Mr. Finer goes to Washington

There are many reasons for Americans to be skeptical this summer. With the National Security Agency spying on our daily interactions via phone and Internet records, and the Internal Revenue Service targeting numerous conservative, Tea Party and 9/12 organizations – even as Congressional hearings investigating their conduct were going on – government overreach is baring its ugly teeth. Certainly there is a case to be made that protecting America’s assets and guaranteeing its security requires using certain means for intelligence-gathering; however, excessive use of such means is far from necessary.  With that said, the Season of Scandals has awakened the “sleeping giant” of young people in America.

I recently took week-long trip to Washington, D.C., to celebrate Independence Day on the Potomac and attend a Youth Leadership School at the Leadership Institute. The School was attended by 140 young activists from high school seniors and college students to young professionals under the age of 30. Training was led by former personal assistants to President Reagan Peggy Grande and Dan Quiggle, and Deputy Director of Americans for Prosperity New Jersey Daryn Iwicki. The prominent speakers motivated and informed the attendees about promoting and fighting for conservative principles amidst increasing opposition in America.

Traveling to and living in D.C., the epicenter of bureaucracy, could make one nauseous and feel like throwing their hands up in apathy and disgust.  Building after building, business after business, and salary after salary seem to be funded by the gargantuan governmental beast. The establishment and spineless politicians insist they have the formula for our nation’s success and well-being, but I, like many of my peers and colleagues, see something else – the degradation of our future. Yet, complaining and becoming frustrated will not solve the problem of reducing the size and scope of the ever-increasing federal government.

The main point I took away from my time at the Leadership School is that there is hope to promote the values we believe in, but it will take great effort and an honest inward look at the conservative movement – or the Republican Party, for that matter. Young conservatives like Caleb Bonham, Francesca Chambers and Charlie Kirk are certainly doing their part by writing, filming and serving as activists about a myriad of issues in America today. There are many more examples of young conservatives, but there could, and should be, even more. The hope and beauty of the situation lies in the fact that any person can be visible via social media like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the host of others which dominate the vastness of Al Gore’s invention, the Internet.

America’s millennial generation will soon be coming to a crossroad as we begin to fill positions of leadership in neighborhoods, organizations and the government itself. When this generation takes the reins from the last one, our country will go down one of two roads: one leading to socialism and the other freedom. We are already well on the way to socialism in nearly every policy area, but there is time to promote and fight for freedom. Creating a message that strikes the emotional chord, as the liberal narrative often does, but promotes common sense and prosperity is essential to the success of this party’s future. Much of the culture and media are opposed to the ideas we yearn to promote, but with smart messaging, wise debate in-person and on social media, and a rebranding of our message, there is great hope for conservatives yet.

One example of how to rebrand what we promote comes with how we term the size of government. Many conservatives harp on terms like “small” and “limited” to describe their preferred state; yet, those terms carry with them the connotation of a cold and unfeeling mechanism – something conservatives are already labeled as on a regular basis by our opponents. “Efficient” government, by contrast, carries the message that things still get done and people will be cared for, but without wasting hard-earned tax-payer money by excessively employing nearly five million government workers.

Young Conservatives must take the helm and, for the time being, pick our battles carefully. Let us seek not to further divide our country, but bring it together by being for certain things, as opposed to being against others. Let us take up the torch and run the race set before us with courage and conviction in our beliefs instead of lamenting over the state of our once-proud nation.

As a Minnesotan, I feel obliged to make at least one hockey reference in conclusion. In the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics, the U.S. Hockey team faced a seemingly insurmountable challenge when they took on the heavily favored Soviet Union, which fielded professional athletes against the U.S.’s all-amateur team. Much like the Soviet Union, the Obama juggernaut looks unbeatable and seldom plays by the rules. But, when our country was on the brink of defeat, some of our youngest stood up and did what no one else – not even the established all-stars – could do. It’s time for the next generation of young conservatives to do the same.

As the great Coach Herb Brooks said before the Miracle on Ice, “This is your time, now go out there and take it.”

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