Conservative Forum: National Conservative Student Conference Hugely Successful

The excitement, hype, and anticipation surrounding Young America’s Foundation’s 25th annual National Conservative Student Conference turned out to be completely justified as the event unfolded last month at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Since the inception of this perennial bastion of conservatism, attendees have been able to interact with luminaries including former President Ronald Reagan, Nobel Laureate James Buchanan, Lt. Col. Oliver North (Ret.), Jeane Kirkpatrick, Caspar Weinberger, and Tom Clancy. Another Nobel Laureate, Milton Friedman, was added to that distinguished list this year. This year’s unique experience brought together young conservatives from all over the world, representing over 150 universities spanning four countries. “I can’t say enough about it,” offered an attendee from Penn State University. “The only word that comes to mind is ‘phenomenal.’ Where else can you join such like-minded people and hear such high-caliber speakers?” High-caliber Indeed Over the course of the week, students and conference alumni heard from more than 20 speakers, including economists, congressmen, authors, talk-radio hosts, a Hollywood star, and issue-activists from a variety of areas within the Conservative Movement. Roger Custer from Ithaca College in New York praised the line-up as “…a plethora of knowledge. I got more out of this one week than my entire last year at school.” Speakers also expressed their delight at the quality of the students in attendance, praising the initiative and commitment that was shown in spite of the liberal climate that exists on most campuses. “Colleges and universities are ‘Peter Pan’ centers,” witted actor/author Ben Stein. He continued, “Professors watch the world grow up and people succeed all around them, while they stay the same. This may help explain some of the lunacy on this country’s campuses.” Leftist bias in higher education was a prominent theme throughout the week, covering everything from textbook content to the propaganda that often passes as legitimate curriculum. David Horowitz, describing a professor at the University of Missouri who encouraged her students to protest a speech he gave there, stated, “This is what passes for normal on most American campuses.” Mr. Horowitz is a reformed leftist who is now one of the Foundation’s most popular speakers. Another recurring topic during the week was the liberal slant in most media. Speaking on the subject were Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard and Terence Jeffrey of HUMAN EVENTS. They were joined during the week by other journalists including Jonah Goldberg of National Review, “Crossfire” co-host and columnist Robert Novak, and best-selling author Ann Coulter. Mr. Barnes said that “[Students] shouldn’t expect to start a journalism career in Washington,” but are better off honing their skills in smaller markets and working their way up. In addition to the speaker lectures and dinner banquets at George Washington University, conference participants attended a White House briefing by Bush Administration officials, as well as a Capitol Hill luncheon with Sen. Jim Talent (R.-Mo.). Both events were well received by students, and for some, represented a first-look at the “inner workings” of our government. A student from the University of Colorado at Boulder was overheard commenting that “The [Young America’s] Foundation is providing opportunities not readily available to most people. This week is changing my life.” Syndicated radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy also discussed change—the change that has taken place in regards to personal freedom since he was a child. “There were no such things as helmet and seat belt laws. If you chose to wear a seatbelt, you went out, bought a kit, and installed it yourself,” reminisced Liddy. “Freedoms don’t disappear all at once, in one fell swoop. You lose them gradually, in the name of the ‘public good.'” Students easily identified with the former Nixon Administration official, given the prevalence of laws such as smoking bans and so-called “speech codes” at colleges and universities. One of the big highlights of the week was the speech and dinner banquet with Michael Reagan, son of Ronald Reagan. Mr. Reagan talked thoughtfully about his childhood and growing up with his famous father, evoking much emotion in the young audience. He recalled the president’s love for his ranch, Rancho del Cielo, which was saved by Young America’s Foundation in 1998. More than anything, the president’s son voiced how pleased he is that so many young people today are preserving his father’s legacy by carrying on the conservative ideas and values that his administration championed. Overall, it was one of the most highly regarded events of the conference. By the end of the week, the students left Washington with a newly energized enthusiasm to combat the liberalism that infects much of their lives. Comedian Ben Stein, in a final thought of encouragement, left the impassioned crowd with these words: “You are the ones carrying the torch of freedom.”


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