The East Tennesse State University (ETSU) chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) made a huge impact on their campus when they hosted Newt Gingrich on March 31st. ETSU YAF garnered a crowd of over 700 in attendance for their first speaker event as a YAF chapter. For their dedication to the promotion of conservatism not only on their campus, but also in their community, ETSU YAF has been named Chapter of the Month for March.
Chairman Brandon Johnson was determined to start a YAF chapter following his attendance at a National Conservative Student Conference dinner banquet last summer. He said that him and his chapter wanted to host a big name speaker through the Wendy P. McCaw lecture series because “We knew that bringing a speaker would give our group credibility on campus. We wanted to participate in activism and tabling, but wanted to show off what the Foundation had to offer. In an area of rural Appalachia that’s fairly isolated, students do not often get the opportunity to hear a big-name speaker like Newt Gingrich, and we wanted to give them that opportunity.”
In an event titled “Civility in Politics” angry leftist protestors on campus were quite the opposite of civil. According to Johnson, “Despite the campus’ previous instruction that they were not allowed to protest directly outside of the event’s doors, the administration buckled and let them anyways. Very few of the protestors were students, and some professors even participated. Inside the event we had students working hard to promote civility, while outside some of our professors called our event “racist, sexist, and anti-gay.”
ETSU YAF did not fall victim to the intimidation tactics of the protestors. Despite the challenge of 20 protestors garnering equal news coverage of the event with over 700 in attendance, ETSU YAF stood strong and continued to boldly promote conservatism to the packed audience. Johnson said that personally, “The biggest reward was meeting up with one of my extremely liberal friends after the event. She was against the event just because a conservative was speaking, yet claimed that the event was “incredible” and a great conversation about political civility.”
Leading up to the event, ETSU YAF was out in full force advertising their event and making sure there was no one in the community who had not heard of Gingrich’s upcoming appearance. The chapter handed out over 4,000 fliers, hung several large posters, and attended every community event possible to get the word out. Along with the 700 in attendance, the group had 140 volunteers for the event.
In addition to hosting Newt Gingrich, ETSU YAF actively participated in the 9/11 Never Forget Project and Freedom Week. According to Johnson, “Next on the agenda is to go back to giving the Conservative Movement on campus another push through member recognition, showing our fellow students the flaws with socialism, and having an event that displays our pro-life views on abortion.”
ETSU YAF is currently lead by the following students: Brandon Johnson, Chairman; Shelley Harrell, First Vice Chairman; Devin MacDonald, Second Vice Chairman; Erin Norris, Secretary; Jesse Bedard, Treasurer; Summer Jackson, Public Relations Chairman; and Club Directors McKenzie Lee, Peyton Palmer, Devin Lynch, and Haley Mooney.
Lauren McCue is Program Officer for Chapter Services at Young America’s Foundation.