‘For conservatism to win the culture, we need conservative elites,’ David Network speaker said
A network of students at Ivy League universities, Stanford, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology gathered for its fifth annual conference promoting pro-life advocacy and human flourishing.
Participants at the David Network’s 2024 summit on Jan. 19-20 attended the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. and a speaker series at the Museum of the Bible, according to the network’s website.
Jordan Cooper, president of the American Lutheran Theological Seminary and a speaker at this year’s conference, told The College Fix in an email that the David Network “works with students who are in Universities that have historically produced a large portion of the leaders of society, whether that is in politics or other fields.”
The group is “a conservative network of primarily Ivy League students (along with Stanford and MIT) formed to make connections between undergraduates and conservatives in the fields into which they will be working after graduation,” Cooper said.
The conference aimed to “strengthen conservatism on campus across universities, as well as in broader culture,” he stated. “For conservatism to win the culture, we need conservative elites.”
Speakers at this year’s conference included former Vice President Mike Pence, who delivered the keynote speech; Notre Dame political science Professor Patrick Deneen on conservative philosophy; National Affairs Founding Editor Yuval Levin on building institutions; and Katy Faust, founder of a nonprofit defending children’s rights, on preparing for marriage and career.
Other panels covered topics such as the future of the pro-life movement, ecumenical outreach, and venture capital.
The summit included optional Catholic Masses on Friday and Saturday and an optional Shabbat prayer and meal.
The David Network conference affords students the opportunity to “learn about the architecture and underlying principles of the religious liberty and pro-life cause, the broader conservative movement, and its allies”, according to its website.
Likening their struggle to that of the biblical David’s clash with Goliath, the organization “focus[es] on how conservatives…can thrive and effectively lead with great encouragement at our hostile progressive institutions.”
“We are a network of hundreds of students from among America’s top universities who are interested in the values and policies that lead to human flourishing, especially from the Judeo-Christian tradition, and related first amendment rights,” according to the website’s “About” page. “These values include the inherent dignity in every human life, the important role of Abrahamic religion undergirding civil society, and the institution of the family.”
The Fix reported in December that the David Network launched in 2020 as an initiative run by college students sponsoring travel, meals, and lodging for over 100 students attending the March for Life.
Former member and organizer Autumn Cramer told The Fix in an email that the network helps religiously conservative or pro-life students feel at home in “overwhelmingly liberal institutions.”
“It is easy to feel like you’re alone,” Cramer said. “Having a huge group of people (students, professionals, otherwise accomplished folks) who think like you is very empowering.”
Columbia Law Professor Philip Hamburger, another David Network conference speaker, offered comments to The Fix in anticipation of this year’s summit.
“The David Network conference brings together large numbers of thoughtful and sophisticated students and a wide range of public figures,” Hamburger said. “It’s a great place for conversation and ideas.”
Nate Fischer, the 2022 conference’s keynote conference speaker and CEO of New Founding, a venture firm, told The Fix that the David Network serves an important function in helping college conservatives find each other.
New Founding “ builds and backs companies defined by American ideals and a positive national vision,” according to its website. It “explicitly oppose[s] DEI/ESG and the bureaucratization of American business culture.”
The David Network “connect[s] ambitious people in a space that is particularly hostile yet still crucial,” Fischer said.
“My 2022 talk was about a new approach to credentials and elite opportunities,” Fischer said. “Since the David Network serves students at elite schools, the positive reactions showed how even young people succeeding in the current system—maybe especially such people—recognize key flaws with that system and are drawn to approaches with true transformative potential.”