On the brisk summer night of July 12, the National Mall had a few extra visitors—more specifically, about 100 Young America’s Foundation (YAF) activists who were concluding the 2019 National High School Leadership Conference. During the prior three days, future leaders from across the country were armed with the facts, statistics, and historical knowledge necessary to advocate for conservatism and respond to liberal bias on campus.
The conference kicked off with a dinner banquet featuring Representative Scott Perry. Rep. Perry shared his journey from his humble beginnings to Congressman, proving to students that they too can overcome challenges and achieve their goals. He also highlighted the importance of listening to constituents and having an open mind during these conversations, even if it means disagreeing with your own party. Anna Strasburg, an especially motivating speaker, then presented the most effective points to make when debating someone who is pro-choice, debunking leftist arguments like the rape/incest/life of the mother exception and answering the question of when life begins.
Dr. Burt Folsom spoke next on the horrors of big government throughout history, focusing on occasions when the United States dabbled in socialism. Dr. Folsom also challenged one president particularly idolized by the left: FDR. He provided students with a “Crash Course” in American history during the late 1800s to mid 1900s, completely transforming the narrative championed by the left that greedy businessmen sent the country plunging into depression and Roosevelt’s New Deal miraculously saved the US.
Bay Buchanan, a YAF student favorite, offered one of the conference’s most inspiring speeches. Ms. Buchanan empowered students to lead in the style of President Reagan, a man she worked with closely in her capacity as United States Treasurer (a position she is the youngest person to hold). Using the pro-life cause as a guide, Buchanan outlined how students could take any issue and “own it” after much research and practice.
Ken Stiles spoke to a topic corrupted by the media—the Second Amendment. He addressed all of the common gun control myths, from the need to ban “assault” weapons to the idea that gun free zones save lives. Stiles also called out the left’s lack of firearm knowledge and how it impacts legislation. Congressman Paul Gosar shared many anecdotes about his background as a dentist, life on the campaign trail, and even a story about pulling a tooth on the House floor. He also discussed the ludicrously of the Green New Deal from the perspective of a Congressman.
Friday morning began with a presentation by Ana Quintana. Quintana refuted the claim that the US played a major role in creating the current state of affairs in countries like Cuba and shared the actions taken by President Trump against illegal immigration and international money laundering that one does not hear on the news. Tim Goeglien addressed numerous topics ranging from the recent abortion bill passed by the New York State Senate to the censorship of pro-life groups on college campuses, all while emphasizing the importance of good character in leaders.
The second phase of the conference focused on activism, as students were taught how to share these new conservative ideas on campus. Jack Duffy discussed his experience as a conservative in an extremely liberal Catholic High School, assuring students they are not alone in the insanity they have (and will) encounter. In addition, Duffy explained the process he went through to create a YAF Chapter at his school and others near him, persisting through roadblocks from administration. Patrick Coyle presented all of the activism opportunities Young Americans for Freedom offers students, like the chance to bring in a major conservative speaker, and outlined how to become an effective activist.
Fellows from The Clare Boothe Luce Center for Conservative Women shared each of their journeys to conservatism and inspired young women to defy the idea that all women are liberal. YAF Staff and interns moderated a breakout session on the tenants of conservatism, during which small groups of students collaborated to define conservatism. YAF’s President, Ron Robinson, then analyzed the definitions with students, often challenging their ideas to prepare them for debates back on campus. Students were finally invited to participate in three bull sessions, an opportunity to discuss (and often debate) issues facing our country. When particularly divisive topics like the death penalty and gay marriage were introduced, many students disagreed with each other, but the conversation remained civil and respectful—a refreshing change compared to dialogue on campus.
Young America’s Foundation Conferences provide students with many opportunities, and are an experience every young person should have, which is why I strongly recommend applying for a conference. Visit yaf.org for all of the information, and I hope to see you at the next conference!
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.