Conservatism is on the rise among young people. For the 14th year, Young America’s Foundation hosted high school students interested in jump-starting their roles in the conservative movement.
More than 100 participants from 25 states attended the Gratia Houghton Rinehart National High School Leadership Conference at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Md., to hear from conservative leaders including Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan, Congressmen Patrick McHenry and Andy Harris, HUMAN EVENTS Editor Jason Mattera, activist Bay Buchanan and other leading conservatives.
Rep. Patrick McHenry from North Carolina kicked off the conference with a rousing speech Wednesday evening. McHenry, elected in 2004 at the age of 29, challenged students to embrace public policy on their campuses, suggesting that they “make it cool, make it relevant, and make people understand the impact it has on their daily lives.”
A big highlight for many students was meeting and hearing from Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan.
She’s no stereotypical pageant winner. As the youngest Miss America crowned since 1937, Scanlan’s intellect at 18 goes far beyond her age. Like several of the students at the conference, Scanlan was mostly home-schooled during her academic years, and she praised that education, giving it credit for her ability to make good decisions regarding her future.
These future plans include attending law school and eventually becoming a Supreme Court justice. Her views on conservatism? Scanlan stressed that she believes the United States Constitution should be the guiding force of the federal government.
Scanlan also discussed the importance of incorporating faith into one’s everyday lifestyle, mentioning that, throughout the preliminary Miss America competition, her faith played a major role in maintaining a humble, level-headed demeanor. In a true testament to her modesty, Scanlan said, “The true definition of humility is thinking of yourself less and putting others first.”
Another student favorite was Jason Mattera, an editor of HUMAN EVENTS and foundation alumnus. Mattera, a graduate of Young America’s Foundation’s National Journalism Center, analyzed the successes and failures of the Obama administration through the lens of young people.
Mattera explained how President Obama championed social media outlets and effectively used cultural icons. To combat this, Mattera advised the conservative youths to implement practical strategies that make use of music, media and culture to communicate with their peers. Mattera argued that liberalism’s hegemony on young people is fading, claiming that Obama has “lost some of his mojo.”
Mattera clarified that the President must still have some magic, however, because he “pulled a Houdini and made all the jobs disappear.”
Speaking of disappearing jobs, Burt Folsom, regular foundation speaker and professor of history at Hillsdale College, delivered an effective lecture regarding President Franklin Roosevelt and the misconception of his New Deal plan.
Folsom explained that Roosevelt ’s implementation of the New Deal actually prolonged economic suffering and unemployment for Americans.
To combat liberalism on campus, Folsom recommended the students study economic history and become well-versed in conservative, free-market philosophy.
On a similar note, Kate Obenshain, foundation vice president and frequent Fox News guest, advised students to be courageous in their classrooms and to challenge the prevailing liberal orthodoxy that prevents the free and open exchange of ideas.
Obenshain said, “Our ancestors founded this nation in order to escape persecution because of their ideas. If we cease to be able to express what we believe, then we cease to be free.”
Building on this case, foundation Vice President Patrick Coyle encouraged students to exercise their campus free speech rights by becoming involved in or starting their own campus conservative organizations. Specifically, he encouraged students to start a chapter with Young Americans for Freedom, which recently merged with Young America’s Foundation, to provide more effective conservative infrastructure to campuses across the nation.
In reaction to this speech and other calls for activism, 34 students filed petitions to start such chapters.
Young America’s Foundation’s next student program is the National Conservative Student Conference from August 1 to 6 held at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Confirmed speakers include Florida Congressman Allen West, best-selling authors Ann Coulter and columnist Jonah Goldberg, and others.