Today marks Ronald Reagan’s 107th birthday. Conservative students across the country are celebrating the birthday of a man that changed the face of the Conservative Movement for young people, much through his involvement with Young Americans for Freedom.
Reagan first joined YAF’s national advisory board in 1962 and later became YAF’s honorary national chairman. This was just the beginning of a relationship that would last for more than thirty years.
In 1974, Young America’s Foundation leaders Frank Donatelli and Ron Robinson established the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at which then-California Governor Reagan spoke. That same year, the Foundation sponsored a nationally syndicated weekly radio program featuring Ronald Reagan, allowing him to promote his conservative ideals prior to his presidential bid in 1976.
As President of the United States, Reagan continued to contribute his time and energy to the Conservative Youth Movement in America. In 1981, he hosted students attending YAF’s annual summer conference (now known as the National Conservative Student Conference) at the White House – a tradition that was carried out through each year of his presidency. Reflecting on this period of his life, Reagan said that “together we worked to accomplish much of what has come to be known as the Reagan Revolution.”
Sustaining his relationship with YAF even after his time in the White House, Reagan addressed Young America’s Foundation’s 15th annual National Conservative Student Conference in 1993. In his address to young conservative students, Reagan remarked that “Young America’s Foundation has been a refuge for students seeking an alternative to the politically correct environment enforced on many campuses.” His speech ended by commending the students on their work saying “your work is vital to the future of the nation.”
Because of Ronald Reagan’s long-standing relationship with both Young Americans for Freedom and Young America’s Foundation, the Foundation was entrusted to save Reagan’s Western White House, also known as the Reagan Ranch. In 1998, the Foundation acquired the Ranch with the blessing of the Reagan family and soon turned it into a place to walk in President Reagan’s footsteps and learn about the principles and life of Reagan – an experience that has become a rite of passage for conservative students across the country.
Still today, Ronald Reagan’s legacy lives through YAF activists as they continue the fight to preserve the ideals of conservatism for generations to come.