(CCU Faculty) The fantastically successful, 1st Annual Western Conservative Summit is over. Some of our country’s leading thinkers and policy-makers joined concerned citizens from ten western States to reflect on where we are, where we need to go, and how conservatives can lead the way.

Here are a few summary thoughts from the distinguished speakers who addressed the Summit:

Our current situation is indeed bad: In his closing remarks during the final presidential debate of 1980, Ronald Reagan famously asked the American people: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” If we consider where we are today, as compared to where we were just 18 months ago, the challenges facing our nation have grown worse. When we consider the major difficulties facing our country – the economy, national security, protection of liberty, and America’s international standing – it is exceedingly clear that since the inauguration of President Obama, these conditions have not improved. Our economy continues to struggle. More people are out of work and many of the jobs that have been created during past 18 months are government jobs (including many temporary census jobs). National debt has skyrocketed, borrowing has increased, and the printing of new money has hurt our long-term chances of recovery. Turning to foreign affairs: Iran has increased their production of nuclear materials; our relations with Israel are strained; North Korea has sunk a South Korean ship and suffered no consequences; and the situation in Afghanistan is increasingly unstable.

Conservatives are realists: If we fail to recognize legitimate threats to our homeland and our economy, we will indeed fall prey to interests who seek to do harm to our nation and our way of life. Pointing out the great challenges facing our nation is not done out of a desire to be negative; it is done to accurately describe the situation so that the process of correction can begin. Threats from radical Islam are real. Our borders are far from secure and before any immigration law is enacted, this must be corrected. Conservatives recognize the great threat that living “beyond our means” has on our economic viability. Government programs seeking to stimulate economic growth have proven ineffective. Bailouts and government ownership only enable worse corporate behavior in that they remove the consequences of poor decision-making.

What we seek to conserve is important: We are often criticized as being backward-thinking and opposed to “progress.” There are some things that don’t require progress: self-reliance; respect for others; maintaining the tenets of Western Civilization; and reliance on God as the author of our liberties. Each of these is something that doesn’t demand “progress.” Lincoln recognized that the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence could not be made better; rather, they demand protection and cultivation, especially among our youth.

Conservatism is a far better protector of liberty than “progressivism”:
When the ideals that we seek to conserve are secure, individuals will have far greater protection of their liberties. The programs that Obama has implemented have been harmful to the entrepreneur, adding new taxes and regulations. The policies of the Obama administration have been harmful to individuals, limiting our choices when it comes to how we spend our money, where and when we will be able to access our healthcare, and ultimately, what medical procedures will be available. Through policies such as card check, new financial regulations, gun control measures, and campaign finance regulations, progressives seek to limit how we as citizens organize to influence the government and how we carry on in our day to day lives. Conservatives view each of these initiatives as an improper taking of liberty by the government.

America, in spite of her many problems is still great, and indeed the greatest nation: We have an unparalleled record of defending the poor and oppressed, of aiding people in times of crisis, of respect for Judeo –Christian traditions, and of protecting free-enterprise and individual’s rights. We have and will continue to seek relief for those who suffer under dictators. We do not seek to rule over others; rather, we seek to spread the ideals of liberty and equality, that all men might enjoy these blessings. While there are, of course, historical failings, for centuries the clear mission of America has been to spread these ideals. We should acknowledge past and current failings, but recognize that the good done by the United States far outweighs our failures. We are indeed “the last best hope.”

Hope and Change are on the way:
While we agree that our nation is facing difficult challenges, the current leadership in both the White House and the Congress is incapable of dealing with these problems. The Conservatives, who gathered in Lone Tree the weekend of July 9-11, are not mere complainers, nor are they the “party of no.” Rather, we are people committed to a positive agenda that seeks to restore our sacred faith, protect the entrepreneur, revitalize our nation, protect our fundamental liberties, re-establish our leadership in the world, and effectively defend our nation from those who seek her harm.

As we come down from the “summit” weekend, we must maintain the momentum. Conservatives first must seek to impact electoral change, then must hold these newly-elected officials accountable. It is clear that previous Republican administrations and Congressional leaders have failed to uphold these ideals while holding power. As conservatives, we are committed to electing those who share our ideas as well as holding them accountable once they hold office.