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 boarder 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 post, “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. <!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]--> <!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->
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.
“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 to on 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.