In 2016, statistics from the Pew Research Center showed that 57 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 35) identified as or leaned Democratic, versus 36 percent leaning Republican. But Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute, a conservative think tank housed at Colorado Christian University, thinks things are starting to change. "This is our eighth year of record enrollment," Hunt says. "I think there is a hunger now among young people to be introduced to and experience the conservative worldview."
For eight years in a row, the Centennial Institute has organized the Western Conservative Summit, which, according to its website, is the "largest gathering of conservatives outside of Washington, D.C." Last year, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump gave a keynote speech; Sarah Palin and many others addressed the crowd. And for the second year in a row, the 2017 Summit is holding a national Under-30 speech contest, sponsored by Red Alert Politics. If you're part of the young conservative wave that Hunt predicts is on the rise, here are four reasons to enter the Under-30 speech contest.
1. You might get a chance to meet the Trump team. Along with many speakers scheduled to appear at the Summit, including recently added former U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, the Centennial Institute lists many high-profile invitees on its website, their photographs expectantly stamped with a gold star indicating that although they have not confirmed attendance, hopes are high. Can you imagine standing on a podium by the benevolent angel faces of Ben Carson and Rick Perry, or having the slightly less angelic Steve Bannon stare up at you from the crowd? Neither can we. In fact, even President Donald Trump has been aggressively tweeted at (a well-proven method of communication with the Commander-in-Chief) by the Summit in an attempt to bring him back for round two.
2. You hold a "Reagan worldview." "We look for candidates with what we call a 'holistic conservative worldview,' or a 'Reagan worldview," explains Hunt. "The three pillars are strong social conservatism, strong economic conservatism, and strong foreign policy and national defense conservatism." Last year, Ellen Densmore won the Under-30 contest, and her speech on "reclaiming the heart of liberty" embodied these values. Now she's an intern at the Centennial Institute, and her profile, which also includes a link to her speech, emphasizes her belief in the importance of "defending our Republic against those who would replace it with national socialism," which is aligned with a Reagan worldview but also vaguely sounds like something Walter Sobchak of The Big Lebowski might say.
3. You believe in CCU's strategic objectives. These objectives include a deep-seated belief in traditional family values, but they also focus on teaching the original intent of the U.S. Constitution. "Not many universities these days have that focus," says Hunt. "Our strategic intentions are pretty bold, and that boldness is what has helped put us on the map." Acolytes of the late Antonin Scalia or new Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch: This is your time. One invigorated article from the Centennial Institute calls the opposing leftist "living constitution" ideology a "bloodless coup in slow motion," which paints an interesting picture of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a guerrilla leader. If you're a young person who feels duped by the left, get on that Summit stage.
4. You have a chance to advance your career. During this contest, you could speak before 4,000 attendees and numerous media outlets. "Above all," emphasizes Hunt, "our main mission is to create opportunities for our students. To be on stage and introduce themselves and the skill sets they have will hopefully open many doors." Last year, after Densmore gave her winning speech, she received a standing ovation, and her speech was purchased on DVD (yes, DVD) at a rate second only to that of the keynote speaker, Trump himself. Hunt believes that young conservatives deserve a chance to get on the Summit stage and make their presence known among some of the most important conservatives in the nation.
The 2017 Western Conservative Summit will take place July 21 through 23 at the Colorado Convention Center. Video submissions for the Under-30 speech contest are due by June 30; find out more on the Summit website.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.