In June, Young America’s Foundation hosted its largest high school conference at the Reagan Ranch. The participants, representing 29 states, immersed themselves in the legacy of Ronald Reagan and the teachings of premier conservative speakers. Anna Garrett from Highland Park High School explained: “This [was] an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life. Even though I came as a conservative, it cemented my values and built a strong foundation that I can use to share conservatism with others.”
The conference launched with a banquet featuring television personality and author Rachel Campos-Duffy, who gave students an energizing presentation on the power of popular culture. Campos-Duffy encouraged students to be active on social media and to be vocal about their beliefs and values. She noted, “If you want to influence public policy, you first have to impact culture.”
The first full day began with a session guided by Foundation President Ron Robinson. Students broke into groups to examine the core principles of conservatism and why they matter in our modern society. Robinson reminded students about the significance of America’s Founding: “Just because something is old, doesn’t mean it is incorrect or not important.” He added, “The Founding Fathers assumed that the Constitution would be more likely to defend our freedoms as [America] became bigger.”
Students then joined Foundation supporters for the Wendy P. McCaw Reagan Ranch Roundtable luncheon. The audience received a detailed analysis on the 2016 Presidential election from historian, syndicated columnist, and Hoover Institution Fellow Victor Davis Hanson. “I don’t think, in my life, I have seen a more polarized climate,” Hanson noted. He also explained that Trump’s opposition failed to connect with their constituents.
Following lunch, the students traveled to Rancho del Cielo, President Reagan’s Western White House where they walked in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan throughout his adobe house, his tack barn filled with his most treasured vehicles and riding equipment, and the Secret Service command post located on the hill above the house.
John Barletta, President Reagan’s longest-serving Secret Service agent, also addressed the young audience at the Ranch. Barletta commented on the significance of the historic property, declaring, “The [Reagan] Library has his teachings, his speeches–and they’re all phenomenal–but here at the Ranch, you’ll find his soul.”
Student Blaise Ebiner of Pomona, California, agreed, affirming that the Ranch “showed how humble and practical Reagan was…and how hardworking he was.”
That evening, Foundation alumna and author Kate Obenshain rallied the young audience to stand up and fight for the free exchange of ideas and to stay true to their own beliefs in the face of opposition.
The final day of the conference featured longtime Foundation faculty member Dr. Burt Folsom, author Robert Spencer, Dr. Derryck Green, Foundation Vice President Patrick Coyle, and Young Americans for Freedom National Chairman Grant Strobl.
Dr. Folsom began with a two-part lecture on textbook bias, captivating students with his engaging and interactive presentation.
Spencer, director of Jihad Watch, followed with remarks on the origins of radical Islam and what the Left has done to distort the truth about Sharia Law. Spencer urged the students to study the history of radical Islam and engage in discussions about its deceptive nature, noting “the thing about the truth is that it cannot be hidden forever.”
Afterwards, commentator and writer Dr. Derryck Green explained the benefits that conservative values have on all families, emphasizing the success that those in minority communities find when they embrace those ideas. “We have to move away from social programs that promote mediocrity,” Green said.
Later that afternoon, Young America’s Foundation Vice President Patrick Coyle presented students with ideas and action plans on how to advance the Conservative Movement at their schools and how to combat leftist obstacles from their peers and school faculty.
Students concluded the conference with a motivating speech from YAF National Chairman Grant Strobl. “You are the only people in this country who can make a difference at your school,” Strobl said as he shared his personal experiences as a high school activist. Following the session, many students expressed interest in forming YAF chapters at their schools.
The conference left a powerful impression on its attendees. Friendships were forged, ideas were strengthened, and desires to promote conservative values were ignited.
Riley Jensen of Claremore, Oklahoma, summarized the importance of this program and the Foundation’s overall mission, noting, “The message of YAF is remarkably effective, and what they have done and will continue to do for young Americans is nothing short of admirable.”