By Alexander Jelloian

Young America’s Foundation recently held its largest-ever high school conference at the Reagan Ranch. More than 800 participants were able to hear from 15 leading conservative speakers who touched on topics ranging from the merits of free-market economics to how to be a bold advocate for the unborn. Among the long list of speakers was former NFL safety Burgess Owens, who delivered a powerful message on the black community’s past triumphs and current challenges.

The first—likely most important—part of Owens’ speech was his retelling of African-American history and the forces that have shaped his community today. Owens noted how black culture has shifted throughout American history. As the Civil War ended and slaves were freed, they found themselves with newfound opportunities in America. Although Owens grew up in the “Jim Crow South,” he noted that he never felt like the odds were stacked against him. Rather, he looked around and saw great success from his mentors and other leaders of his community. This success came from a belief in the principles that a majority of African-Americans held dear. Among these principles were being loyal to one’s family, working hard to find opportunities for prosperity, and education as part of the pathway to success. These traditional principles led to African-Americans flourishing not only professionally, but also in their personal lives.

Owens noted that these values have been replaced in a devastating way through faulty promises from the Left. So-called “progressives” now tell blacks that due to the combined forces of historic oppression and white privilege, they are incapable of improving their own lives. Thus, the Left argues, the government must come and help them. Owens argued that this message has made blacks feel powerless in their current situation, instead of motivated to overcome life’s obstacles.

Another powerful analysis from Owens compared the Greatest Generation and the currently-rising generation. The Greatest Generation, Owens explained, was tasked with combating the evil ideologies of socialism, Marxism, and communism overseas. While the current generation of young people is blessed to not have to fight physically, there are intellectual battles fighting for control of this country’s present and future. Owens noted that today’s young people are also fighting the ideologies of socialism, Marxism, and communism that the Greatest Generation had to, but in a much different way.

In comparing these two generations, Owens showed his optimism when he stated, “When it is all said and done, and we talk about the greatest generation of the past, history will say that you were just as good.”

Not only did Burgess Owens beautifully summarize what it was that has made this country the greatest nation on the planet, but he empowered the students with a vision of optimism and purpose for the future. It is no wonder that his speech was among the most popular at the conference.

Watch Owens’ inspiring #onlyatYAF address in full below!

Alexander Jelloian is a summer intern at YAF’s Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara, California.