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Conservative leaders urge college students to be vocal on campus

Speakers at weeklong conference tell students to challenge status quo

In about a month, Tristan Justice will begin his college career as a freshman at American University, a daunting challenge for anyone – but especially so for a staunch conservative entering what at times can be hostile territory.

Yet Justice said he’s ready to stand up for his beliefs come fall, and part of that confidence stems from the five consecutive days he just spent listening to speeches by some of the greatest conservative minds in the nation.

Those speakers hammered home one message: Don’t be afraid to speak up.

“One thing that I learned … is that even if you speak up, you may feel alone, but you’re really not,” Justice told The College Fix about challenging leftist dogma on campus. “There’s always going to be someone glad that you spoke up because they may not have the courage to do it themselves.”

Justice was among the hundreds of college students who attended the 37th annual National Conservative Student Conference, which ran from July 27 to Aug. 1 in Washington D.C.

Hosted by Young America’s Foundation, it featured some of the most prominent names in the conservative movement, including Newt Gingrich, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin, Dinesh D’Souza and many others.

Their audience consisted largely of students who constantly face suppression on campus for their conservative beliefs, such as University of Indiana junior Andrew Ireland, who noted, at his school, conservatism is frequently demonized in the campus newspaper. What’s more, his club – Young Americans for Freedom – has to jump through administrative hoops just to gain permission to conduct outreach on campus.

“I think for students that follow the more conservative side of things, they can be marginalized at times,” he said. “It is very difficult to play by the rules and get your message out there.”

“Universities really should be the marketplace of ideas at its finest, and too often that debate is stifled because of these policies in place. We don’t get the opportunity to debate these sometimes.”

Those at the podium encouraged the crowd to not only stand up for their beliefs, but do so cleverly.

Fox News contributors Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson encouraged students to use issues their leftist peers can relate to and get behind to push their message.

In championing freedom of speech, for example, cite the hyperbolic attacks against feminist comedian Amy Schumer, or note many big-name comedians won’t do campus gigs anymore because college kids are so easily offended nowadays.

“As conservatives, I think we sometimes occasionally get upset with the American public about ‘Why aren’t you exercised about the Iran deal? You should be paying attention to it,’” Ham said. “While that is true, we do have to keep in mind the American people sometimes get more upset about having their entertainment choices limited. Luckily, the left is obliging us by going after that.”

D’Souza, author and filmmaker of America: Imagine the World Without Her, spoke on altering the appeal of conservative rhetoric.

“One way we lose politically is we play the king, liberty, and the left plays the ace, justice,” D’Souza said. “The reason justice is such a powerful sentiment is because when we see injustice it makes our blood boil. When you see deprivations of liberty…you often have to ask, ‘Why are you doing that?’ because there could be a good reason why people are being deprived of liberty in the case of criminals.”

Students said the weeklong event helped them get excited about standing up for their beliefs when they return to campus.

“My goal in this next upcoming year is to be the group that changes the conversation…because we don’t want to just be reactionary to whatever the left is doing,” Clemson University junior and YAF chairman William Turton told The College Fix. “We want to be out there pushing what we believe: free market, limited government. It’s focusing our efforts on opening up those conversations.”

“There’s been an overarching theme throughout all the speakers, and I think that’s just say your mind, whatever that is,” Texas Christian University junior and YAF chairwoman Julia Mirich added. “Make sure your opinion is heard because it deserves to be heard.”

College Fix reporter Breana Noble is a student at Hillsdale College.

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About the Author
Breana Noble -- Hillsdale College