Education & Academia

High school students gather in D.C. to learn free market ideas

High school students gather in D.C. to learn free market ideas

Teenagers face the worst unemployment numbers since the Great Depression, and scores flocked to Washington this past weekend to oppose the Obama administration’s policies and learn about conservative principles.

Young America’s Foundation hosted more than 100 students at its 15th Annual National High School Leadership Conference from July 11 to 14 at the 4-H Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Students from across the nation mastered limited government and free market arguments to bring back to their schools to educate their peers.

Students came from all over the country, including larger groups from Michigan, New York, and Washington State.  One student even traveled from France to hear from some of the brightest leaders in the Conservative Movement.

Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) opened the conference, speaking to students about personal responsibility. He warned about the degradation of society that occurs when people depend on the government and emphasized self-reliance and hard work, telling students: “You are the leaders of today. We can’t wait until tomorrow.”

Throughout the four days, students heard from a multitude of speakers — everyone from bestselling authors to professors and historians. Ron Robinson, president of Young America’s Foundation, delivered an interactive presentation on the vastly different ways liberals and conservatives are portrayed in the mainstream media.

C-SPAN was on hand to cover New York Times bestselling author Jason Mattera’s talk about his book, “Hollywood Hypocrites.” Always a crowd favorite, Mattera bashed Hollywood leftists such as Jon Bon Jovi who pays only $104 in property taxes. In true Mattera fashion, he proclaimed Bon Jovi “pays more to highlight his hair than he does in property taxes!”

New York Times bestselling author and YAF alumna Katie Pavlich headlined the dinner banquet on Thursday night discussing her book, “Fast and Furious,” and the scandals it exposes. The young attendees learned about this shameful Obama administration cover-up and were supplied with facts to take back to their schools to teach others.

On the final day of the conference, students were educated by conference favorite Dr. Burt Folsom, history professor at Hillsdale College. He taught about the dangers of government subsidies and bailouts and the abuse that can arise when entrepreneurs are not left alone to innovate in the free market. He received a long-standing ovation, and students eagerly anticipated his second lecture. Later that afternoon, Folsom delivered an equally astounding talk, debunking the myth about the greatness of Franklin Roosevelt and relaying the consequences of big government, specifically the New Deal.

Bay Buchanan, treasurer under President Ronald Reagan, gave one of the most exhilarating and inspiring talks of the conference, encouraging youth to get out and share their views. She stressed that it would not be easy—that the Left may present ideas and students may feel knocked down. It is the job of conservatives to get educated, and then get back up, and fight for their beliefs.

Buchanan motivated many students including Jaimee Velotta of Washington to get active and fight for their future. Velotta said, “I learned that it is not enough to merely believe in something and have a standpoint on issues, we must also voice our opinions and stand up for our beliefs.”

Patrick Coyle, Vice-President of Young America’s Foundation, ended the conference, showcasing how students could get involved and bring the lessons they learned back to their schools. He suggested students start Young Americans for Freedom chapters, causing a large number of enthused students to volunteer to start a chapter.

When asked what the students thought about the conference, David Grayton of Massachusetts said it “ … had to be four of the most important and best days of my life.” Grant Wolf of California said, “I have not seen any conferences of this sort anywhere else.” Wolf also said “I learned how conservative principles can restore America’s greatness” and “desire to be involved in returning America to its founding principles.”

Young America’s Foundation will be hosting a similar conference for college students July 30 to Aug. 4, featuring former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.), Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), and many others.

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