Junior Ben Diet­derich inter­views Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Con­ser­v­ative Union. Facebook

About 30 stu­dents from Hillsdale attended the 46th annual Con­ser­v­ative Political Action Con­ference hosted by the American Con­ser­v­ative Union at the Gaylord National Resort and Con­ference Center in National Harbor, Maryland.

Hillsdale’s chapter of College Repub­licans, led by junior Pres­ident Patrick Farrell, brought a busload of stu­dents to the nation’s capital for this year’s CPAC, which fea­tured nearly 100 con­ser­v­ative speakers from Feb. 27 through March 2. Various right-leaning groups like The Heartland Institute, The Her­itage Foun­dation, and the National Rifle Asso­ci­ation hosted booths at the CPAC Hub, giving away swag and lit­er­ature. Many media outlets, including Hillsdale’s own Radio Free Hillsdale, set up radio booths outside of the main audi­torium with the hopes of snagging an interview from the speakers.

“I’ve heard from a lot of the people who went that they really enjoyed them­selves,” Farrell said. “For myself, I always think it’s cool to be in a place where the news is being made and to have the chance to meet some really awesome people, as well as attend career building events.”

In addition to the stu­dents who attended CPAC through College Repub­licans, three more Hillsdale stu­dents con­ducted 58 inter­views over the course of two days at CPAC’s Radio Row. The stu­dents inter­viewed con­ser­v­a­tives like Glenn Beck of The Blaze, Brexit leader Nigel Farage, Judicial Watch founder Tom Fitton, and members of Con­gress, including Mike Gal­lagher (R‑AL)  and Cathy McMorris Rogers (R‑WA), among others.

Scot Bertram, general manager of WRFH 101.7 FM in Hillsdale, set up the equipment, recorded inter­views, and guided student inter­viewers.

Matthew Spalding, asso­ciate vice pres­ident and dean of edu­ca­tional pro­grams for Hillsdale’s Alan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Con­sti­tu­tional Studies and Cit­i­zenship in Wash­ington, D.C., spoke at CPAC Thursday morning in a panel on faith and pol­itics.

“It was meant to go after those ques­tions about whether con­ser­v­a­tives — espe­cially more lib­er­tarian con­ser­v­a­tives — should see reli­gious liberty and faith as the under­pin­nings of liberty,” Spalding said.

Spalding began going to CPAC during his time as a graduate student and has spoken at CPAC mul­tiple times. He said he is a “pinch hitter” for his friend, Matt Schlapp, who is chairman of the American Con­ser­v­ative Union and runs CPAC. Spalding said he has wit­nessed CPAC grow from smaller venues to the Gaylord Hotel, which boasts a huge audi­torium with pro­fes­sional lighting and music.

“The objective here, which of course Hillsdale’s mission feeds right into, is activism, and CPAC has many activists. But what Schlapp is trying to do here too is bring in an edu­ca­tional com­ponent,” Spalding said. “It’s not doc­trinal as much as it’s about ideas that come out of the older western tra­dition and the American founding, which is, of course, what we teach about.”

Sopho­mores Kate Ford and Sam Roon attended their first CPAC this year through Hillsdale’s College Repub­licans group.

“I am really inter­ested in the world of con­ser­v­ative pol­itics right now, and CPAC is a great oppor­tunity to see the people that you watch on TV or see on Twitter,” Ford said. “It’s a surreal expe­rience to be sitting a few feet away from them.”

Both Ford and Roon said it was great to see and connect with so many people in the con­ser­v­ative movement.

“It’s great to see these people and have common ground with so many con­ser­v­ative college stu­dents and older people,” Roon said.