Feb 23, 2010

Students attend CPAC

by Melinda Zosh

Liberty students missed class to attend the “premier event for conservatives” in Washington, D.C.—the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Feb. 18-20 at the Marriott Waldman Park Hotel.

Students heard former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, political commentator and writer Ann Coulter and FOX News host Glenn Beck. Freshman Israel Jackson heard Beck’s speech about restoring America back to its foundations.

“He was able to criticize the American people and get a standing ovation for it,” Jackson said. “Changes need to be done, because both parties are imperfect. The sooner we are able to admit our mistakes, the sooner we are able to heal our wounds and move forward with progress.”

Some students decided to mingle and network instead.

Senior Jadan Horyn was eating lunch at the hotel when he spotted a recognizable face—former Senator Rick Santorum (R) of Horyn’s home state of Pennsylvania. Horyn walked over to Santorum’s table and introduced himself. He wanted Santorum to clear up a rumor.

“Yes, I might run for President in 2012,” Santorum said. “Would you vote for me?”

Horyn looked Santorum in the eye as he was shaking his hand, and he did not hesitate to answer.

“I said ‘yes, I would vote for you,” Horyn said.

CPAC offers a rare opportunity for young leaders to meet their elected officials face-to-face, according to Horyn.

“I had the opportunity to see my former senator and someone I respect for not compromising his values even though he knew he would not be re-elected,” Horyn said.

CPAC is an opportunity for conservatives to listen to rising political players such as Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and former government leaders such as Attorney General John Ashcroft. Bachmann, a mother of five, said that the conservative movement is about reaching one person at a time.

“God gave us rights that the government can never take away,” Bachmann said. “Use your creativity and innovation to take back Washington, D.C.”

Meeting and making connections with politicians is the most important aspect of this conference, according to senior communications major Garrett Hawkins.

“It is great to see people who are big in politics, but more importantly, (CPAC) is about the people you meet just walking around (the hotel),” Hawkins said.

Before he traveled to D.C., Hawkins’ father told him about his friendship with Steve Morello, a former military official. Now Morello is forming a friendship with Hawkins.

“I want to be involved with government and politics in some capacity,” Hawkins said. “I am applying to graduate school for Public Administration, and Steve Morello talked me into applying to George Washington University.”

Liberty students participated in CPAC’s annual straw poll to determine which candidates are conservative’s favorites. (For this years results, see right.)

“It is the only conference I know of that draws thousands of conservatives to Washington, D.C., and we rally around principles,” Hawkins said. “The key is finding the right candidate to rally around in the 2012 presidential election.”

The Leadership Institute (LI) offered a job fair to conference participants, and students talked to employers about possible job opportunities. In addition to attending CPAC’s job fair, young leaders should continue networking and forming connections, according to Horyn.

“In politics, the reason that connections are so important is because everyone has a cause and something they believe in,” Horyn said. “By linking like-minded people, a movement grows. Connections help you make your voice heard faster.”

Jackson met Republican National Committee Chairman (RNC) Michael Steele, and he plans to return to CPAC next year to meet other politicians.

“Every government major needs to go to CPAC to understand how they can get involved in the restoration of conservative principles in which our country was founded,” Jackson said. “CPAC is a good way to get you connected.”

Contact Melinda Zosh at

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