As the principal outreach organization of the Conservative Movement, the Foundation introduces thousands of American youth to these principles. We accomplish our mission by providing essential conferences, seminars, educational materials, internships, and speakers to young people across the country.
For five decades Young America’s Foundation has diligently “fought for, protected, and handed on” the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values to increasing numbers of young people.
Walk through the timeline and see the history of Young America’s Foundation unfold.
History of Young America’s Foundation
(pictured left to right, William F. Buckley Jr, and YAF President Ron Robinson)
Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) is founded on September 11, 1960, at the home of William F. Buckley Jr. The Sharon Statement, YAF’s founding document, is also drafted at this important gathering.
YAF spearheads the “Rally for World Liberation from Communism,” hosting 18,500 conservatives at Madison Square Garden in New York City. This event is one of the largest conservative events in history.
Ronald Reagan joins the YAF National Advisory Board, eventually becoming YAF’s Honorary National Chairman – a relationship that would last for more than forty years.
Founded at Vanderbilt University on November 18, 1969, the group quickly became a national organization and was renamed Young America’s Foundation.
The Foundation expands its activities by sponsoring a nationally syndicated radio program featuring California Governor Ronald Reagan.
Foundation leaders, Frank Donatelli and Ron Robinson, established the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
The Foundation inaugurates a national bicentennial program highlighting our Founders’ philosophy of freedom. The program is created to properly commemorate the founding and independence of our nation.
The Foundation holds its first annual National Conservative Student Conference during the summer. James Taylor, now a Foundation board member, proudly inaugurates the program and runs the conference for many years.
CPAC hosts newly elected President Ronald Reagan at the conference’s annual banquet. President Reagan also begins the tradition of hosting Young America’s Foundation’s annual summer student conference (now the National Conservative Student Conference) at the White House each year of his Presidency.
The Foundation publishes American Economic Texts: A Free Market Critique, a 282-page book analyzing the array of economics principles texts being used in colleges.
The Foundation makes national headlines when D.C. police arrest two summer conference attendees for protesting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan outside the Soviet Embassy. The Foundation appeals the case all the way to the Supreme Court when, in 1988, the Court awards the students a major First Amendment victory. The Supreme Court ruling inBoos v. Barry overturns a 50-year-old law barring protests outside of embassies and is the first of two victories for the Foundation.
In the wake of the KAL-007 murders, Soviet propagandist Vladimir Pozner cancels his U.S. national tour after Young America’s Foundation has Tryggvi McDonald, son of the late congressman, appear at the same schools. Pozner was unwilling to answer McDonald’s “murderer” charge.
The Foundation sponsors campus tours by two groups of overseas students. In the spring, two pro-Contra students from Nicaragua and Costa Rica speak on a dozen campuses in support of freedom fighters. In the fall, a group of pro-American students from Europe speak on campuses in support of NATO and the placement of Cruise and Pershing II missiles.
The Foundation hosts a dinner in honor of Henry Regnery, president of Regnery Gateway Publishing, for producing so many classics of conservative thought during his four decades in the publishing business.
The Foundation publishes Entrepreneurs vs. the State, A New Look at the Rise of Big Business in America by Dr. Burt Folsom. This book is later renamed The Myth of the Robber Barons and is currently in its eighth edition.
Young America’s Foundation reprints The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater to ensure young generations have the opportunity to read this important book.
With the campus Left led by university faculty and administrations trying to force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs off campuses across the country, the Foundation launches a national campaign to protect students’ rights to participate in ROTC and have equal access to military recruiters on their campuses.
Young America’s Foundation organizes one of the largest pro-troops rallies in the country at Washington and Lee University during the Gulf War.
Ed Meese becomes the inaugural speaker for the Foundation’s Henry Salvatori Lecture Series. This series leads to a number of named lecture programs which are supported by individuals who are devoted to furthering conservative ideas on campus.
The Foundation publishes Columbus on Trial in response to the attacks on Columbus and the European discovery of America during the quincentennial celebration.
William F. Buckley Jr. who spoke for the Foundation from its earliest days is named the 1992-1993 Henry Salvatori Lecturer.
President Ronald Reagan addresses the students at the 15th Annual National Conservative Student Conference. Please visit youtube.com/yaftv to view the video.
The Foundation urges Congress to cut off taxpayer funding to universities hostile to the armed forces. This effort leads to the passage of the ROTC Campus Access Act which is later renamed the Solomon Amendment. Despite challenges to the amendment’s Constitutionality by professors at elite law schools, the Supreme Court unanimously declares it Constitutional.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas speaks to 2,400 young people at Southeast Missouri State University. His speech is also broadcast on C-SPAN.
Following many requests from students and parents, Young America’s Foundation launches the National High School Leadership Conference. This the first of several programs of its kind geared for high school students who wish to learn more about conservative ideas.
Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott appear together to address more than 400 young people on Capitol Hill at the 19th annual National Conservative Student Conference. This event was broadcast live on C-SPAN and covered by NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, and CNN.
Lady Margaret Thatcher speaks to more than 4,500 people at the College of the Ozarks.
The Foundation sees an extraordinary opportunity to save a precious piece of American history and, at the same time, exponentially increase our ability to fulfill our mission of reaching young people with conservative ideas. On April 21, 1998, Young America’s Foundation acquires Ronald Reagan’s Western White House—also known as the Reagan Ranch and Rancho del Cielo—with the blessings of the Reagan family.
The National Journalism Center merges into Young America’s Foundation to continue training future journalists.
The Foundation celebrates paying off the loan on the Reagan Ranch with a “burning” of the Reagan Ranch note.
Young America’s Foundation acquires the 217 State Street building in Santa Barbara—which will eventually become the new Reagan Ranch Center.
Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman addresses students during the 25th annual National Conservative Student Conference.
To support America’s troops in the war in Iraq, the Foundation organizes a rally which draws thousands to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The Foundation launches the 9/11: Never Forget Project to ensure the anniversary of those murdered by radical Islamists is remembered on college campuses.
The Foundation launches Freedom Week on campuses nationwide to commemorate the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and Veterans Day.
Young America’s Foundation’s newly renovated Reagan Ranch Center re-opens in downtown Santa Barbara. This facility is the most important hub of conservative activity outside of Washington, D.C. It is a “Schoolhouse for Reaganism” complete with classrooms, conference space, a theater, library, boardroom, interactive exhibits and galleries, and offices to house our Reagan Ranch team members.
Attorney General Edwin Meese and Secretary Jack Kemp headline the Foundation’s 25th anniversary celebration of the signing of the 1981 Economic Recovery Tax Act—legislation signed into law by President Reagan at Rancho del Cielo. Meese and Kemp’s speeches are broadcast live from the Reagan Ranch Center on C-SPAN.
The Foundation hosts the inaugural Reagan Ranch High School Conference at the Reagan Ranch Center to teach young people about the principles and life of President Ronald Reagan.
Polish President Lech Walesa (1990 to 1995) addresses Foundation supporters and friends in Gdansk, Poland, during a stop on the Foundation’s Baltic Cruise.
Young America’s Foundation celebrates the 30th anniversary of the National Conservative Student Conference. The conference enjoys record C-SPAN coverage with 34 segments broadcasted throughout the week and re-aired consistently thereafter.
Foundation leaders Ron Robinson and Nicole Hoplin publish Funding Fathers: The Unsung Heroes of the Conservative Movement to tell the untold, behind-the-scenes stories of the men and women who made the Conservative Movement the giant force it is today.
Young America’s Foundation forms an Alumni Board of Directors comprised of those who were involved in our programs as students or members of our Foundation team and who continue their engagement with our mission.
Lady Margaret Thatcher addresses Foundation friends and supporters during a special dinner in London, England.
Young America’s Foundation alumnus and former staff member Jason Mattera becomes editor of Human Events—the youngest ever in the publication’s history.
Governor Sarah Palin and Vice President Dick Cheney headline the Reagan 100 Celebration Weekend at the Reagan Ranch Center.
Young America’s Foundation launches our Reagan 100: Freedom’s Future initiative. Our mission with Reagan 100 is to bring President Reagan’s ideals and vision to life for the next generation, and REINSTITUTIONALIZE FREEDOM through the Reagan Ranch, the Reagan Ranch Center, and the programs of Young America’s Foundation, so that it will never again give way. Rather, Freedom will be firmly established as the beacon by which our country and its future are guided.
Young America’s Foundation debuts our inaugural film, Still Point in a Turning World: Ronald Reagan and His Ranch. Written and directed by Stephen K. Bannon, the film is the definitive examination of Ronald Reagan’s beloved ranch and its reflection of his philosophy and values.
Young America’s Foundation and Young Americans for Freedom become one united YAF. Young America’s Foundation is still the name of the parent organization. Young Americans for Freedom joins the National Journalism Center and the Reagan Ranch as a project of Young America’s Foundation.
Young America’s Foundation celebrates the 50thanniversary of President Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” speech with the goal of doubling the number of its student programs.
The Foundation relocates its national headquarters to Reston, Virginia, after more than 25 years in Herndon. The new headquarters facility provides ample space to host student programs year-round and allows for the Foundation to expand our outreach via more staff and production space.
Young America’s Foundation partners with the Foundation for Economic Education to publish a new resource for students, Excuse Me, Professor: Challenging the Myths of Progressivism. The book debunks more than 50 liberal clichés in a way that is concise and easy for students to understand.
YAF is winning important free speech battles on campuses using a legal strategy. A year after suing California State University, Los Angeles for attempting to block YAF speaker Ben Shapiro for being too “controversial,” YAF won an important legal fight. The campus is now changing its policies to be more inclusive of all speech. Red Alert Politics reports: “This is not just a win for YAF or just conservatives; it is a win for all future speakers on college campuses.”
2016 was a year of huge growth. Our reach among young people expanded dramatically using social media. Often called the “largest conservative youth outreach” organization of the Movement, YAF has the data to back it up:
45,000,000 minutes of YAF programs informed those who tuned in
24,000,000 Twitter impressions engaged an online audience
5,000,000 online viewers learned from our campus lectures
1,850,000 engaged with our website, YAF.org.
Demand exceeded capacity at each of our high school conferences, and Young Americans for Freedom chapters expanded at universities and high schools nationwide from 170 groups in 2015 to 250 active and engaged chapters.
In a front-page piece of the New York Times in May, the writer described Young America’s Foundation in the headline as “The Conservative Force.”
YAF exposed the University of North Carolina – Greensboro and its administrators’ scheme to overcharge students trying to host New York Times bestselling author Dinesh D’Souza as a part of our D’Souza Unchained Lecture Series. Through one of our newest projects, Censorship Exposed!, YAF’s legal team sent a public records request to the University. Embedded in the records we tracked down, YAF learned that the “facility rental fee” leftists imposed on the conservative students was exponentially higher than the same fee they charged Hillary Clinton to speak just months before. YAF went public with the information, and the story caught the attention of the Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina and many members of the school’s Board of Regents. The University quickly reversed course and rescinded the fee that it improperly charged conservative students.
The National Journalism Center (NJC) celebrated 40 years of training and inspiring truth-seeking journalists.
YAF Alumni Marc Short, Nick Hahn, and Chris Garcia hold prominent positions in the Trump administration, bringing conservative ideas into the public policy process.
YAF scored one of the most consequential free speech victories of all time. Together with our brave students at the University of California, Berkeley, YAF won a landmark free speech lawsuit—the biggest breakthrough for students’ freedom of speech and equal protection for conservative students in decades. The victory forced Berkeley to cover YAF’s legal expenses and eliminated the school’s unconstitutional “High Profile Speakers Policy,” security fee policy, and the heckler’s veto. The Wall Street Journal weighed in on the case, celebrating YAF’s victory and calling it “A Free Speech Rebirth at Berkeley.”
Young America’s Foundation expanded our reach in our nation’s capital with the acquisition of our new Capitol Hill Townhouse. The 3,600 square-foot facility—located just steps from the United States Senate and House of Representatives office buildings.
The National Journalism Center (NJC) hosted its largest class in recent history.
Governor Scott Walker is named president-elect of Young America’s Foundation—a role he will assume on February 1, 2021.
Vice President Mike Pence headlines YAF’s 41st annual National Conservative Student Conference.
YAF sponsored the #1 campus lecture tour continuing the Fred Allen Lecture Series to bring the #1 requested speaker in the country— Ben Shapiro—to more schools from coast to coast.
YAF award’s Attorney General Edwin Meese a Lifetime Achievement Award during a special celebration featuring Mark Levin.
Young America’s Foundation wins a key First Amendment lawsuit against the University of Florida, resulting in the school changing its biased speech code and paying the the UF YAF chapter $66,000 in damages.
More than a dozen YAF student activists and top leadership were invited by the White House to attend the signing of President Donald Trump’s campus free speech executive order.
(From left) Then-Young America’s Foundation President Ron Robinson, current President Governor Scott Walker, Tonette Walker, and Reagan Boyhood Home volunteer and docent Jerry Schnake
YAF saved the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home in Dixon, Illinois, which will serve as the base for conservative education and conferences in the Heartland of America.
The pandemic challenges of 2020 required YAF to adapt programs, and Young America’s Foundation’s unique events continued to make a lasting impact on young people who logged in online and filled the seats of our conferences and seminars. YAF remained open and fully operational throughout the year.
YAF lead the youth conservative organizations in subscribers on our Youtube channel, Youtube.com/yaftv.
“Young America’s Foundation has been a refuge for students seeking an alternative to the politically correct environment enforced on many campuses…Your work is vital to the future of the nation.” ~ PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN
“ At many schools, [Young America’s Foundation’s] speeches have become the biggest events of the semester.” ~ TIME
“ Key pillar of the conservative movement” ~ POLITICO
“ The first substantial national conservative organization” ~ NEW YORK TIMES
“The future of conservatism in America” ~ VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE
“The premier organization dedicated to the enrichment of young Americans.” ~ VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY
“An unsurpassed commitment to promoting balance, academic integrity, and free market values on campuses” ~ SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE NEWT GINGRICH
“The Reagan Ranch is the ideal setting in which to expose future leaders to the fundamental values President Reagan lived” ~ ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN ASHCROFT
“One of the most preeminent, influential… forces in the nation’s conservative youth movement” ~ LOS ANGELES TIMES
“No more effective comeuppance to the pretensions of our left-wing gurus than Young America’s Foundation” ~ DR. MILTON FRIEDMAN
“Providing the inspiration and direction so tragically lacking on campuses” ~ U.S. TREASURER BAY BUCHANAN