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    Tuesday, February 27, 2007

    YCT State Convention

    On Friday night, February 23rd, the YCT State Convention began in Houston. First, we started with a visit to the house of a state representative (and a former YCT chairman). Appetizers and libations were had, and we heard a talk from a sitting U.S. Representative (name escapes me).

    On Saturday, the convention lasted all day, beginning about 9am. There were a range of speakers, but the main one I was able to hear was talk radio host Neil Boortz. All I can say is pick up one of his books: The Fair Tax (a best seller) or his new one, Somebody's Gotta Say It. The first one is about what this country desperately needs: all encompassing tax reform. It's a genius (yet simple) plan. The latter title goes after something this country needs less of: political correctness. The speech his gave was flat out HILARIOUS. I've never laughed so hard during a conservative intellectual speech. He is entertaining and I wasn't planning on buying the only title they had avaiable (the new one), but I felt that I had to reward the man for such entertainment and perhaps take some of that entertainment home with me through his writings.

    The Young Conservatives of Texas are always a funch bunch of conservative activists. They know how to piss off the Left and have a good time doing it. They also know how to have a good time generally, as is always evident at their gatherings.

    On Sunday, I went to mass at a church near downtown Houston and then I joined my friend James O'Keefe (also from LI) for lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe in Houston. As James took off in his car, I prepared to head to the airport. Once I got there, I found out my flight was cancelled (doh!) After 17 days on the road, I was really looking forward to my own bed. But, the snow in Philly prevented me from getting back.

    I was at the Southwest Airlines counter and the customer service agent was describing the conditions in Philly (reading from her monitor). It sounded yucky. It was in the 20s, snowing, and less than 2 miles visibility. Meanwhile, in Houston, it was about 75 degrees and sunny. I told her, "maybe I don't want to go back yet." So, I grabbed a room at the aiport hotel and got a good night's sleep and was able to catch the next flight on Monday morning. Once I was back in Philly, the airport shuttle brought me directly to ISI, where I worked the rest of the afternoon. About 18 days in a row working... and there was no telling when I would stop.

    I had just 2 days to prepare for CPAC - the largest annual gathering of conservatives that takes place each year in D.C. And I am the "go to guy" for ISI at CPAC. Another full week ahead.

    Thursday, February 22, 2007

    College Station and Rice University

    On Ash Wednesday, I departed Dallas slowly. Before I left, I went to noon mass in the Cathedral downtown, where the Bishop of Dallas celebrated the mass. Then I traveled down to College Station, Texas to meet with ISI Campus Representative Beth Donalson, who hosted an ISI soiree on her campus during the visit. Three graduate students, one assistant faculty member, and two undergraduates attended, as did my friend and Texas A&M alum, Jeff Frazee from the Leadership Institute. We used the period to focus on how to revamp the existing ISI Group at Texas A&M. I gave them advice on how to get more people involved, diversify their activities, and use ISI’s resources.

    I didn't spend too long in College Station, but I will say it was a remarkably beautiful day. It must have been 75 degrees. After the soiree, I departed towards Houston. There's literally nothing out there between College Station and Houston. But, the "sprawl" of Houston starts a good 30 miles out. I got to my hotel around 9:30pm and the next morning, I slept in and did some work from the hotel room.

    On Thursday night, I visited the campus of Rice University, where ISI Campus Representative Sarah Duke (the daughter of former ISI staff member, Eileen Duke) hosted an ISI soiree. Students from the College Republicans, libertarians, and others attended, as did two faculty members from other campuses, a professor of history froma the University of Houston and another ISI Faculty Associate from Houston Baptist University, who was once an ISI Weaver fellow (I swear I've met about 100 of the 500 former Weaver fellows). I used the technology savvy classroom at Rice University to show the students the ISI history video, walk them through features on ISI’s website, and talked to them about the history of conservatism and how they can get involved with the future of conservatism with ISI.

    Some of the students there are already planning a Right-leaning publication on campus, bringing together conservative and libertarians to explore “free thought” on campus. I spoke to them about the Collegiate Network and showed them examples of other CN papers on the CN’s website. We gave out an assortment of materials, including ISI’s Student’s Guides, brochures, journals, and free books. Several students expressed interest in the ISI honors program. Before this visit, we had virtually no activity going on at Rice University, so I am hopeful that this group of students are really developing something nice here. Things certainly seemed promising.

    Wednesday, February 21, 2007

    A few days in Dallas

    On Monday, February 19th (yes, President's Day - if I was back "in the office" this would have been a day off, mental note), I spent the day at the University of Dallas with various members of the ISI Group there, manning an ISI table in the student center. We recruited new members for both the campus group and for ISI's national organization. Later that evening, 10 members from the campus group joined me for dinner at an off-campus establishment to discuss the group’s current activities and future goals. On my last visit to U Dallas (April 2006), there was no ISI Group. So, we had an ISI soiree and a number of students expressed interest, most notably Michael Baker.

    A year later, the group is off and running, thanks mostly to Michael's efforts. Around 15-20 students have been attending meetings regularly and they are working their way through Russell Kirk's Redeeming the Time. UD faculty members have been instrumental in leading the group through some of the essays. The group also plans to add a service dimension to the group, so that their ideas about cultural renewal do not stop at the end of a page, but instead extend to people in their community. Michael mentioned getting the group involved in the activities of Habitat for Humanity, of which he has been a part of in his home state of Louisiana.

    Also on my last visit to Texas last year, I had met several students from Southern Methodist University at the 2006 Young Conservatives of Texas State Convention. After those students attended a workshop I led on how to start a conservative campus publication, they went back to the campus and formed one! They have published ten issues and have just applied for membership with the Collegiate Network. The paper is a small newsletter called The Mustang Post. On this year’s trip, I was able to go back to this campus and visit with the culprits: Reed Hanson, Andy Hemming, and some others.

    We put together an ISI soiree. Only about 6 or 7 students attended, but I reminded them that a movement is not just about numbers, in fact, history has been made by small numbers of people and I recounted the biblical idea of a "remnant" that Albert J. Nock points out to us in his Memoirs of a Superfluous Man. According to Nock, even one person could carry on a tradition. So, I told them, "be a remnant!" They're doing a great job at SMU, where right now they are in a big fight to get the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Apparently about 150 of the faculty signed a petition against it. My thought: who wouldn't want a Presidential library on their campus! Another example of partisanship over education.

    During my time in Dallas, I had the opportunity to get together with another former ISI student and former LI field rep, Brian Bodine. He is now a grad student at UT-Dallas and he met up with me two evenings in a row to discuss the latest in the conservative world. It was also good for him to meet and get reintroduced to the students at SMU. Brian has quite a bit of experience leading conservative groups from his time down at UT-Austin with those other culprits, Brendan Steinhauser and Charlie Ganske.

    Monday, February 19, 2007

    ISI Weekend in Austin and Waco

    On Saturday, February 17, I flew from Tampa, FL to Austin, TX, returning to the Lone Star State. Our longtime ISI Campus Representative Clark Patterson hosted an ISI Saturday afternoon BBQ at his apartment across from the UT-Austin campus.

    I arrived around 11am and the BBQ was not until 5pm, so I had made plans to meet up with Adam Buhrman and his wife Rosa. Adam is the brother of my good friends Rick and Steve Buhrman (an incredible trio). Adam is also a member of a great emerging band, Goldcure. We had a great lunch conversation that mostly involved talking about the culture at large. I've seen Goldcure perform twice, both down in Florida. They are really good. They've only recently moved to Austin for more exposure, and from the sounds of it, people are beginning to notice.

    In the afternoon, we held the ISI BBQ. We started at 5pm and lasted until midnight. Throughout the course of the evening, about 40 people attended, where they were treated to great Texas BBQ with plenty of sides. Among our many guests were Chris Simcox of the Minuteman project and Jeff Frazee of the Leadership Institute. The best part about this bbq event, is that ISI brought together various groups "on the Right" at UT-Austin and there was even discussion between some of the members of these groups about collaborating on building an ISI reading group on the nation's largest campus. ISI seems to be the "fusionist" organization at UT-Austin - bringing together the YCT chapter, the Libertarian Longhorns, the CN paper (Contumacy), Catholic Longhorns for Life, College Republicans, and members of various service groups.

    On Sunday, Jeff Frazee and I attended mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in downtown Austin and then enjoyed a great lunch at an Irish pub. The weather was fantastic, and we sat by the open window, which overlooked Sixth Street. After that, we departed, but I couldn't avoid the temptation to go peer inside the Texas State Capitol, so I did. I really liked seeing the mural on the floor inside the dome: in the center was a large circle representing the "Republic of Texas." Then there were 5 smaller circles surrounding that one that read: Kingdom of Spain, Republic of France, Republic of Mexico, Confederate States of America, and United States of America. These were all the nations that Texas had been a part of (and during one period, they were their own "Republic of Texas")

    After that adventure, I drove up to Waco and met up with my ol' ISI colleague, Brian Embry, who put me up at his place for the night. We met for dinner with the ISI Group at Baylor University, which maintains its status as a “secret society” at Baylor and anonymously publishes the Iconoclast, a journal which provokes conservative thought and discussion on campus. I met with this group last year and so I knew most of them already and knew what I was getting into. One member of the group read two poems which he composed, while another member read his thoughtful editorial on the problems of race, sin, and human nature.

    My first weekend of my 9-day trip to Texas was complete... more to come!

    Friday, February 16, 2007

    Gators, Catholics, and Giulianis in Florida

    After the ISI donor seminar in Ft. Lauderdale, my colleague Judy and I ventured into the Everglades to find some alligators. The easiest and quickest places was an alligator farm and small zoo at the Sawgrass Everglades Park. When we got there, it had just closed, but the shop was still open. One of the nice young ladies there brought out a small baby alligator for us to touch. It was maybe a foot long. Judy got a photo with it (which I'll try posting when I get back home). We did get some glimpses of gators popping their heads up and back under the water in the canals nearby.

    After that adventure, we departed and I traveled across "Alligator Alley" to Naples, where I met up with the former ISI Membership Director and now a current ISI Campus Representative, Tom Harmon, who hosted an ISI soiree at Ave Maria University. Students at the soiree were interested in applying for the honors program, hosting an ISI lecture on campus, and possibly associating a campus group with ISI. It's a very conservative, Catholic school that will soon be moving to its permanent location later this year about 10 miles from the temporary campus in Naples. The new location will be in the new town: Ave Maria, Florida.

    After the soiree, I traveld about 2 1/2 hours north to Tampa, where I crashed at my hotel. The next morning, Friday, February 16, I had lunch with three students at Florida College, a small Christian-based liberal arts college in Temple Terrace. ISI Campus Representative Joseph Bingham brought two other students to lunch to introduce them to ISI (his girlfriend and younger brother). By the end of the lunch, they were talking about the possibility of starting an ISI Group at Florida College, where they said most students were Christian and conservative – except for Joe, who leans libertarian.

    Later that evening, I met up with former ISI Campus Representative at CU-Boulder, Ian Vanbuskirk, who is now an ISI alumnus living and working in Tampa. He's working hard and we got together for a happy hour meal in Tampa. It was good catching up. Ian tried to convince me why voting for Rudy Giuliani would still be considered a prudent choice for conservatives in 2008. I'm not so sure about that, but I heard him out. I'm still touting Brownback, I told him. If that ship goes down, my next guy is Newt. And I think with Newt, not only can Republicans win, but conservatives can as well. If both of those guys go down, I don't know who I'll vote for.

    Well, enough contemplating that... my 8 days in Florida were now closing to a halt. It has been mostly in the 70s, slightly getting up to the 80s for a day or two. But it was cooling down in Tampa to 40s/50s at night, but beautiful during the day. Now it was time to head to Texas where the temperature looks to be about the same.

    Novak, Kristol, and ISI in South Florida

    On Saturday, February 10, I the Federalist Leadership School, conducted by Dr. Donald Devine, vice-chairman of the American Conservative Union, who conducts these schools around the country through his faculty position at Bellevue University (Nebraska). Coordinating with Dr. Devine, I invited ISI students and professors in South Florida to attend this event and discuss the importance of our nation’s federalist principles. Students and faculty were treated to several lectures by Dr. Devine and a luncheon lecture by noted columnist and political commentator, Bob Novak.

    Novak talked about the abandonment of federalist principles, but of course couldn't stay away from discussing 2008. He said it didn't look good for conservatives or Republicans. But he said if he had to put money on who would win the Republican nomination, he'd put it on Romney.

    On Monday, February 12, I traveled down to the University of Miami, where the ISI Group, the “Advocates of Conservative Thought,” hosted an ISI soiree on campus. While only a handful of students attended, I met with the leadership of the group and we discussed how to build a larger and more effective group. I also introduced them to all of ISI’s resources and how they could effectively utilize these resources on their campus. The students expressed a strong desire to bring speakers to campus through the ISI Lecture program, as the university is bringing former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore on back-to-back days this March - UM's President is a former Clinton staffer, so go figure.

    On Tuesday, February 13, FAU Faculty Associate Marshall DeRosa invited me to his afternoon political science class to discuss ISI and conservatism, where I gave a 30-minute lecture on the roots of the American conservative movement, introducing students to the thought of F.A. Hayek, Richard Weaver, Russell Kirk, and Whittaker Chambers. I also passed out ISI literature, including student’s guides and membership brochures and gave a brief history of ISI and the purpose of “educating for liberty.”

    Later that evening, I gave presentations about ISI to two political science classes taught by another FAU Faculty Associate, Dan O’Connell. In these classes, I focused on higher education’s failure to “educate for liberty,” and provided results from ISI's Civic Literacy report and stressed the importance of getting a broad liberal arts education and learning the principles of self-government, set out by our founding fathers. I gave a similar presentation at Professor O’Connell’s political science class at Palm Beach Community College the next evening.

    On Wednesday, February 14, ISI Campus Representatives Christopher Hinyub (Honors Fellow 2006-2007) and Kathryn Davis put together an ISI lunchtime soiree at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Most of the students that attended are enrolled in PBA’s honors program, previously established by ISI Faculty Associate Richard Gamble (who now teaches at Hillsdale College). Students were treated to a presentation about ISI, where I also walked them through the features on the ISI website via a projection screen in the classroom. Chris spoke about his great experience on the ISI Honors Fellowship program and encouraged other students to apply. Several students told me they were definitely going to apply for the ISI honors fellowship program.

    On Thursday, February 15, I attended the ISI Donor Seminar in Fort Lauderdale (my mom was able to attend to!) ISI’s Senior Vice President, Jeff Cain, and former ISI Weaver Fellow and Weekly Standard editor, William Kristol delivered remarks at a luncheon. About 50 people attended, mostly donors, but a few students and recent grads from the area were there too.

    Kristol, known more for his neo-conservative foreign policy, has not really impressed me before. But this time he was very impressive. He spoke candidly about higher education and its weaknesses, but gave mostly an optimistic and hopeful outlook that "the situation is getting better." He spoke about his experience teaching classes at Harvard, where the professors are liberal but the students are open-minded and open to conservative ideas. While his talk was mostly focused on higher education, he too could not stay away from talking about 2008.

    The biggest thing he said was whether you agree/disagree with the front runners on the Republican ticket, you have to admit they all have impressive resumes and backgrounds. He said that each of us have at least one problem with almost every candidate, but that whoever is chosen, it will be a man of distinction. Newt, McCain, Romney, and Giuliani were who he discussed in this category. He also said 2008 was one of the most pivotal elections in our lifetime, as it really will shape the country's outlook and agenda for the next 20-30 years.

    Friday, February 09, 2007

    Brownback "on tap" with Movement Conservatives

    Read my article at

    Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) spoke at the ISI Young Alumni Association's "Conservatism on Tap" on Monday night, February 5th at the District Chophouse in Washington, D.C. Read more.

    I'm on board. Call me a Brownbacker.

    Tuesday, February 06, 2007

    The Future of Religion in American Politics Explored at Reagan Symposium at Regent

    The Future of Religion in American Politics seems to be a hot topic these days. Well, Pat Robertson's School of Government at Regent University explored the issue last Friday, February 2nd in the Second Annual Reagan Symposium. I have been lucky enough to attend the first two years of this symposium and the school does a great job of putting together an excellent lineup of top-notch conservative intellectuals to discuss these perennial concerns. ISI Faculty Associate Charles Dunn is to be commended for organizing this forum and putting it together.

    This year's speakers included Hadley Arkes, Michael Novak, Darryl Hart, Michael Barone, Michael Cromartie, Daniel Dreisbach, Jean Bethe Elshtain, and Marvin Olasky. They all gave their take and by the end of the day one could certainly agree with historian Philip Jenkins who has said that America is the story of a Christian nation becoming an even more Christian nation. However, also in that story is the fact that some secularists are trying to wipe religion and its symbols (i.e. Wren Cross at W&M) from the public square.

    I've almost reached the point where I'm tired of this debate and I remember back to the times when Christians simply persisted as "remnants" and carried on the traditions despite persecution. Whether or not our religion is in the public square, allowed in the public square, or is banished from the public square, what is much more important is that we seek to follow Christ in our hearts and be witnesses to Him where we can. But, it is still great to see these discussions taking place in such a civil, academic environment. That is rare in these times, and Regent University is one of the few places in this country where that discussion can still take place.

    Monday, February 05, 2007

    D'Souza defends the Wren Cross at William & Mary

    On Thursday, February 1, I attended the ISI Cicero's Podium debate at the College of William & Mary. A storm has been brewing since last fall, when President of the College removed the historic Wren Cross from the Wren Chapel. ISI brought Dinesh D'Souza to campus to debate Professor David Holmes on the topic, "Religion and the Campus: Should the Wren Cross Be Reinstated in Wren Chapel."

    D'Souza destroyed him and made the case for religious freedom on the campus. You can watch it here .