Spring break started early for the College Republicans of Millersville University. The club sent eight of its members to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on March 2. Hosted at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, CPAC is an annual four-day symposium of the foremost conservative minds in America, sponsored by the American Conservative Union.
Our activities began Wednesday night with the Activism Boot camp. This early stage of CPAC gives students and professors a chance to hear speakers and ask questions about how to spread the principles of conservatism while combating some of the false stigmas that surround the Republican Party.
Thursday saw the start of the main itinerary for the rest of the trip. Gov. Scott Walker (WI) and Iowa senator Jodi Ernst kicked things off with back-to-back speeches. Other keynote speakers included former ambassador John Bolton, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Sen. Tim Scott (SC) and Wayne LaPierre, the CEO and Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association. The day was punctuated with more breakout sessions, on topics such as Reforming the Criminal Justice System and Fighting for Victory against Radical Islamism. That evening, a thousand of us gathered in the Potomac Ballroom to watch the 11th Republican debate, televised on the big screens by Fox News. It was great reacting to the candidates’ retorts with jeering boos and uproarious applause.
All of the major news networks were there to cover the events at CPAC. Talk radio and television luminaries such as Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and Glenn Beck where there to interact with the swarming crowds. The CPAC Hub has all the right-wing interest groups set up at booths to peddle their merchandise as well as their wisdom. Business casual is the preferred style of dress for men and women, but some individuals leave behind the suits for comfortable, patriotic attire. It’s better for the cameras to express yourself at CPAC!
CPAC reached its zenith on Friday as the best speakers were brought in to share their ideas. Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 astronaut and second man to walk on the moon, implored America to regain its edge in aerospace exploration by seeking a manned flight to Mars. Secret Service was there to secure the venue for three of the Republican presidential candidates. Gov. John Kasich (OH) was first up, followed shortly thereafter by Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) and Dr. Ben Carson, who was there to announce that he was officially suspending his campaign. All three men answered questions after they spoke. Many college students congregated toward social engagements later that night to talk and network.
Saturday was mostly reserved for discussion panels. These are more relaxed than debates and allow subject experts to deliberate on ideas and offer solutions to the problems facing America. Senator Marco Rubio (FL) spoke at noon and was the final Republican Presidential candidate to do so; Donald Trump reneged on his commitment to speak before a packed house of true conservatives. The CPAC straw poll results were announced later that night, with Sen. Cruz coming in first, Sen. Rubio taking a close second and Trump a distant third (full results are available online).
CPAC is an excellent way for young conservatives to meet and engage with statesman and academics alike. Our Marauders seized the opportunity to immerse themselves in the chaotic political climate of this election cycle. If you are interested in becoming politically active on campus, the College Republicans or College Democrats might be right for you! Check out the Get Involved pages at MU.edu, or ask Dr. Lawrence for more information at Fulton House.