By: Staff Writer Jake Riggs
John Taylor met me at the entrance to Chapel of the Cross wearing a sport coat, khakis, and cowboy boots to remind the world of his southern upbringing. In his distinctive southern drawl, he offered me chocolate truffles from the front desk before leading me to a room with warm colors and comfortable chairs to begin the interview.
Thanks to his varied life experiences, Taylor feels that he now has a unique perspective on the world. He grew up in Albemarle, NC, a town less than sixteen square miles and home to sixteen thousand people. In the middle of Stanly County, Taylor’ parents raised him in a home surrounded by farmland and a community where everybody knew everybody else. Throughout his childhood, he also had the good fortune of having a house in Chapel Hill. Taylor credits moving back and forth between the very liberal town of Chapel Hill and the conservative Stanly County as being beneficial and helping to foster his desire to connect people and dialogue with opposing viewpoints. Growing up in the 90’s, Taylor watched his community in Stanly County deteriorate. He bore witness as the textile mills shut down, the aluminum plant in Alcoa lay off workers, and many more jobs getting shipped overseas. He watched as the farms started getting too little rain in the summer and too much in the fall. Many of his neighbors became unemployed and were desperate for work. It became obvious that the only path out of the community lay in education, which remained a luxury that many could not afford. Taylor said this experience showed him how little some people have, even in a land of opportunity. This experience became a memory that motivates Taylor to this day. He knows how people can suffer and he feels compelled every day to do what he can to alleviate it. Growing up in a tight-knit town where his friends, neighbors, and members of his community often had so little gave John Taylor a deep desire to help others.
Over the course of his life, Taylor’s deep empathy for others also grew from the example set by his father. His father had grown up in Nigeria, as the child of missionaries, in the 1950’s. Like many others his age, he answered the call to go to Vietnam, serving mainly on swift boats and PT boats throughout the war. Irrespective of anyone’s opinion on Vietnam, Taylor feels pride at the thought of his father’s sacrifice while serving in the war. Even with the taking place of war, Taylor’s father managed to find time for college, doing very well in school and even going so far as to earn a PhD in Classical Greek. After college, he worked as an archeologist for a few years. However, he felt that the life he had chosen did not adequately help others and did not give him an opportunity to “extend his hand in aid to his fellow man.” He eventually decided to attend law school here at Carolina, where he met Taylor’s mother. Throughout his career as a lawyer, Taylor’s father always looked for opportunities to do the most good, often doing pro bono work when his clients could not afford a lawyer. Taylor reminisced about a time when his father represented a local church without payment because someone threatened to take the church’s land and Taylor’s father felt a conviction to help keep the church alive. During his life, he would always offer his help to people in need and that conviction is something John Taylor hopes to emulate.
Not only does Taylor look up to his father as a moral guide, but also as one of the toughest people he has known. Like many other Vietnam veterans, Taylor’s father had taken too many breaths tainted with the chemicals of Agent Orange. Forty years later, Taylor’s father contracted cancer. Seeing his father’s condition worsen has left a lasting impression in Taylor’s mind. He watched his father battle bravely for fifteen long months before passing away at the beginning of Taylor’s freshman year of college. Now, over two years later, Taylor hope to use the lessons his father taught him to serve as UNC’s Student Body President. Before passing, his father taught him about relying on the Lord and about devotion to his community. Taylor often wishes his father had never passed because he wants to hear the advice his father would give him today. He seeks to honor his father’s legacy of selfless devotion to his community in order to unite the students of Carolina through the office of Student Body President.
The campaign for SBP has had its challenges, but Taylor views it as a positive experience, stating that he has a great team behind him and that spreading out across campus has allowed him to have friends all over the university. He has seen so many people, some who he has not seen since freshman year, come out to help and support him during the campaigning process. Taylor stated that he has always done his best to help people throughout his college career, even if he can only do small things. Now, he feels elated when he sees so many people coming together to help him on his campaign. Taylor feels that all the friends he has made along the way have really turned his campaign into a positive experience and have given him the courage to keep pushing forward.
With both of his parents being involved in politics, campaigning comes rather naturally to Taylor; his mother even ran for judge while pregnant with him. So, technically, Taylor started campaigning before being born! With this motivation and experience, John Taylor stands in the pit every day and meets as many people as he can. Even on the coldest days, he greets people who pass by and strikes up a conversation with anyone who has time to speak. He spends a good portion of each day connecting with students and learning about the experiences of others. Taylor feels that his ability to connect with others represents one of his greatest strengths and believes that that skill will help him bring the students of UNC together. Taylor has seen the divisiveness on our campus, but he knows that we also represent the best and brightest our state has to offer. He feels a deep love for this land and truly considers himself a “son of the soil.” Taylor believes that all of the candidates running are good people with bright ideas but, ultimately, he believes that his unique experiences and his ability to connect and empathize with others represents the best chance to unite our university and move forward together.