Rick Bowmer
FILE - Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart speaks before the House Republican Caucus Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City.

As a former Air Force pilot and now a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I am reminded every day that we live in an increasingly dangerous and chaotic time. And whether we like it or not, the U.S. has a key role to play in defending freedom and providing stability around the world. For those who are reluctant to take on this responsibility — and I talk with many who feel this way — we must ask ourselves: If the U.S. isn’t willing to lead, then who will? And where will they lead us?

The answers to these questions are obvious. President Xi Jinping in China will lead the world. So will Vladimir Putin, the KGB thug in Russia. The mullahs in Iran and the president of North Korea seek to have a leading role in the world. But these powerful figures will lead us in a very different direction from the United States, and the result will be a very dark and dangerous world.

Is that really the kind of future we want to leave our children?

Some years ago, I had the chance to visit one of the most anti-Western cities in the world. I found myself walking through a neighborhood that had produced several extremely violent terrorists. It was obvious I wasn’t welcome there. The men would brush my shoulders as they passed and the women, dressed in burqas, avoided all contact. Yet as I walked past a small shop, something caught my attention, forcing me to stop. There an old man stood, holding a metal money box. Behind him on the ancient timber was a handwritten sign in English. I looked at it and started to read: “Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

The Gettysburg Address.

I turned my eyes back to the old man. And though he made it clear he didn’t want to talk, he smiled at me before he turned away.

I have thought of this experience many times, for it is a powerful reminder that millions of people around the world want the U.S. to succeed. They hope that we succeed. They pray that we succeed, for they know that their only hope of freedom or of a better future for their children is if we are able to help them.

This experience, and others, have sparked many discussions with my family and friends. And I have often wondered, Do we really understand what role America plays in the world? This question has given me the desire to attempt adding to the dialogue, to create a venue for a healthy public discussion on national security and foreign relations.

For that reason, I am delighted to be hosting the fourth annual Stewart Security Summit on Monday in Salt Lake City, where we will discuss this role America plays throughout the world.

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There is an amazing list of participants who will greatly add to the discussion. I am particularly pleased with the presence of Ambassador Fayçal Gouia from Tunisia, a critical U.S. ally dealing with extraordinarily challenging circumstances. I’m also grateful for the presence of my good friends from South Carolina, Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Trey Gowdy, who offer invaluable insights on how to unite our nation during very divisive times. We also will hear from nationally recognized journalist Byron York, who has a unique perspective on the role of media and democracy, as well as Zuhdi Jasser and Jeannie Johnson, who are recognized experts with powerful ideas that very well might change the way you look at the world.

We do live in chaotic times. A robust U.S. military, economic and democratic influence has never been more important in fostering stability and peace. But as Ronald Reagan emphasized, America will continue to stand as a shining city upon a hill whose beacon of light guides freedom-loving people everywhere. That is the purpose of our conference. I hope you will join the conversation Monday, either in person or on my Facebook page.