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.