David Keene, Opinion Editor of The Washington Times and National Rifle Association president from 2011 to 2013, was a prominent Young Americans for Freedom activist in the 1960’s. Keene served as YAF’s national chairman as well as the chapter chairman at the University of Wisconsin.
In an interview with The New Guard at Young America’s Foundation headquarters, Keene offered his advice for today’s YAF activists.
“The future is based off of what people learn in college,” Keene told me, emphasizing the importance of reaching people while they’re young. “The fight is not being determined in Congress, it is in the people’s hearts and minds.”
He explained that engaging students and educating them on what conservatives believe in is the best way to point them towards America’s founding principles, declaring, “the job of the [YAF] activist is to put a spark to it.”
Keene told me that the battle on college campuses does not revolve around silencing the Left, but rather it is about ensuring the conservative voice is heard.
“Students are often only exposed to the Left’s ideology in lectures and through events put on by the school’s administration and student government,” he remarked. “As students are exposed to the need for having economic freedom and a limited government the more students will come to realize that their love for freedom does not align with what the Left promotes.”
Igniting a spark also applies to keeping YAF members committed and engaged in the Conservative Movement, a problem that Keene expressed was an issue during his time as chairman of his YAF chapter.
“It is not only important for the students who blindly follow what their gender studies professor says to be aware of the conservative stances on issues, it is just as important, if not more, for the YAF activists to be well versed,” Keene explained. “YAF activists are not able to effectively convey the conservative message or be bold enough to stand up for it if they too are not fully aware of what they are defending. Members must also take the time to educate themselves on what it means to be a conservative.”
As a Young Americans for Freedom activist in 2016, hearing Keene’s advice for my generation of conservatives was a poignant experience. Today’s YAFers have a responsibility to meet the high standard of activism set by Keene and his peers decades before we were even born.
In Keene’s words, “Love for freedom is in the DNA of American people. You need to engage them.”
It’s our turn to continue that mission.