By CAROLE ROBINSON, Staff Writer
According to media reports, the current political climate may have lead to a disconnect between those in their early 20s and politics in general, but Lauren Wilson of Franklin, a junior at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., and 25 other young adults from across the country recently proved the nay-sayers wrong.
The group of 26, ranging from recent high school graduates to recent college graduates, belonged to the inaugural class of the Ronald Reagan Leadership Academy sponsored by the Young America’s Foundation, a non-profit group based in Arlington, Va. They spent the month of July at the Foundation’s Ranch Center in Santa Barbara, California and at the nearby historic Reagan Ranch, Ranch del Cielo, examining their own core values and learning about conservative principles.
“I have always been interested in politics and Ronald Reagan has been an inspiration to me,” Lauren said. “His ability to influence people, the way he could communicate; he is a great example of a politician who kept his character in office.”
“When we got there, we were given a letter that said in part that ‘while at the academy we should develop the equivalent mindset of attending a 28-day military boot camp’. We had a strict schedule of classes that sometimes lasted 12 hours and many books to read.”
The focus of the academy was to identify and prepare principled leaders who excel in written and oral communication. It encourages a lifelong dedication to the defense of principles that uphold the ideas of individual freedom, traditional values, a strong national defense, and free enterprise.
Designed to bring out the best of the best, the Academy uses a military boot camp environment in which the students are mentally challenged to understand their beliefs through interactive labs, small group debates and an uncensored examination of key issues in U. S. and World History and economics.
The students received training in public speaking during their classroom study from university professors, authors and noted speakers .
“They made us think about what we believe, they didn’t tell us what to believe,” Lauren said. “They challenged us — there was quite a bit of diversity in the degree of conservatism among us. The debates helped me solidify what I believe. They helped me put into words and better understand my core beliefs through discussions and what I believe and at what level. I know why I’m a conservative.”
The group spent the Fourth of July at the Reagan Ranch, which was purchased by the foundation in 1998, where they met Reagan’s son, radio-talk show host and author, Michael Reagan, enjoyed musical entertainment and fireworks.
“Being at the ranch was amazing. It was so humbling seeing how they (the Reagans) lived and seeing how humble they were,” Lauren said. “It’s not what you would think would be a home for a president.”
After the Academy, Lauren went to Washington D.C. to join more than 400 conservative college students at the weeklong National Conservative Student Conference.
Posted on: 10/1/2006