JACKSON, Tenn. – Oct. 2, 2008 – Michael Lewis hasn’t had any problems meeting new friends during his first few weeks of college. With a story like his, strangers are immediately hooked.
The introductory conversations go something like this:
Lewis: “Hi, I’m Michael.”
New friend: “Nice to meet you, Michael. Where are you from?”
Lewis: “Wasilla, Alaska.”
New friend: “Really? Do you know Sarah Palin?”
Lewis: “Actually, yeah I do. We’re from the same church.”
Multiple questions about Palin and Alaska soon follow. And just like that, Lewis has their undivided attention.
Yes, Lewis is from the same town as the now famous Republican vice presidential candidate. He knows the Palin family through Wasilla Bible Church, and he ran cross country with Palin’s oldest son Track.
“She is definitely a strong personality,” Lewis said about Palin.
He likes her courage. He likes the way she has taken a stand for what she believes in.
“She’s genuine,” he said. “Just from what I’ve seen in Alaska, she’s done a lot of positive things.”
But how, exactly, does a guy from Wasilla, Alaska, end up going to college at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.? Lewis can thank his former youth minister, Kris Howell, for that. Howell is now on staff at Fellowship Bible Church in Jackson. In March, Howell contacted Lewis and told him he needed to think seriously about coming to Union.
Lewis visited the campus in March. He prayed for guidance. And he says God answered that prayer by bringing him to Union.
The environment is different from what he’s encountered before. A biology major, Lewis said he appreciates the Christian atmosphere on campus, such as when his professors pray at the end of class.
But there are some things that have taken some adjustment. At home in Alaska, he’s used to looking out his living room window and seeing the Talkeetna Mountains. He’s also not accustomed to it being dark and warm at the same time. In Alaska, when the sun goes down, the temperatures drop drastically. Now he can walk outside at 10 p.m. in a T-shirt and shorts.
Prior to leaving home, Wasilla had become quite the media frenzy. There were cameras all over town. There were cameras in church. Such is life during a presidential campaign.
He’s never been much of a political junkie – largely because Lewis has never been old enough to vote before. This year, however, it’s different. He’s now eligible to vote for the first time. And one of the four major players in the campaign is a family friend.
“This is cool,” Lewis thought as he heard about Palin’s selection by John McCain. “I’m going to have to follow this more closely.”