This past Thursday night, I had the real pleasure of speaking on the campus of Syracuse University to members of the student body, faculty, and community on the topic of the future of conservatism.
My visit was sponsored by the College Republicans on campus, who are definitely in the minority at Syracuse.
I think I learned that the future of conservatism is a lot better in the hands of some of the students that I met than I feel it is with some of the adults who think they are in charge. I had dinner with about 10 of the students before the speech and I absolutely loved hearing those students explain what made them believe in a free-market economy, individual responsibility, the sanctity of human life, limited government, and a strong national defense.
Now they didn't hold those views because they thought it would make them more popular and loved by their fellow students, but because they had thought through how their future and their country could best be free.
There were plenty of students who attended who told me they disagreed with pretty much everything I stood for, but even those students were respectful and gracious.
I take issue with the commonly held but misinformed view that today's students aren't engaged, and that they fail to care about their future. Frankly, I'm not so sure that a preponderance of students in my day were all that totally plugged in to the issues of the day either.
Some of my generation were very active in leading anti-war protests, pushing for 18 year olds to get to the vote, and even for racial equality. But those I met the other night and other conservative students I have met over the last several months and years, well they bring intelligence, intellectual passion, thoughtful consideration of others, and a desire to seek truth.
I've been a little disgusted to hear that some people in the conservative movement and the Republican Party think our way forward is to manipulate the primary process by trying to destroy good and decent Republican candidates with boatloads of big money so as to ensure that we end up nominating establishment Republicans instead of movement conservatives. The fratricide approach of the establishment to spend money to attack those of the conservative wing of the Republican family will prove catastrophic. OK, I'm fine with raising and spending money to elect the Republicans you like, but why would any Republican want to do the dirty work of the Democrats and destroy a fellow Republican?
You see, I was greatly encouraged by the maturity and visionary big-picture perspective of those university students I met. They know what they are for and not just what they are against. I feel much better about the future of conservatism than the present. I would welcome the younger conservatives taking a much larger role in shaping the Republican Party.
Truth is, I went to Syracuse to encourage those young conservative students. I sure hope I did that, but I do know for sure they encouraged me.