Charlotte Townsend’s YWLR Experience

Hear from Charlotte Townsend, President of NeW at the College of Charleston, about her experience at NeW’s 2018 Young Women’s Leadership Retreat. 

“Charlotte wants to do it!” one of the interns shouted. I could feel my adrenaline start to pump. It was the first full day of NeW’s annual Young Women’s Leadership Retreat, held at Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia, PA. I was attending this retreat for a second time not only to educate myself on public policies that affect women but also to encourage other young conservative women to fall in love with the organization I have grown with for the past year.

Charlotte participates in a resume and cover letter workshop lead by Vanessa Rivera.

During one of our breaks, we had a small group activity — “brag about how awesome you are for three minutes.” Neither bragging about myself, nor being the center of attention are activities I like to partake in. Nor do I like having both occur at the same time. It’s funny how I ended up front and center bragging about how great I would be as the White House Chief of Staff (a girl can still dream) for a minute and a half. Although I was a nervous wreck — hands trembling and voice shaking — this exercise both encouraged and empowered me. I had to play on one of my biggest insecurities, but I was better for it, for this instance foreshadowed the confidence I would eventually gain by the end of the retreat.

Charlotte meets Sheila Tate, former press secretary for Nancy Reagan

On the final night, I had been asked to serve as a panelist in a discussion called “NeW and You.” I was given the opportunity to sit beside two women who I’ve admired since I began my journey with NeW just one year ago — Emily Hall, founder of NeW at Harvard, and Maggie Horzempa, President of NeW at UNC-Chapel Hill. This was definitely a first for me. I was nervous. Would I have any valuable advice to offer? Will the words even come out clearly? I kept recounting the embarrassment I felt standing before everyone on the first day. Every night after retreat activities, I would return to my room, going over and over the sample questions for the panel. I attempted to come up with well thought-out answers.

The night of the panel, however, I surprised myself. Nothing I said was from my personal script. It came in the moment; it came from my heart. It was then that I realized how much NeW means to me and how valuable it is to the other young women who were attending. Before that night, my best friend told me, “It’s less about the delivery and more about what they take away from it.” It wasn’t important how nervous I was. What was important was that I spoke the truth.

Over the course of the retreat, I was trying to overcome an internal struggle. NeW helped me find my voice, literally. It is because of NeW and it’s network of conservative women that I can find the courage within myself to take on every opportunity that comes my way, even if it is uncomfortable. We empower one another to make choices that will ultimately better us and provide personal satisfaction. It’s something called “opportunity feminism” — a conservative kind of feminism.

We encourage women to be independent leaders, no matter their political ideologies. We encourage women to live their lives the way they want to. Modern feminists want you to have a choice, but will only support you so long as you make the right one. That’s their choice, not yours. The modern movement prioritizes liberal women over conservative ones, which goes against its very definition of being for all women. According to Katie Yoder, NeW alumna of the chapter at the University of Virginia, this is where feminism gets its bad reputation — by proclaiming to advance all women when it clearly does not give conservative women a voice. Feminism should be teaching all women that they can chase after their aspirations.

By having more of a role in this year’s YWLR, I was able to grow personally while helping other conservative women do just the same. I wanted them to leave that weekend knowing that everything in life is about choices and that the choice is theirs to make. I also wanted them to know that they have NeW, a community of strong women behind them who would support those choices. You do not have to buy into the modern feminist movement. Be strong as an individual. You do have a choice.

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