By Will Simpson
I look back to the days when I was twelve years old and notice some things that shaped my childhood. In the days before High School Musical but after Backstreet Boys, I was a happy kid in north Arkansas who played baseball, loved roller coasters, and went skiing. That, and I spent several hours a week volunteering for Bush/Cheney ’04. Maybe not a stereotypical childhood, but rewarding for me.
It is hard to pinpoint exactly why I am passionate about public policy. When I learned the share of income that was confiscated by taxes, I realized that the system discouraged people from working. I gained an appreciation for the sanctity of life when we adopted my little brother after he was nearly aborted. And in rural Arkansas during deer season, gun control is considered practically demonic.
These factors worked together to create a lasting impression on my Chef Boyardee-fed brain: I had more faith in the American people than in the government. Accordingly, I saw little reason why the latter should keep accruing more power over individuals and encroaching on their freedom.
Coming fresh from this realization, I spent a week at our state capitol with a non-profit called TeenPact Leadership Schools that taught me the details of how government worked, the role of media, and that I could influence lawmakers. I then plunged into competitive speech and debate, honing communication skills and researching policies to learn how they affect people’s lives. A couple of years in that venue yielded some success at national tournaments, and sent me searching for more ways to support the Conservative Movement.
By the time the 2008 election rolled around I eagerly visited Georgia to work on the re-election campaign of Congressman Paul Broun.
TeenPact then hired me to travel across the country leading week-long classes for other high school students at state capitols, emphasizing Biblical leadership principles and the limited role of government. I learned about the Young America’s Foundation around the same time, and it sounded like a perfect fit for my passions.
I attended the Reagan Ranch High School conference in Santa Barbara, and the experience surpassed even my wildly optimistic expectations. Along with most post-Reagan conservatives, I thought I had a deep appreciate for the man and his vision for the United States. But no academic knowledge or stack of Reagan biographies can prepare you for the striking impression of the man’s character you feel at Rancho Del Cielo. The greatness and humility on display was almost surreal, and complemented the carefully selected speakers like Michael Reagan.
The National High School Leadership Conference developed those ideas further into activism. Hearing from brilliant conservative thinkers gave an adrenaline rush to go with the practical tools for a college campus. The Foundation sent me to college fully prepared to hit the ground running in support of conservative ideas.
My freshman year at the University of Arkansas studying economics and finance was a much more productive time thanks to the Foundation’s training. I almost immediately found other conservatives on campus who were interested in changing the dialogue about current events. As a southern school in a Bible Belt state, Arkansas is more conservative than some other public universities, but the administration (more than faculty) tends to tilt left. In the past, the student government and student paper have been decidedly liberal. We decided to change that.
Now, a year later, there are conservatives in the student government, I am an editorial columnist for the school paper, and we have events like the 9/11: Never Forget Project in the works. The value of the Campus Conservative Battleplan is perfectly clear.
My long term goals include law school, but wherever that takes me, I will be an active supporter of the conservative cause. This summer, I could not be anywhere better than the Young America’s Foundation.