“Pres­ident Paul! Pres­ident Paul!” the crowds roared as Sen. Rand Paul took the stage at the 50th annual Con­ser­v­ative Political Action Con­ference on the afternoon of March 7. Paul, a favorite of many stu­dents for the pres­i­dential nom­i­nation in 2016, was one of the many speakers stu­dents saw at CPAC 2014.

Approx­i­mately 50 Hillsdale stu­dents attended the con­ference, which was held March 6 to 8 at the Gaylord National Resort and Con­vention Center near Wash­ington, D.C.
“I’ve enjoyed hearing all the speakers and being in this super hyper­conservative envi­ronment,” freshman Sydnee Heim said.

Three days before spring break began, stu­dents boarded a bus pro­vided by the Michigan GOP and drove through the night to reach Wash­ington. After a quick change of clothes at their hotel in Dupont Circle, they hurried to the Gaylord to hear from speakers like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, retired neu­ro­surgeon Dr. Ben Carson, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, busi­nessman Donald Trump, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

“Rand Paul was probably my favorite speaker,” said College Repub­licans Pres­ident sophomore Sam Holdeman, who helped organize the CPAC trip. “I was really dis­ap­pointed with Sen. Marco

Rubio — I thought he would give a much better speech than he did. Donald Trump was fine as well.”
In addition to speakers and breakout ses­sions, CPAC fea­tured an exhi­bition room full of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from hun­dreds of con­ser­v­ative media outlets, think tanks, and policy orga­ni­za­tions.

“CPAC gave me the oppor­tunity to catch up with old friends in the con­ser­v­ative movement, along with making new friends,” said junior Nathan Brand, pres­ident of Young Amer­icans for Freedom and another trip coor­di­nator. “I also got the chance to meet Bret Baier and Greta Van Sus­teren from Fox News and Sarah Palin.”

On Friday afternoon, Michigan Amer­icans for Pros­perity held a phone­banking marathon in a suite at the Gaylord. Stu­dents made calls to Michi­ganders regarding an upcoming local tax hike. Amer­icans for Pros­perity also pro­vided lunch to Hillsdale attendees.
In the evenings, stu­dents were free to explore the city, or attend various func­tions held by con­ser­v­ative groups during CPAC weekend.
On Friday night, the stu­dents attended a dinner at the Kirby Center and visited friends cur­rently par­tic­i­pating in the Wash­ington – Hillsdale Internship Program.
A con­tingent of stu­dents attended a dinner hosted by YAF at the Westin Hotel. The dinner fea­tured an address by Kate Oben­shain, the first woman chair of the Vir­ginia GOP and a regular con­tributor on Fox News.
“Kate Oben­shain was ter­rific,” Brand said. “I talked with a few other Hillsdale stu­dents after the event, and we started passing around the idea of having her come speak on campus about women in pol­itics.”
Attendees also got a taste for potential con­tenders in the 2016 pres­i­dential election.
“I’m really liking Bobby Jindal — I was really impressed with his speech,” Heim said. “But I also have a soft spot in my heart for Ted Cruz.”
On Sat­urday night, the Michigan Repub­lican Party held a reception for College Repub­licans, after which the bus departed for Hillsdale.
“People don’t realize how much work goes into every­thing behind the scenes, but it’s been a blast,” Holdeman said. “It’s been great. I’m happy it’s over, but it’s been so much fun getting everybody out here. Things have gone really well.”