While most of today’s conservative leaders are looking ahead and working to stop the encroachment on our freedoms of the Obama Administration, “A Tribute to Sharon, Celebrating 50 Years of Advancing Liberty” was a time for an enthusiastic group of friends and former colleagues to spend a weekend reminiscing about their days as student and young professional leaders in Young Americans for Freedom and its various progeny.
Several hundred conservatives who had been active in YAF gathered at Washington, D.C.’s Mayflower Hotel on September 10 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of YAF’s statement of principles written by M. Stanton Evans and called the Sharon Statement, because it was adopted at William F. Buckley’s home in Sharon, Conn.
The anniversary event included two informative afternoon panels broadcast live on C-SPAN TV, a gala dinner banquet keynoted by an inspiring address by former New York Senator and federal judge James L. Buckley, and then concluded with a Saturday picnic hosted by Richard and Elaine Viguerie at their farm in Castleton, Va.
In his tribute remarks at the dinner, Frank Donatelli, Political Director at Ronald Reagan’s White House and former YAF Executive Director said, “Sharon was hosted by the man who popularized our philosophy … and gave it intellectual weight and respectability … Bill Buckley…. In a remarkable career, Bill took to the airwaves and literally created a new and vibrant conservative message that would eventually be embraced by Goldwater in defeat and Ronald Reagan in victory.”
Randy Teague, Chairman of The Fund for Americans Studies and former YAF Executive Director, said in another of the dinner’s tributes, “When we began, we were planning the 50th anniversary of the founding of Young Americans for Freedom. As we continued that planning, we realized the focus should be the 50th anniversary of the Sharon Statement. Why? Because of what else also flowed from it: Young America’s Foundation, The Fund for American Studies, the American Conservative Union, the American Spectator, Eagle Publishing, the Leadership Institute, the Lincoln Institute for Public Policy, Radio America, the Clare Boothe Luce Institute, the Second Amendment Foundation and many others. What pride we should all take in each of them.”
Sen. Buckley was introduced by former Youth for Buckley Director and long time New York YAF State Chairman Herb Stupp. Buckley spoke tellingly of the explosion of government regulations and costs, suggesting we unfortunately haven’t made as much progress as we should have in 50 years.
“A Tribute to Sharon” created a warm, fuzzy feeling. It was like a good class reunion. And as former YAF Board member Carol Dawson said in her dinner remarks: “We are still fighting the good fight. As long as there are those who believe in the tenets of the Sharon Statement, there will be—to quote another friend—Frank Meyer—a “Defense of Freedom.”