Oct 27, 2009

Political Strategy Conference encourages students to become critical thinkers, inspire conservative activists

by Tiffany Edwards

The Leadership Institute’s (LI) Political Strategy Conference was held in the Football Operations Center at William Stadium on Oct. 24. This is the fifth year the Leadership Institute (LI) has held conferences and bi-annual workshops at Liberty. The goal of LI is to create critical thinkers with solid moral principles, according to Bryan Bernys, the organization’s national field director for LI.

“We consider ourselves more of a ‘do tank’ than a ‘think tank.’ We will … go wherever a conservative organization would like us to come,” Bernys said. “Our goal is … just to make effective conservative activists – whether that is a candidate running for office, a group of people fighting a ballot initiative or just … one person taking initiative in their civil responsibility and walking door-to-door or volunteering for a campaign.”

The goal of Saturday’s Political Strategy Conference was to educate students about various campaign strategies that are used by successful candidates at all political levels. The speakers covered topics such as the importance of having a solid campaign message as door-to-door campaigning, organizing phone banks, interacting with potential voters and facing opposition.

“Every communicator must realize that we are all different in the way that we receive (and interpret) messages, and must use this understanding as a guide for communication with others,” Pattison said. “This is … the essence of political messaging. We all have … different foundations … that we (use) to perceive the world around us. Here at Liberty, students … and faculty are the Liberty community, and that is one view from which we might see things.”

Students who are looking to participate in local government should volunteer for local campaigns for a start, according to Bernys.

Working for city council and gubernatorial elections are good ways to gain experience in the political arena.

“When I’m hiring people to work for a … campaign, I’m looking for people who have done campaigns in the past, as opposed to candidates who have a master’s degree in political science.

There’s a certain amount of this politics thing that you just have to learn from doing,” Bernys said. “You really have to have a love for (campaigning) to do it for that nature … if you find someone who has done it successfully, two or three different campaigns in a row, you know they’ve got to be pretty good.”

The audience at the conference consisted primarily of Helms School of Government students and Lynchburg community residents who are active in the upcoming local and state elections.

“I’m (volunteering for) the Bob McDonnell campaign right now, so … it was nice to see all the work that’s done in all the positions (above me),” freshman Sean Maguire said. “I’ve gained an increased respect for the people that are running everything. I know how pivotal it is to have volunteers, and today I just learned how much work goes into getting the volunteers ready to go.”

Contact Tiffany Edwards at tredwards2@liberty.edu.

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