Six conservative leaders and writers spoke on a variety of topics at the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute’s 11th annual Conservative Leadership Seminar. Topics ranged from political bias in newspapers and universities, to lessons for leadership from past president Ronald Reagan. The Institute exists to “prepare young women for effective conservative leadership and to promote school choice opportunities for all K-12 children in America,” and hosts this annual seminar in order to “showcase” leaders in the conservative movement.
Syndicated columnist Suzanne Fields began the afternoon with a passionate talk on newspapers and the different political views they subtly present. She pointed out the historic importance of newspapers in America, and then compared the Washington Times and the Washington Post today. According to Fields, Washington is a “two newspaper town” today. Fields urged her audience to carefully compare newspapers in order to achieve a more objective view of the news. To support her argument, she showed the difference in the respective front pages of the Post and the Times, by demonstrating that an article covering President Bush’s recent commencement address to graduates at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy appeared on page A3 of the Post, while appearing on the front page of the Times, demonstrating a subtle statement on the importance of the event. She also showed that by different choices of quotes, the two newspapers gave dissimilar impressions of the speech.
Fields referred back to how the newspaper industry used to be and showed its changes in recent years. “Different quality of a person going into the business,” said Fields, as she remembered that reporting used to be hard, unglamorous work, while today many people are drawn to the profession because of the glamour involved. She also pointed out how editors have changed their way of working and perhaps their standards, and sadly commented that the industry has become “sloppy.” Fields ended her talk by urging students and interns to make the most of Washington, D.C. and to keep up with politics and news, but to also remember not to neglect other forms of enrichment, specifically reading poetry and novels and enjoying art and culture.
Bay Buchanan, former U.S. Treasurer and president of The American Cause, spoke after Fields, focusing on strong leadership, the importance of standing firm in one’s beliefs as a leader and politician, and various issues currently facing governmental leaders like immigration and border control. Asserting that Mark Felt was a criminal for violating the law in order to leak information to the press, Buchanan discussed the “Deep Throat” issue. She made the point, regardless of the outcome, that how Felt went about exposing Watergate was wrong. Buchanan said FBI agents should not leak information and held up Linda Tripp as an example of the right way to ‘whistleblow’?going to the FBI with information instead of leaking information from the FBI.
Being a leader requires knowing where you stand on issues, according to Buchanan, who feels strongly that leaders must have the courage to speak publicly even when they know they will be opposed and criticized. Fear causes inaction because when people are afraid of criticism, they do nothing, cautioned Buchanan. Buchanan called for Border Control and a crackdown on illegal immigration, arguing that the quota for legal immigrants should be increased, rather than allowing illegal immigrants to remain. Buchanan also argued the futility of increased airline security while the “Southern Door,” southern border, remains open. Buchanan finished by saying leaders have the courage to know what they believe and lead, while people who are not firm about their beliefs are followers.
The Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute presented the next speaker, Kate Griffin, with the Conservative Leadership Award. Griffin, who is chairman of the Virginia Republican Party, spoke about being a conservative woman in leadership after graciously thanking the Institute. A proud mother, Griffin described her relationship with her children saying “As conservatives, you place great emphasis on the integrity of family.” She strongly urged other conservative women to be sure that they do what is right and best for their families, rather than bow to external pressures. Griffin believes the Republican Party best represents the views of both men and women and says she wants to see more women in leadership, citing as examples of good female leadership Priscilla Owens, Janice Rogers Brown, and Condoleezza Rice. Griffin said she viewed both Congress and the Media as being generally against the appointments as federal judges of both Owens and Brown. “Conservative women have had a tougher battle against the media,” said Griffin, who remembered running into disdain and being belittled as a woman. Griffin used anecdotes to support her point that President Bush has shown his supportiveness of women in leadership by his many appointments of influential women, and, according to Griffin, the Republican Party has a more positive and hopeful overall message than the Democratic Party. Griffin ended by giving the vision of the Republican Party.
Dr. Mike Adams, a professor of Criminal Justice at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and author of Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel: Confessions of a Conservative College Professor, spoke on the liberal bias apparent in public universities across the nation. Adams referred to the UNC system as a “compound” of liberal ideas and cited several examples of liberal practices that were too extreme to be appropriate for college campuses. He focused on the UNC systems when citing examples, and steered the discussion toward what conservative college students can do about liberal bias in university education. Adams called for students to petition for conservative speakers at their college campuses, saying, at a public university the mandatory student fees must be returned on a “value neutral basis”?with equal numbers of conservative speakers and liberal speakers. Adams urged conservative college students to expand and create more conservative-minded groups. He also insisted that at a public university, students had a right to equal representation of political ideology, whereas currently liberal thinkers outnumber conservative thinkers on most campuses.
Resident American Enterprise Institute Scholar and author of One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance, Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers discussed American feminism with a refreshingly unique point of view. Sommers called herself a feminist but quickly followed her statement by saying she was in favor of capitalism and did not think “equal opportunity” was the same as “equal results.”
Challenging ‘party lines’ led to ostracism, according to Sommers, who pointed out how unaccustomed feminists are to people like her, and how unaccustomed universities are to anyone who does not follow liberal ideas. Daringly, Sommers declared American women are already liberated and said American women should be grateful rather than grow bitter because of a misconception that they are held back for being women.
Sommers brought up the widely produced “Vagina Monologues” being performed on college campuses, calling the play ‘hateful to men’ and ‘demeaning to women’ because of its vulgarity. She says the effect of this play on some women causes them to lead hate campaigns against men. We should strive for “harmony, not gender war,” according to Sommers.
The seminar ended with speaker Craig Shirley, author of Reagan’s Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign that Started It All, and partner at Shirley & Banister Public Affairs. Shirley discussed former president Ronald Reagan, focusing on the presidential election of 1976 in which Reagan challenged then-incumbent President Gerald Ford for the Republican Party nomination. According to Shirley, this was a shocking action for the times, to challenge an incumbent president, and yet Reagan came unexpectedly close to winning the nomination. Also, according to Shirley, this campaign was vital to Reagan’s ultimate success, becoming the catalyst for his 1980 win and subsequent popularity.
Shirley emphasized the importance of this event, going into great detail about the race and how without both running and losing in 1976, Reagan quite possibly would have faded into the oblivion of history without becoming president. Wrapping up his speech with a quick look at the highlights of Reagan’s administration, Shirley argued that without his presidency, the Cold War would not have ended or would have ended differently and the American economy would not have expanded like it ultimately did.