Live at YAF!

Greetings from the Marvin Center at George Washington University, where I’m covering the 30th National Conservative Student Conference, sponsored by Young America’s Foundation. Will be updating regularly . . .

9:20 p.m. — Rich Lowry was funny. And depressing. The steak was delicious and the carrot cake was good.

8 p.m. — My tablemates at dinner include Kirby Wilbur, talk radio star of Seattle’s KVI, and one of Doug Giles‘s daughters. Also, two students from Patrick Henry College, and Allison Aldrich of CNS News.

7 p.m. — Just got back from a brief pre-dinner at TGI Friday’s, where I interviewed Dan Flynn, who got his start with YAF as an undergraduate at U-Mass./Amherst back in the 1990s. Among other things, he protested the university’s plans to rename the library after W.E.B. DuBois (who joined the Communist Party, praised Stalin and renounced his American citizenship). Flynn had the Flat Iron Steak.

4:50 p.m. — Brooks just finished. He was introduced by YAF intern Alisa Kassil, Kings College in New York, who said of his speech: “I thought it was a refreshing look at the current state of affairs.”

Next up, National Review editor Rich Lowry speaks at tonight’s banquet.

4:15 p.m. — Just met Sgt. Frank Anello, USMC, who is a student at Norwich University in Vermont. Anello, a married father of two, participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and describes the opening day of the war as “the greatest day in my life,” and says he “can’t wait to get back” to Iraq. With more than 8 years in the service, Sgt. Anello is working toward a commission as a platoon leader. Semper fi!

3:45 p.m. — David Brooks is speaking now. I’ve left my recorder in the auditorium for future reference, while I blog some shoutouts for a few of my peeps. Having seen them at previous YAF events and at CPAC, some of these future leaders of conservatism are becoming familiar faces: Sara Mikolajczak, Andrew McIndoe, Ruth Malhotra (who just won her lawsuit against Georgia Tech), Benny Johnson, Dan Lipian, Rachel Coolidge, Tom Qualtere and Gabby Shuster are here, to name just a few.

At any rate, I need to get myself chilled before going back in the room with the originator of “National Greatness” conservatism.

3:10 p.m. — “You can’t trust the Left to write their own history,” Dan Flynn, author of A Conservative History of the American Left, told the hundreds of students gathered here. “They don’t want to be reminded.”

Flynn recounted the history of 19th-century socialist Robert Owen and his “New Harmony” commune, “a complete disaster.” Flynn noted that Owen wished to abolish three great evils: private property, religion and marriage. “It is as it was — not a lot has changed in 180 years,” Flynn said.

The notion of “heaven on earth,” of men running a godless temporal paradise is “the most harmful delusion in history,” Flynn said.

New York Times columnist David Brooks speaks next. Mere coincidence …

2:25 p.m. — Just finished a panel on “Status of the Young Conservative Movement in 2008,” featuring Charlie Smith, chairmon of the College Republican National Committee; Ron Robinson, president of YAF; Morton Blackwell, president of the Leadership Institute; and Douglas Minson, executive director of academic affairs at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

During the Q&A session, Crystal Boyd of UNLV asked a question about “brand damage,” students who reject the “conservative” label. She spoke of talking to a fellow student who said, “I’m a libertarian — I’m voting for Obama” — rather a non-sequitur. Ron Robinson answered that this is “often more a question of self-identification,” with students agreeing more with the conservative position on issues. “You have to engage them,” Robinson said. “Do not abandon the conservative label,” he advised, citing the fact that “conservative” is far more popular than “liberal” as a political identifier.

Blackwell pointed out that “the vast majority of college students are apathetic” and said conservative students have an “opening to get these people . . . get a good book or magazine in their hands . . . get them involved.”

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