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  • Numbers USA Founder Roy Beck Achieves Goals Through Perseverance

    Published on August 10, 2022

    Roy Beck, Founder and President of leading immigration reduction advocacy organization NumbersUSA, learned the value of persistence and discipline at an early age. As an undersized lineman on his high school football team, he relates in an interview, he had to work hard to make an impression and earn playing time. “I was a 135-pound offensive guard, and also played safety on defense,” Beck said. “Amazingly, by my junior year, I was varsity, and got all the way up to 145 pounds and was voted the all-conference offensive guard at 145 pounds.”

    What he lacked in size, Beck made up for in sheer perseverance and well-honed technique. As a pulling guard, he could use his mobility and ability to get under the defenders to help his team. This combination of hard work and a keen eye for knowing how best to mobilize your resources characterizes NumbersUSA’s approach to its mission.

    By focusing on the blocking and tackling work of getting out its message and motivating and mobilizing its membership, the organization has become the largest immigration reduction organization in the country, with over eight million participants including conservatives, liberals and moderates. Its members are encouraged to persuade public officials that reducing immigration numbers toward traditional levels will help current and future generations enjoy a standard of living that isn’t impeded by excessive immigration.

    Beck refers to his high school football experience as formative, especially when it came to the lessons learned from competing against bigger opponents. “I always felt like I was a little guy amongst all these giants, but I just learned, it was like, boy, perseverance and tenacity could really make a difference.”

    He carried these lessons with him when he left his small Ozarks hometown to study journalism at the University of Missouri, where he found himself “surrounded” by people from the large schools of St. Louis and Kansas City. Taking his attitude from the football field to the University of Missouri School of Journalism helped Beck compete in the program. When he graduated, he earned the award as the number one science writer and number two news writer out of the 800 student journalists at the institution.

    His journalism career was marked by success at multiple levels as well as a certain amount of restlessness as he moved to newspapers in several cities and from covering local environmental and economic issues, to stories of national interest, to reporting on politics from Washington D.C.

    “I’d always reach a certain level of success,” Beck revealed, “and then I would say: ‘Well, okay, I’ve reached that. I need to go try something else.’”

    After leaving journalism and starting NumbersUSA, Beck believes that, from the vantage point of 26 years of experience with the organization, his earlier career paved the way for his later one. “All that other stuff was preparing me to do something that honestly, very few people are willing to do, which is to take on the issue of immigration policy and take the crap that gets slung at you.”

    A major challenge NumbersUSA faces is that it is a nonpartisan organization in an increasingly polarized country. According to Beck, this led the group to ponder whether it should take a more partisan approach. However, after a thorough analysis, the group decided to stick to its nonpartisan guns.

    “We found that there are lots of people who are a part of a political tribe,” Beck said. “But there’s almost nobody trying to do what we’re trying to do. We may not bring in as much money, we may not have as many members. There’s a lot of things we may not be as big in by trying to be pluralistic, but nobody else is trying to do it so we’re going to stick with what we’re doing and keep trying to be a force toward moderation at a time when that isn’t often seen.”

    Because NumbersUSA can’t control the agenda, the group must gravitate towards responding to what’s happening in Congress. In Beck’s view, “it’s just like a sailor can’t control the wind, you have to tack with the wind.”

    As a result, the organization spent a good portion of the previous 15 years focused on illegal immigration because so much in Congress was about amnesties and enforcement reductions. Prior to that, the group’s first 10 years were primarily focused on legal immigration and the environmental impact of immigration-driven population growth.

    When something had to happen, the organization would try to come up with some type of grassroots response and sometimes that would involve an actual rally, people doing things back in their district, having a press conference, etc.

    Ultimately, Beck said, NumbersUSA decided there was a need for having some tools so that every time something comes up, “we use the same tools, and we just modify them for the situation.” He added: “We aren’t a big enough operation to be constantly inventing new things.”

    In the 1990s, the group’s website was the first to start internet faxing to Congress. “Internet political activism,” Beck calls it. “Creating a grassroots army that would not have to leave their house to do their activism was a big deal,” he said. “We have a million active emails of people who we can email at any time and ask to make a phone call or to send one of these messages over the internet and we have around 8 million fans on Facebook that we can reach at any time.”

    Beck also led the organization to begin scoring congressional voting based on immigration, ultimately becoming the number one repository of individual congressional actions on immigration.

    “No matter what side you’re on, you can find this stuff with us going back to 1990, including everybody who is retired or dead,” Beck said. “Combined with our grade cards, there’s no record-keeping on immigration that is even close to as thorough a source as we are.”

    When explaining NumbersUSA’s influence in Washington, Beck cites the group’s policy of not talking publicly about everything it does as bolstering its influence and ability to get things done. “On the Hill, that’s important,” he added.

    The organization’s legislative impact has all the hallmarks of Roy Beck’s work as a standout pulling guard in his high school days. It isn’t flashy, but it gets the job done and has enabled the group to amass considerable influence with policymakers charged with determining the nation’s immigration policies.

    Browse audiobook from Roy Beck here: https://www.audible.com/author/Roy-Beck/B09JFG4BTM


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