CPAC 2012: Young people rule at CPAC (Exclusive Video)

The youth are energized and mobilized in the conservative movement. Photo: Woody Jenkins

WASHINGTON, February 11, 2012―”Bring it on!” said scores of young, dapper CPAC goers to the several hundred Occupiers who marched in protest on the conservative conference today.

The contrast was stark: hoards of clean-shaven, male college students dressed in a veritable uniform of blue blazer, khakis, and tie, versus Occupy marchers in jeans, sweatshirts, and beanies. Each group spoke with equal ferocity, and the mutual contempt was palpable.

Young conservatives relish the opportunity to engage. Thousands came from up and down the East Coast and Midwest to Washington as new recruits in a political war that is sure to continue. The kids on the Right are eager jump in the battle.

According to the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, 55% of attending registrants this year are under 25, a figure that came as little surprise to anyone who saw the masses of conservative youth.

One of those under 25-year-olds is Signè Thomas, who spoke to the main CPAC audience on Saturday.

“I hope to spread the conservative message to more young people across the country. They are so important to the movement,” said Thomas. “That’s why I gave a shout-out to campus conservatives. Their efforts need to be recognized.” Thomas is a senior at Florida State University, who hopes to work for Fox News when she graduates.

One man brought his five sons, ranging from 10 years old to college-aged, to the conference from New Hampshire.

Other students came with small groups from their respective college campuses. Amy Timmerman, a sophomore at the University of Dayton, came with her classmate, Gabrielle Maresco to CPAC with about ten other College Republicans.

“It’s been interesting,” Timmerman said. “I love hearing firsthand the what everyone has said and interacting with other conservatives.”

Maresco, who has been conservative as long as she can remember, has been impressed with her first CPAC experience. “It’s much more than I ever expected. I’m so glad that I got to come.”

Chris Vari, who is college graduate interning with a conservative a non-profit, is also enthusiastic. The cheerful mood among young people on the inside is a bright contrast with the protesters on the outside.

Yet Vari readily admits that neither group is typical of young people across the country. “Those of us who come to CPAC are kind of unusual,” he said, adding that they are politically “geeky.”

Yet, “Occupy is not at all in the mainstream,” Vari explained. “Young people are open to a conservative message. If we can communicate effectively and with feeling, then we can bring over young people to our side.”

Judging by young people’s participation and enthusiasm at CPAC, someone is doing a pretty good job. 

Rich is a teacher and a soldier. In addition to writing the “Rich Like Me” political column at the Washington Times Communities, he is the author of Nine Weeks: A Teacher’s Education in Army Basic TrainingTunnel Club; and Not Another Boring Textbook: A High School Students’ Guide to their Inner Conservative, which you can follow on Facebook.

Learn more about the author at 




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Rich Stowell

Rich Stowell has written about politics and travel for the Washington Times Communities since 2011. He is a soldier in the Utah National Guard and a fellow at the Center for Communication and Community at the University of Utah. Rich is the author of "Nine Weeks: A Teacher's Education in Army Basic Training"and continues to blog about military issues at “My Public Affairs.”

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