I’m sure we’ve all heard that one of the best ways to lead is to lead by example, and I truly believe that one of the most effective ways that young conservatives like myself can make an impact on society is by getting involved. By making the choice to go into our communities to spread our message, we can use this as a teaching moment to society and buck the notion that the conservative movement is for old white guys only.
The Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, is being held in Maryland right now as I write this column. One of the premier events for conservatives, it features a host of renowned conservative speakers and helps train conservatives to go back to their communities. But one of the things that I find most intriguing about CPAC is the number of young people that attend the annual event.
Forbes published an article in 2012 that nicknamed CPAC a “young Republican festival,” and estimated that nearly 40 percent of the conference’s attendees are college students and that young voters between the ages of 18 and 29 make up well over half the total attendance. Those are some pretty telling figures—figures that should tell everyone else that the conservative movement is a young person’s movement, too.
But even those numbers are not enough for some people who don’t ever seem to know any conservative politicians besides Sens. Mitch McConnell and John McCain, while conveniently forgetting that the other side has Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders. What they really need to see is us in action.
I’m only starting my second semester here at Franciscan University, but I have already seen and participated in so many events that allow people like me to make a difference. The Young Americans for Freedom, or YAF, club, with Tommy Valentine at its helm, does a great job of bringing Franciscan students into being proactive about being conservative. YAF has held voter drives and held viewings for important events like presidential debates which have all helped greatly.
But another thing YAF has done is a particular manifestation of this charge to be proactive. All throughout the fall semester, its members went canvassing in cities around Ohio to spread a pro-life message. They traveled to cities like Cincinnati and Cleveland, going door-to-door and speaking with complete strangers about the upcoming election. They had to endure a weekend full of waking up early, walking upwards of 10 miles a day and walking up to people not knowing if they’d be greeted with a smile or cursed from the door.
I was fortunate enough to go on one of these trips and it changed the way I approach being a conservative. I’m not someone who easily gets out of his comfort zone, but this experience forced me to and I couldn’t be more appreciative. It was such a rewarding experience going up to people and being able to share one of the things that I most firmly believe, both as a Catholic and as a conservative.
When we’d return to the hotel after working for the day, we would all share our experiences, and many of us reported someone decided to change their vote because of the information we had shared with them.
I know of at least three people that decided to change their vote after talking to me, and I can’t think of anything more rewarding, besides converting others to Catholicism, of course. Can you imagine what would happen if each young conservative went out and was able to convince three people to see an issue a different way? The results would be incredible!
President Bill Clinton once said, “Today’s generation of young people holds more power than any generation before it to make a positive impact on the world.”
While there isn’t a whole lot else the former president said that I agree with, I do agree with this: We as young conservatives have an amazing power now to be proactive with our views and spread them to others. And we can choose to either sit in our dorm rooms and let someone else worry about making a difference, or we can accept this charge and get out of our comfort zones, like I did, and be the change we want to see in the world.
There are so many ways we can get involved. All you need to do is seek out the opportunities.
The time is now for us to make a difference—what are you going to do?