Young Americans for Freedom sponsors student trip to CPAC


A select group of the Franciscan University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 3-5.

CPAC is a gathering of thousands of socially and politically conservative leaders, legislators and citizens, who meet each year to make a cause for the conservative way of thought, not only in Washington, D.C., but across the whole country.

Included in the extensive lineup of speakers were current presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former candidate Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Cruz largely dedicated his speech to remember the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

“Justice Scalia was a lion of the law, and he ferociously protected the Bill of Rights for all of us,” said Cruz.

He said that this presidential election will have an enormous impact on the direction that the court will take in coming years.

“His (Scalia’s) passing underscores that this election is not about one branch of government,” said Cruz. “It’s about two. We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court ruling that government can take our religious liberty away and force everyone of us on penalty of prison or fine,” said Cruz.

Cruz told attendees that if elected president, he would make nominations to the court that would honor traditional, constitutional values.

“I will not compromise away your religious liberty,” said Cruz.

Rubio also centered his discussion around the importance of this election.

“The election of 2016 is no longer simply a choice between political parties or even ideologies,” said Rubio.

Rubio urged listeners to realize the gravity that this election holds for the future of the United States of America.

“The fundamental question before America right now is what kind of country this is going to be in the 21st century. … If we remain on this road, we will have to explain why our children and grandchildren did not inherit what we did,” said Rubio.

Dr. Ben Carson also gave a speech at the conference, his appearance coinciding with his decision to suspend his campaign for president.

“Even though I might be leaving the campaign trail, I will still continue to be heavily involved in trying to save our nation,” said Carson. “We have to save it,” he said.

Businessman Donald J. Trump was scheduled to make an appearance on March 5, but he canceled less than 24 hours before he was slated to give his speech.

There was a wide variety of opinions of those Franciscan students regarding the various candidates and speeches that they presented when it came to topic and policy.

“My favorite speaker was Sen. Ted Cruz because he called for the repeal of Obamacare and emphasized the key role that young people will play in the upcoming election,” said Stephen Shaw, a junior at Franciscan University. “Cruz affirmed the value of standing for conservative principles and expressed solidarity with Israel. For those reasons, I hope he will be the Republican nominee for president.”

Freshman Michelle Fortunato said, “My favorite speakers were Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz. … I liked what Paul Ryan said about poverty. ‘We need to measure success by success, not by the number of people on welfare.’ I also loved how enthusiastic people were for Ted Cruz. … I liked how he (Cruz) opened with ‘Donald Trump isn’t coming. I think he heard Megyn Kelly was going to be here. Or worse, he heard conservatives were going to be here.’”

Junior Ben Stroka said, “Ben Carson gave a graceful speech when he suspended his campaign. … I thought it was touching and I’d say Dr. Carson ran a great campaign and one to be very proud of.”

Sophomore Brianna Santana said, “My favorite speaker was Donald Trump because he taught me the value of commitment. … His absence at the conference continued to help form my opinion on him and allowed me to see how inept he is to be president.”

For a majority of the Franciscan students, this was not their first time attending CPAC. For others, it was a first-time experience. One Steubenville local who joined on the trip was able to offer a unique perspective, as it was her first time in attendance.

“This was my first CPAC, so I didn’t honestly know what to expect, but I know I went thinking there was going to be a narrow demographic of people represented,” said Clare Wiker. “I was surprised and pleased by the wide range of diversity among the speakers. The highlight for me, as a person with a strong interest in Argentine politics, was hearing Gloria Álvarez speak on Latin America and populism. She was absolutely dynamic.”

The trip was sponsored by the Franciscan University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom.