The Sentiment

YAF National Conservative Student Conference 2010

Although at the Young America’s Foundation’s National Conservative Student Conference I heard countless speeches on the turmoil of our great nation and how we as conservatives can fix it, one statement in particular stuck out to me.  Mark Tapscott, the Editorial Page Editor of the Washington Examiner, said “[Reagan] was a politician who could be trusted—such a rare thing.”  That statement made a significant impact on the way in which I reflected upon my time at the conference.

Dr. Walter Williams, Courtesy YAF

The YAF National Conservative Student Conference is a week-long summit held on the campus of The George Washington University in Washington, DC.  This summer it was held from August 2nd through the 7th.  While at the conference, the few hundred students in attendance spend the days attending speeches of notable conservative movers and shakers in the American political and business worlds.  Each night is a wonderful dinner banquet where we hear from a special guest speaker.   For our final dinner banquet on Friday night of the conference, we were treated to dinner at the Ritz Carleton with Fred Thompson as the keynote speaker.  This year was my second YAF conference, but I still managed to learn just as much about the promotion of conservative ideas as I learned at my first event.

A recurring theme in many of the speeches we had the pleasure of hearing was the legacy of Ronald Reagan.  A little humorous to me was the response to merely hearing the name Reagan spoken of during a speech.  With every “Reagan” came huge applause from the student audience.  I am not just talking about a part in a speech crescendoing with Reagan being the last word of a sentence either.  The mention of Reagan may have even come in the middle of the sentence, yet conservative students from all across America would stop in applause.  My amazing Texas friends even had a count going of the number of times Reagan was said each day.  That number was pretty high!  Even though I thought that it might be a little excessive to clap at each voice of the name Reagan, I would smile and clap just as much as the next person.  Ronald Reagan was truly a great President and he should be remembered as such.

Ronald Reagan had a way of mobilizing the youth.  His commitment to excellence was show through his leadership.  YAF calls us as young conservatives to follow Ronald Reagan’s style of activism.  Perhaps one of the most important concepts provided to conference participants was the Conservative Battleplan created by Patrick Coyle.  Knowing about conservative principles is nothing if you do not work to combat leftists.  I am so excited to implement the 9-11 Never Forget Project on Drake’s campus this fall! Going to a college with a fairly liberal mindset is a challenge, but with the help of YAF it is easy to get involved in a way that makes a significant impact.

Ronald Reagan

One thing that I have learned through my life experiences is that learning at conference is very beneficial, but the people you are around are what make the experience memorable.  This year at YAF I made a conceded effort to reach out and meet everyone around me.  I cannot express enough how much better that made my conference than the year before.  Last year, I met quite a few people but did not get to know them nearly as well as I was able to get to know the incredible students in which I was acquainted this year.

My favorite experience from the YAF conference was the final night of my stay in DC.  After a long week, some of my new friends and I had decided to spend a relaxing night at the hotel just taking, but after a while we decided to go do something a bit more exciting.  We took a walk to the Washington Mall and spent about four hours that night visiting all of the monuments.  Most breathtaking was the Vietnam Memorial.  As I stood staring into the field of soldiers at the memorial, I could not help but feel my eyes start to water.  Seeing physical structures representing the soldiers made me stop and think about those who have put their life on the line to secure freedom.  The socialism that this country to sprinting toward needs to be hindered or we will never be able to preserve the freedoms intended by our founding fathers.

In Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, he said, “and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  I know that with young leaders in the Young America’s Foundation, we can preserve that freedom; however, it is going to take Reagan’s style to make it happen.  We can create other honest politicians, but it is our obligation to make it happen.  Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is not passed down in the bloodstream.  Every generation has to fight for it!”

A Time for Choosing

I am now (finally) all settled into my apartment at Hillsdale and I have a few days of classes under my belt. I am really looking forward to my sophomore year. My expectations for this unique place are running higher than ever after completing one of my first homework assignments: watching Ronald Reagan’s 1964 speech A Time for Choosing. I have to admit, I have not previously listened to or read this speech. And boy, do I regret it.

The hair stood up on my neck as Reagan’s words echoed through the room. One might even say that I had a “thrill go up my leg.” But in all seriousness, it is incredible how history appears to repeat itself. The only things that seem to date A Time for Choosing are the players and cultural references; the message is timeless and the content still very much applies to our modern dilemma. Please take a moment from your day to watch at least part of this shining piece of rhetoric. I promise you won’t regret it.

We, yet again, live in a time for choosing.

My favorite quotes:

And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.

This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down—[up] man’s old—old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.

Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we’re denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we’re always “against” things—we’re never “for” anything.

Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.

No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So governments’ programs, once launched, never disappear.

Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.

You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin—just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard ’round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn’t die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well it’s a simple answer after all.

You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, “There is a price we will not pay.” “There is a point beyond which they must not advance.” And this—this is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater’s “peace through strength.” Winston Churchill said, “The destiny of man is not measured by material computations. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we’re spirits—not animals.” And he said, “There’s something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.”

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.

We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.

We will keep in mind and remember that Barry Goldwater has faith in us. He has faith that you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny.

Thank you very much.

-Ronald Reagan, 1964