“This is what a conservative looks like”: New faces of the movement
Ask millennial conservative women what they believe a “conservative” is. You will likely get answers like, “a conservative is someone against big government policies,” or “someone who favors laissez-faire or free market ideas,” or even, “a conservative is someone who holds the belief that they can do anything in life.” These are a few of the responses that Karin Agness, President and Founder of the Network of enlightened Women (NeW), received when she asked the crowd at the organization’s second annual Young Women’s Leadership Retreat.
The retreat, hosted at Randolph-Macon College July 14-17, trains and educates young collegiate women on conservative issues. These next-generation leaders made up of both incoming freshmen and upperclassmen spent four days learning how to combat liberal bias on college campuses.
Attendees had the opportunity to hear from a variety of leaders including, Eliana Johnson of National Review, Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner, Brad Wilcox of the National Marriage Project at University of Virginia, Jackee Gonzalez of the Family Foundation, and Megan Lacy, counsel to Senator Chuck Grassley. These speakers covered a broad range of conservative issues, from the wage gap myth to the economic benefits of marriage. Johnson, the keynote speaker of the retreat, spoke about the pressure on college students to have a specific five-year plan. Johnson’s frank advice was a relief for some students.
“The most important thing I learned was about handling life and jobs after college,” said University of Georgia student Sydney North. “This conference encouraged me to network on campus.”
Washington Examiner journalist Ashe Schow taught students how to write opinion articles. She also discussed her investigation into the claim that sexual assault on college campuses is rampant and where the national media gets it wrong. Topics like this are not typically covered in college classes, especially not from a conservative viewpoint.
The young women participated in healthy debates over the four days. Policy discussions went well into the night, even after scheduled activities were over.
This debate is often not heard on college campuses these days. Too often, universities are no longer marketplaces of ideas but rather function like censorship machines. So far, about 1 in 6 colleges in America have “Free Speech Zones.” Some liberal students are even willing to shut down any possibility of hosting conservative speakers on campus because it “triggers” them. It was evident that the retreat attendees were dedicated to protecting the First Amendment.
The young women attendees were extremely eager to start NeW chapters on their campuses and lead a discussion about conservative female empowerment. They had ideas on how to fight back against speech restrictions and received advice from prior chapter leaders. Macy Wilbanks from the University of Georgia is one of future leaders.
“I learned why I stand where I do politically, which has better prepared me to defend my beliefs on campus,” she said.
NeW’s 2016 Young Women’s Leadership Retreat empowered these young women to go back to their college campuses and attack liberal bias. The attendees were proud to represent the conservative voice, and they are elated to showcase that they are what a conservative looks like. NeW is releasing their “This Is What A Conservative Looks Like” campaign this fall, an initiative to bring a fresh, feminine, and feisty face to the conservative movement. After attending the retreat, Elizabeth O’Connor from Manhattan College said, “I definitely don’t feel alone in my ideas anymore, which makes me confident.”
These women are driven, vocal, informed, and rational. They are the young protectors of free speech, intellectual diversity, and healthy debate. Despite all the attempts by the Left to stop it, they are proud to be conservative.