More than 400 conservative college students from across the country have gathered in Washington for a week of speeches, seminars and strategy.
The National Conservative Student Conference offers a chance to “hear a different point of view than on campus,” said Taylor Stanford, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Young America’s Foundation (YAF) is sponsoring the event at George Washington University.
The conference aims to “help these students learn more about the conservative movement,” said Patrick Coyle, director of campus programs at YAF.
Featuring a slate of more than 30 conservative heavyweights such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and columnist Michelle Malkin, the conference exposes students to a range of speakers representing various aspects of conservatism, and they don’t all agree on every issue, Mr. Coyle said.
“If we have the courage to tell the truth, we’ll have the American people with us,” Mr. Gingrich told students Monday. His speech, full of historical anecdotes and suggestions for the Bush administration, covered topics ranging from national security to education.
Other conference speakers include John Stossel of ABC News, columnist Robert Novak, economist Walter Williams, veteran conservative activist Bay Buchanan, authors Peter Schweizer and David Horowitz, former Secretary of State Alexander Haig and Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican.
Salomon Lea, a student at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said at the conference is an opportunity to learn more about politics. In his family, he said, they “don’t talk about politics” because of ideological differences.
Sean Harrington, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., said his “favorite part is meeting like-minded students.” He said he has kept in touch with students he met two years ago at his first YAF conference.
“Not everybody agrees” on all the issues, said Daniel Gustek, a student at the University of Alabama, but “everybody’s respectful of what you think.”
Matt Pinsker, a sophomore at the College of William & Mary, started a Republican club at his high school and is active in College Republicans.
The youngest participant at the conference is Kathryn Stickley, a 17-year-old senior at Mercy High School in Farmington Hills, Mich.
Kathryn organized a September 11 memorial at her high school, despite a lengthy administration approval process. She said the conference allows her to “see what college students are doing.”
University of Baltimore senior Ana Lightle said she hopes the conference will help her “to make a bigger impact” when she returns to her campus by “[bringing] conservative ideas to a very liberal school.”