning as the only valid method of knowing, self-interest as the moral standard, and laissez-faire capitalism as the only moral political system.
This particular worldview has provided me with a sound framework around which to build my values system these last 10 years.
After graduating from college in December 1988, I accepted a full-time position with NASA. About a year later, I met my beautiful wife, Leslie. We were married sixteen months later, and will soon celebrate our eighth anniversary.
Today, I run a local group dedicated to the discussion of Ayn Rand's ideas. The forum, Space Coast Objectivism Promoters and Explorers (SCOPE), meets twice monthly here at Choo Choo's. Here, we select topics to further our understanding of non-mystical, earthly ways of living, without the need for supernaturalism or mysticism muddying our mental waters.
That is the state of my mind and life today. What is the state of your mind and your life? Have you grown weary of external "authorities" shrouding knowledge and morality in a veil of smoke and mirrors? Have you long sought a methodology for adducing answers to lifelong questions without having to resort to priests, psychics, palm readers, and government bureaucrats? If you found yourself impressed with the ideas I have presented, feel free to approach me after the meeting tonight to learn more.