Conrad Taylor is one of the first two Guyanese admitted to West Point. He attended the highly-regimented United States Military Academy on a scholarship in 1969, as one of ten students from Latin America and the Caribbean. He studied and trained there at the height of the Cold War, the Vietnam conflict, and the 60s counterculture upheavals, before returning to Guyana, South America. Conrad lends the unique perspective of that life-changing opportunity – and eventual hasty emigration – to his award-winning memoir, PATH to FREEDOM: My Story of Perseverance.
The former Guyana Defense Force officer and semi-retired executive uses his extensive business experiences, including as a CEO, as an adviser on Strategy, Leadership, and Change Management. He holds a Master’s degree in Management from the Sloan School of Management at MIT, a Bachelor’s in Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point, and an Executive Program certification from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. An avid soccer fan, Conrad represented ARMY on an undefeated freshman team and in three NCAA playoffs. The husband, father, and grandfather has also been an Assistant Coach to four Illinois Youth Soccer State Championships teams.
Stephanie: Hello Conrad! It is an honor to be chatting with you today. Congrats on winning the B.R.A.G Medallion. Please tell me about your book, “Path to Freedom.”
Conrad: Hello Stephanie! Thank you for making time for this interview. I am honored that indieBRAG’s book enthusiasts chose to award a B.R.A.G. Medallion to PATH to FREEDOM: My Story of Perseverance.
“PATH to FREEDOM: My Story of Perseverance” is an uplifting coming-of-age memoir with a subtle love story. It charts a sometimes-humorous journey from a remote mining town in the jungles of Guyana, South America to the wind-swept plains of West Point, New York – and back. It is set during the controversial Vietnam War, the fractious counterculture of the late 60s, and the geopolitically-charged Cold War era. The historically-accurate narrative sums up rude awakenings, especially after West Point – because of West Point. Pro-American and democratic when I left to attend the highly-regimented United States Military Academy, my government had turned repressive, anti-American, and paranoid by my return after graduation. The new Soviet-leaning dictatorship feared regime change. Its power-hungry leaders obsessed about my being a spy for the United States. Mine was the impossible task of proving a negative!
Stephanie: What is the message in your story that you would like readers to grasp?
Conrad: The message that I would like readers to grasp from my story is that each of us has a greater capacity to deal with adversity than we think. So, Stay the Course!
Stephanie: Were there any challenges you faced while writing your story? Was there a scene or subject in your book you found difficult to write about?
Conrad: Yes. One of my challenges was developing, or maybe discovering, a writing style that I could sustain comfortably for a whole book. Until PATH to FREEDOM, most of my writing were occasional short essays for company newsletters. My most significant writing project had been researching and completing a master’s thesis in business school.
I found it difficult writing about my first moments at West Point. It took me a while to find the right words to adequately convey the shock of the rude awakening that followed. I had known very little about West Point, when I arrived there. I believed that it was merely a place to receive a college education!
Stephanie: Based on your life experiences, looking back would you have done anything differently or would you do the same?
Conrad: I would be less reluctant to ask for the help, before adversity struck.
Stephanie: What was the most profound moment for you at West Point?
Conrad: My most profound moment at West Point was the long collect call, which I made from West Point to my parents in Guyana, South America. My purpose was to complain about the difficulty of being a Cadet at West Point – and to say that I wanted to quit. I made the call during a particularly physically and mentally demanding period of rigorous training at the United States Military Academy aptly known as – Beast Barracks.
Stephanie: The Vietnam War was controversy at best. What are your thoughts and do you feel that the US made the right decision in getting involved?
Conrad: The Vietnam War severely damaged the psyche of America. The trauma was so deep that feelings about it placed husbands, wives, brothers, sons, daughters, and friends on different sides of the argument. Many of my classmates lost girlfriends because of their decision to attend West Point. Death announcements of fallen West Point graduates was an all too common occurrence during my four years as a Cadet!
I believe that the nature and extent of US involvement in Vietnam was more the issue, than the actual decision to get involved.
Stephanie: Are you working on another book project?
Conrad: Yes, I have started another book. The working title is, “ARE WE THERE YET? My Immigrant Journey of Assimilation.” I am in the early stages of that project.
Stephanie: What advice could you give to an aspiring author?
Conrad: Just do it! When I started writing PATH to FREEDOM, my goal was merely to provide my kids and grandkids with a glimpse of their cultural heritage – and the mayhem of Third World politics – in an interesting, readable way. I had put off tackling such a project for many years for a myriad of reasons, including not knowing where to start. One day I just started writing, progressing by trial and error. I will readily admit that my approach may be inefficient and frustrating for some. However, it proved effective for me. I enjoyed finding the perfect word or turn of phrase to convey my thoughts. Surprisingly, the process has produced a B.R.A.G. Medallion winner. So, just start writing and see what happens!
Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?
Stephanie: What is your favorite quote?
Conrad: A mistake made, corrected, and learned from, is a mistake well made.
You may visit Conrad’s Website
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Conrad Taylor, who is the author of, Path to Freedom one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Path to Freedom merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.