Since the 1960s, Young America’s Foundation has played a pivotal role in spreading the conservative message to young people across the nation and cultivating future right-of-center leaders.
The organization has bolstered conservatism through a number of ways, including campus chapters, bringing speakers to colleges, holding conferences and providing internships. There’s also another crucial tool in the group’s repertoire: the Reagan Ranch.
For nearly two decades, YAF has used Reagan’s former ranch, known as Rancho del Cielo, as a tool in its mission of immersing young Americans in the conservative movement. A feature article published earlier this month in the Los Angeles Times details a recent three-day conference held at the ranch and explains how the foundation uses the property as a “spawning ground for young conservatives.”
From the article:
One by one, chatty teenagers in jeans walked across the stone patio that Ronald Reagan built by hand to ring the bell at the former president’s coastal mountain ranch. Nancy Reagan tugged on that same rope decades ago to call her husband home for lunch when he was out horseback riding or working in the stable.
On a bright fall day, the Virginia-based Young America’s Foundation shuttled in nearly 100 teenagers from 46 different states for a three-day conference at Rancho del Cielo, hoping to summon Reagan’s spirit.
They were not there for a history lesson.
Instead, YAF leaders gave the high school students gathered at the late president’s properties modern-day pointers on what it means to be a Republican, and tips for fending off what the group views as the other side’s indoctrination.
The article notes that Reagan used the ranch as a “sanctuary from the pressures of the White House.” YAF acquired the property in 1998. Since then, the foundation has developed the 688 acre ranch into a “cathedral of conservatism” and turned it into an asset used to spread the conservative mission and educate young people.
The high school conference profiled by the Los Angeles Times included speakers that opined on topics such as media bias, liberal bias on college campuses and Islamic terrorism. In addition to the educational programming, the article suggests that the Reagan Ranch gives young conservatives a place to gather and discuss the challenges they face at their own schools simply because of their political views:
Early in the conference, when students took turns introducing themselves, many said they were ostracized at school for their conservative beliefs, sharing stories of their experiences.
Caleb Walzak, a 16-year-old sophomore from Savannah, Ga., said he felt out of sync with the rest of his classmates.
“If you say anything that goes against any of their opinions at all, you are shunned from all social interaction whatsoever. Basically your life is ruined,” Walzak said. “Stuff that they believe in is not what America is. Conservative is what American really is.