During the first week in August, I had the privilege to attend the Young America’s Foundation 33rd Annual National Conservative Student Conference at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. The conference had nearly 200 college students attend from across the nation and “the pond”. Students were represented from some of the most respected Ivy League and liberal arts universities in America including Hillsdale, Yale, Purdue, and UC Berkley, as well as students from Czechoslovakia, Kyrgyzstan, Switzerland, Poland, and substantial amount of members from the Young Britons Foundation representing such institutions as Cambridge and Oxford.
The conference began with a personalized introduction to the week by all of us. Each student was to approach the microphone and proclaim why they considered themselves to be “conservative”. Over and over the responses, “small government”, “traditional social values”, “fiscal responsibility”, “value of hard work”, “opportunity”… etc. rang through the night. The mood was set perfectly as students were forced from the beginning to think and proclaim why they held the truths they did.
The conference itself was fast paced and jam packed. There were over 32 speakers to occupy a schedule that started at 8am and concluded at roughly 9pm each day of the weeklong conference. The organization was impeccable for such a whirlwind of an event. Each speaker was chosen to address a specific issue that our country was facing in light of a particular conservative philosophy.
KT McFarland, FOX News National Security Analyst, began the conference with a forward prediction of the “3 things to watch for in the next year”. 1) Palestinian statehood, 2) the vote in Egypt, 3) the withdraw of troops out of Iraq/Afghanistan. She stated that in September Palestine will search for statehood and the UN will grant it. This will cause a grassroots conflict with the current Israeli occupation. This will have an immediate effect on the US, as Egypt and Lebanon border Israel and may declare war as a cop out of their own current problems. President Obama, she declared, is not a friend of Israel. Since we will have troops out of Iraq by the end of the year, the end result will be a rise of Iraq. The Iraq war will lead to greater opportunities in Iran with national interest in oil.
As the week of the conference landed exactly during the Congressional debate on the debt ceiling and spending cuts, most discussions quickly led to conversation on the implications. Defense being one of the greatest expenditures to be cut down, caused great debate amongst the speakers.
KT concluded with a comment on Ronald Reagan’s knowledge of the economy. He knew that the economy must first be fixed, and it is done so by cutting taxes- not defense. If we don’t fix the economic problem, we won’t be able to defend. The cuts in defense leave us in vulnerability to nuclear attack. In KT’s opinion, the most vital of the national interests are: defense, oil, and Israel.
Dr. Burt Folsom of Hillsdale College was next on deck with a lesson on the Myth of the Robber Barons. In the 1830’s the United States was in a surplus. The US was behind the British in the Industrial Revolution and so decided to create special programs with government subsidies. The government put into action their first attempt to boost prosperity with federal spending through a steamship company managed by a man named Collins. Collins went to congress each year asking for increases in governmental subsidies and was granted them. Collins had a competitor, Vanderbilt, who disagreed with subsidies and instead relied on the economics of supply/demand by running steamships at a cheaper cost of the ticket, and therefore filling the ships. The conflict between Collins and Vanderbilt resulted in 3 sunken Collins ships and one million federal dollars spent on steamships. When it was all over Vanderbilt was successful with no subsidies, Collins was out of business, and by the 1860’s debt was back to 30,000 (1/3 to Collins steamships).
Dr. Folsom continued his historic illustrations of inexcusable and insufficient governmental spending with similar description of the transcontinental railroad. His message cap, after the failure in the railroad subsidies congress stated that the “subsidy era is over; we are leaving it to privatization”. Hence, the rise of the US came from liberty and the entrepreneur- not governmental spending.
Jason Mattera, editor of Human Events, approached a room full of college students in a unique way. As a young journalist, he and later James O’Keefe of Project Veritas, focused on what is to be a young investigative journalist. With humor and insight they both shared overhead snippets of their own undercover work, and encouraged the youth to do the same. The message inclining that the political left has been overemphasized in media bias, and now the deepest truths of the socialistic philosophy are to be unveiled. Reaching a new generation often needs to be through the gate of pop culture and humor.
Jonah Goldberg of AEI was a personal favorite as he drilled in the differences between the political left and the political right with a philosophic illustration of Locke v. Rousseau. He described the differences as explaining a lot about the human heart: in a Rousseauian view, the individual desires to be part of something bigger than themselves, and in a Lockean view, the individual is one within himself.
Senator Mike Lee of Utah, again brought the audience back to the discussion of the debt ceiling and its effects on the generations not yet born. He focused his message on how American’s can prevent the government from expanding: the vote and the constitution. He noted that we must always balance government action with what it does to our liberty.
Joseph Phillips, accomplished author and radio personality introduced an over analyzed conflict in a new way. He indicated that Republicans' redundant claims of their “color blindness” actually hinders their influence in the black community. The African American community does not want to be invisible, but to be seen in the totality of their humanity. Phillips indicated that the problem in America right now is its culture. Republicans need to acknowledge the black community for who they are as citizens, not repeated assertions of the party’s complete impassivity to issues such as race. The acknowledgment would win the vote.
The conference held a variety of speakers of high and intermediate notoriety. Some of the more popular included... Congressman Allen West who spoke on the state of the economy... Charles Payne, CEO of Wall Street Strategies and FOX contributor on the state of the nation proceeding the Obama and Reagan Administrations and that there could still be a promising future for America today... Congressman Jim Jordan on foundational truths of our society... Senator Marco Rubio on the Reagan Administration... Bay Buchanan, former Treasurer of the United States on effective leadership and on women’s role in society... Dr. Robert George of Princeton on American Exceptionalism... Dana Loesch, editor-in-chief of Big Journalism.com, on the role of Media in our society... Dr. Larry Scherkart from the University of Dayton on the 48 liberal lies you probably heard in school... Tim Goeglein, Vice President of Focus on the Family on Judeo Christian values and the Founding... Matthew Richardson, director of the Young Britons Foundation on the current state of healthcare in the UK... Marc Theissen, speechwriter for GW Bush on the Middle East, Budget Cuts, and National Defense... Stephen Moore, senior economics writer of the Wall Street Journal on the keys to economic prosperity... Kate Obenshain, Vice President of YAF on the Empowerment of the next generation... Ann Coulter on current events... and Rich Lowry of editor of the National Review on Lincoln’s Legacy.
The Young America’s Foundation did a phenomenal job organizing each speaker to address a specific aspect of history, philosophy and current events that would strengthen and challenge our conservative values on the basis of their individual disciplines. The Foundation stays true to its purpose in building America’s Youth in the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values with the outreach of the National Conservative Student Conference.
I have gained a better understanding and foundation of my own values, and through the conference, have been given significant tools and connections of which to continue growth out of. I would encourage any student who is knowledgeable of politics or not to investigate the outreaches through the Young America’s Foundation to better strengthen their own political ideologies out of the sheer responsibility of being an American citizen.