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History of Young Americans for Freedom

September 11, 1960

William F. Buckley hosts the Great Elm Conference at his home in Sharon, Connecticut where about 100 young Conservatives gather and lay the groundwork for Young Americans for Freedom and adopt YAF’s guiding principles in the Sharon Statement.


Lee Edwards launches The New Guard as YAF’s official magazine.


YAF spearheads the campaign of Barry Goldwater for President, hosting 18,500 Conservatives at Madison Square Garden in New York City for the “Rally for World Liberation from Communism,” giving Senator Goldwater national exposure.

Ronald Reagan joins the YAF National Advisory Board, eventually becoming YAF’s Honorary National Chairman – a relationship that would last for over forty years.


YAF hosts its second national convention in Florida. Hotel management refuses accommodation to black national board member, Jay Parker. YAF demands the hotel integrate or they would move the convention. The hotel buckles and integrates. 


YAF launches the “STOP RED TRADE” campaign to end trade with communist countries, eventually stopping IBM, Mack Truck, and Firestone Tires from engaging in trade with the Soviet bloc, most famously succeeding in stopping Firestone from building a factory in Romania by threatening to distribute 500,000 fliers at the Indianapolis 500.


YAF goes on the offensive against the radical left-wing organization, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), eventually leading to SDS’ demise in 1969.

Traditionalist and Libertarian members break at the 1969 convention. The YAF Liberty Caucus departs from YAF to form the Libertarian Party in 1971.

YAF leaders Jerry Norton, Ron Pearson, and Wayne Thorburn take control of University Information Services Inc. which was founded as a student group at Vanderbilt University to counter the Left on campus. University Information Services Inc is later renamed Young America’s Foundation. Under the leadership of former YAF Executive Director and current Young America’s Foundation President, Ron Robinson, Young America's Foundation becomes the primary entry point for college and high school students interested in becoming involved in the Conservative Movement.


YAF leads a nationwide campaign to support U.S. victory in Vietnam. YAF opposes the draft but supports the resistance to communism.

YAF continues numerous projects to support Vietnam veterans and turns its sights on protesting treasonous left-wing leader “Hanoi” Jane Fonda nationwide.


YAF sends a delegation of leaders to Vietnam to report back on the fight for freedom.

YAF and the American Conservative Union (ACU) found the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the largest annual gathering of conservative leaders in America.


The number of YAF chapters grows as Jimmy Carter is elected President. YAF launches Zero Government Growth (ZGG) as it battles against Carter’s big government policies and unprecedented government growth, as well as opposing the sale of the Panama Canal and the SALT treaties.


YAF plays a key role in electing longtime friend and advisor, Ronald Reagan, as the 40th president of the United States. YAF mobilizes nationwide in support of Reagan’s agenda, helping to usher in a decade of conservative policies.

Reagan Officials and appointees come under attack from the radical left but are defended by YAF. YAF supports friends including Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan, Interior Secretary James Watt, YAF alum Judge Dan Manion, Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, and Lt. Colonel Oliver North.

YAF works to support freedom fighters worldwide by bringing Nicaraguan Resistance, Afghanistan rebels, UNITA from Angola, and the ARENA Party of El Salvador leaders to speak on campuses nationwide. YAF sends a delegation to meet with Nicaraguan Contra rebels and show solidarity in fighting the communists.


YAF wins a victory for free speech in the Supreme Court Case, Boos v. Barry. The ruling overturns a DC ordinance that forbids demonstrators against a foreign government to carry their protest within 500 feet of the nation’s embassy. Thereafter, YAF legally continues to protest the Russian embassy.


YAF delivers more than 5,000 petitions in support of alumni Dan Quayle’s position as vice president of the United States.


YAF protests President George Bush Sr.’s tax increases by throwing Tea Parties nation-wide calling for the end of King George.


California YAF leads a statewide campaign that stops the California government from violating Native American sovereignty by mailing over one million pamphlets to voters, defeating the governor’s ballot initiative.


YAF launches the Cigar-Man campaign against President Bill Clinton. YAFers dressed in a cigar costume following President Clinton to various fundraising functions to highlight Clinton’s presidential achievements.


At the Academy Awards, YAF rallies in support of the Academy of Motion Pictures’ decision to award director Elia Kazan, who blacklisted many communist supporters in Hollywood, with the lifetime achievement award.


New York YAF takes the lead by calling for a strong U.S. response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and organizing campus rallies nationwide. California YAF sends a delegation to New York to meet with NYC commissioners.

YAF co-hosts the “9/11 Never Forget” rally in New York City, leading to the reversal of U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder’s, decision to try the 9/11 co-conspirators in New York City’s federal courts.

YAF, joins conservative leaders, including former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, to speak at the first Tea Party National Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

YAF Executive Editor Christopher Bedford successfully re-launches The New Guard magazine and receives national coverage in Time magazine, among other news outlets.

MSNBC dubs YAF as the conservative organization that led the opposition to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan. Despite Kagan being confirmed, thanks in part to YAF’s efforts, Kagan received the fewest number of votes for a Democratic Supreme Court nominee since 1894.

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