This weekend I am fortunate enough, along with my schoolmate, Drew Goorabian, to represent Colorado Christian University at The Young America’s Foundation’s West Coast Leadership Conference at the Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara. Throughout this weekend we hope to bring the ‘76 Blog audience along through short stories, photos and anecdotes from our trip.

Our first day in Santa Barbara—I am truly amazed. Three months ago I was in Doylestown Pennsylvania and had not yet traveled beyond the western border of my state. Today I am writing this posting 2,800 miles away from my small–town beginnings. Colorado, the center of our great nation, is now my home. And thanks to one more facet of the blessing CCU’s political science department has been to me, I now bear witness to the great expanse of the country I love so deeply.

The opening speaker of the conference, held at the Ronald Reagan Ranch Welcoming Center, was none other than the Gipper’s son, Michael Reagan. Michael’s speech gave incredible insight to the man that Reagan was on and off “duty”. He went on to describe how conservative values infiltrated every area of life in the Reagan household. Michael gave one example of this that took place while riding in his father’s jeep on their ranch. He recalled asking his father for a raise in allowance at the age of eight. Ronald Reagan responded by describing all the responsibilities he had as father, head of the household and operator of the ranch. He, without complaining, laid out, for his son, the responsibilities of an adult and drew parallels of the federal government’s tax policy. After hearing this, Michael promptly offered to take a “pay–cut” after realizing how gracious his father was already being. Ronald Reagan denied his son’s offering but instead proposed a deal—if a president would cut his tax rate, Reagan would allow that benefit to trickle down to his son and give him the raise he had requested.

Years later while Michael was in high school John F. Kennedy introduced a tax cut for Americans. Without needing to be reminded, Ronald Reagan promptly raised his son’s allowance. Ronald Reagan’s heart pumped conservatism, hard work and reason through his veins. What made him so impactful was his ability to apply conservatism to any issue. He was not an elitist pretentiously ordering the masses to do what he thought was in their best interest. He was a man who could simplify the issues and present them calmly, in a way that even an eight year old could understand.

Today, my second day in California started quite early. We had breakfast with Senator–elect Michael Lee (Utah) who spoke of his battle to become senator and the help he received from the Tea Party movement. Next, there was a seminar on government spending, healthcare and its effects on business by Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE restaurants and Dr. David Newton. Following this, seasoned Congressman Tom McClintock (California 4th) spoke of what congress must do moving forward through 2011 with a majority. I am truly amazed by the wealth of knowledge that is present here at the Young America’s Foundation’s West Coast Leadership Conference. Within one hour I was able to hear from and ask questions of members from both sides of the Legislative branch of government in addition to seeing the detailed perspective of economists and successful businessmen.

And now for what I had truly been waiting for—a visit to the Reagan Ranch. After hearing Congressman McClintock speak, we boarded a bus and headed into the mountains for Rancho De Ciello. I have to comment, leading up to this point I had been nearly bursting with anticipation, but sitting on the bus heading up to Reagan’s Ranch, I reflected on what a treat this whole event had already been. I looked around, noticing that every conversation on this bus was about conservatism or Reagan or lauding the recent election. Still, I could not wait to see the place the greatest president loved so much, but I made sure to consciously enjoy the special environment on this trip. I just hope that in time this type of collection of minds is not so rare in everyday life.

I really did not know what to expect. Zigzagging up the steep hillside, our bus felt as if it might not make it to the top. The view of the pacific kept me occupied however. We crested the hill and there it was… A proud yet humble proclamation spanned two erected telephone posts, “Rancho De Ciello”—beyond that lay a quaint little ranch in a small valley. I could feel what made Reagan long for this place above all others.

After exiting the bus, we were led down the driveway past fences built by Ronald Reagan using discarded telephone poles. I had heard of his homes modest stature, but was amazed to hear that it was no larger than 1600 square feet and had no central air or heating. This was all fitting though. Reagan was a man who always had the right priorities. He built his home in such a way that you could not help but take in the full majesty of God’s surrounding works. The interior arrangement of his home was in the same priority; there were no fancy appliances, elaborate furniture pieces, just bedrooms, a kitchen, two fireplaces and hundreds of books.

I’ll leave you with an interesting anecdote told by the tour guide. When Gorbachev came to visit the Reagan Ranch he was insulted by the modest stature of Reagan’s home. It is quite ironic that the leader of a Communist country would criticize the leader of the free world’s modest home.