Mark Kahanding is a sophomore at California State University–Los Angeles. He first got involved with Young America’s Foundation in 2015 when he decided to start a Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter at his school as an incoming freshman, in hopes that he could promote conservative ideas to his peers.
Mark attended several Young America’s Foundation conferences and seminars to equip himself with the knowledge, arguments, and resources to bring back to his campus, helping him more effectively and confidently reach his peers with conservative ideas.
In the beginning, Young Americans for Freedom at California State University–Los Angeles started as an army of one: Mark Kahanding.
In a sea of liberalism otherwise know as the Cal State system, Mark set up recruitment tables, started planning to bring a prominent conservative speaker to campus, and scheduled campus initiatives to promote conservative ideas.
It wasn’t long, though, before his peers started to take notice. Some weren’t fans of his newfound passion, but others were inspired to speak up, too. Other conservative students realized they weren’t actually alone. His chapter grew substantially with each activism event and campus lecture they hosted.
Mark and his YAF chapter just hosted their fifth conservative speaker at CSULA, Senator Rick Santorum. Mark also led his chapter in putting on successful lectures by Christina Hoff Sommers, Star Parker, Ben Shapiro, and Rachel Campos-Duffy.
The New Guard: How did you first realize you were a conservative?
Mark Kahanding: When I read Ben Shapiro’s book Bullies, it turned me from Maoist to Conservative. I never realized how crazy and intolerant the Left was and it made me realize that the Left is full of bullies and out-of-control radicals.
TNG: Could you tell us more about Ben Shapiro’s book Bullies–what about the book made you see the Left in a way that you hadn’t seen them before?
MK: Originally I thought it was a communist book because of the fist and the color red, symbols of the proletariat. When I read it I began to realize a lot of liberals/socialists I looked up to were complete jerks and bullies. Seeing that shattered my image of those idols–it exposed how flawed they are and that liberal elitists who preach tolerance are no different than the schoolyard bullies that would always make fun of me.
TNG: Why do you think you did not see the Left in that way before? How did you view them before?
MK: Sheer ignorance. I would see and obtain information from communist news outlets or liberal outlets, all of which would paint conservatives in a negative light. I saw the Left as the saving hope for America; that the “intolerant” and “evil” conservative right-wingers were out to get minorities like me and make America for only white people.
TNG: You say you were a Maoist before becoming a conservative. Could you explain why you would describe yourself as that?
MK: I believed that everyone should be equal. The main reason why I fell in love with Maoism more than any other leftist ideology was the idea that the “old ways” should be removed (as a liberal I thought “old ways” meant racism and sexism) and, instead, we should be advancing towards equality and true freedom.
TNG: What inspired you to get involved with Young America’s Foundation?
MK: After seeing how all the college campuses were going insane because of the Left, I saw it was another cultural revolution being created, and it scared me because I was afraid of how far the Left would get, as they did in China, for example.
TNG: What is your favorite thing you’ve done with YAF?
MK: Meeting Ben Shapiro, the man whose book changed me from Maoist to Conservative.
TNG: What’s the best resource YAF has provided to you as a student?
MK: YAF has provided financial resources to my chapter and its members, who would otherwise be unable to come to YAF events because of all the taxation and regulation that has forced most of my members below the poverty line.
TNG: What has been the most rewarding part of being active with YAF, being engaged in the Conservative Movement in general, and being a leader on your campus?
MK: The most rewarding part is that I have so many close friends because of my journey. When I began to post conservative ideas and beliefs on my social media account a lot of my “friends” would give me so much hate, and it was heartbreaking having friendships that lasted for over 10 years end because of a simple disagreement, but in the end, for every liberal friend I lost, I had gained another conservative friend.
TNG: Have you faced any obstacles because of expressing conservative ideas on campus?
MK: Being a conservative in Los Angeles, I am surrounded by far left ideas and having to deal with radical administrators, professors, and student activists who are attempting to shut me down. However, the biggest obstacle that I have had as an activist is myself. In the beginning, I would hesitate to put up flyers because I was afraid of being physically attacked.
TNG: You mean your biggest struggle has been to get out there and push forward with your mission despite the opposition and whatever they may attempt to do to you? You have to be courageous, dedicated, and mentally strong to be in the place where you are. Your biggest struggle then, was getting to that point–where you were both strong and passionate enough to continue standing up and fighting for conservative ideas regardless of the cost to you personally?
MK: Yes. But, did I get there by myself? No. What got me through was having a network of allies and friends. As an activist you can’t do it alone, you need help and luckily YAF provides it.
TNG: Was it difficult recruiting or retaining members in your chapter? Were they scared of the hostility now targeted at them, as well, and if so, how did you manage to lead them through that?
MK: In the beginning yes, but after the Ben Shapiro event so many conservatives began to flood our meetings and even liberals who changed their minds came to us. I taught them that we are the masters of our own destiny and that other people who hate us have no effect on us. I also taught them that we are the only hope for future conservative students on campus and that fact really motivates them to know they are making a difference.
TNG: If you had to go back and change any part of your journey, would you? Which part?
MK: I wouldn’t change any part.
TNG: What are your career aspirations?
MK: I would like to be an investment banker and donate to YAF!
CSULA YAF is stronger and bigger than ever before, with 68 active members and countless conservative victories in the record books.