“The youth of our country is our greatest strength. The fact is that we are still young; the country is only a few centuries old. However, it is full of youthful idealism that will return us to greatness.” These words, spoken by Senator elect Mike Lee (R–UT), shored up a stirring and inspiring weekend at the Ronald Reagan Center in Santa Barbara, CA. Along with fellow CCU sophomore Bela Franklin, I had the extraordinary opportunity to attend the West Coast Leadership Conference put on by Young America’s Foundation. According to YAF, the purpose of conferences such as these is to teach young people about individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values.

Their mission was sustained exceedingly this past weekend, as over 100 students from universities nationwide gathered in Santa Barbara to hear from many of the most prominent speakers inside the conservative movement. Keynote speakers for the weekend consisted of:

  • Michael Reagan, son of President Ronald Reagan
  • Wayne Thorburn, author of From Goldwater to Reagan
  • Ron Nehring, GOP Chairman of California
  • Marc Theissen, best selling author and speechwriter for President George W. Bush
  • Mike Lee, Senator–Elect of Utah
  • Dr. David Newton, economist and professor of entrepreneurial finance at Westmont College
  • Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE restaurants (Carl’s Jr.)
  • Cong. Tom McClintock, California 4th District
  • Ben Stein, acclaimed author and actor

The overarching theme of the weekend, as displayed on each attendees t–shirt, was “Reject Socialism.” The melancholy association with socialism was certainly rejected, as conversations between students, speakers, and staff reflected individuals willing to place their life work towards the advocating of conservative ideology to the young generation. With countless keynote addresses prompting collegiate conservative leaders to become active on their campuses, the powerful message of sustaining freedom and liberty resonated in a highly impactful way throughout the conference.

From Michael Reagan’s lecture on The New Reagan Revolution, to Ben Stein discuss ‘Freedom being God’s plan for man’ Live from Rancho Del Cielo, the inclusive experience of the museum and ranch alike is a captivating and inspirational adventure. As stated by Ron Johnson, President of Young America’s Foundation, “(YAF) is preserving and protecting the Reagan Ranch and using this historic presidential property to pass on to our children and grandchildren the ideas and lasting accomplishments of this great leader.” Students were taken on to many of the same trails that President Reagan would take his daily horse–riding session upon, and visited areas of the ranch that had sentimental and endearing value to Mr. and Mrs. Reagan. In addition, students took a first–hand look inside the home in which the Reagan’s presided; a house that was built in the early 1800’s and was scarcely altered from its original composition.

Illustrating this experience into words is merely insurmountable, in that the charm, breathtaking outlooks, and rich history of Rancho Del Cielo define the character of the man who inhabited this incredible domain. President Reagan was a man with a message: the message of individual freedom, limited government, and free enterprise. This is a leader who led by example, through his vast knowledge of historical events and sanguine approach in leadership. The ranch was a portrayal of these his inner core, which depicted a place in which history, fascination, and excitement bestowed upon each individual who stepped foot on its premises. And as Reagan once stated: “No place before or since has ever given Nancy and me the joy and serenity it does.”

This opportunity maintained itself as the premier venue for conservatives nationwide on the beautiful California coast. Reagan must have been looking down from Heaven this weekend smiling, in that the prospect of hundreds of college students fighting for the explicit constitutional principles that he had spent his life work striving to accomplish was his vision for the youth of America. As leaders on our campuses, it is imperative that we proceed to address and convey the pressing issues facing college students in the current political climate. Because, as Senator Mike Lee stated, the youth are the greatest strength and asset that conservatives possess; they are the key towards uniting and inspiring the upcoming generation towards ideology that reflects constitutional limited government, traditional values, and individual freedom.