CPAC 2016 Through the Eyes of a First-Timer
FIRST DAY OF CPAC
“Well, here we go.” Those were the first words I thought to myself as the doors open in the elevator at the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, MD as I make my way to the first session of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Those also were the first words I said to myself when typed my first words for this article, because this will be my first article, ever.
“Our time is now” was the motto for this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Mark Levin commented on that, saying “if you’re under the age of 45 you havent had a conservative choice for President.” Personally, I’ve been actively involved in politics since 2008 so if I’m impatiently waiting for a conservative choice, people who’ve been involved since Reagan must be truly famished.
The first time I heard about CPAC was 2009, and since then I’ve been pondering about attending. Every year I would watch C-SPAN or YouTube to hear speeches and panels on various topics from many well-known conservative commentators. Every year my timeline on social media would be flooded with pictures and comments from friends who are attending that year and for this political nerd it looked like so much fun. So early last year I decided to finally make plans to attend and, Lord willing, I was going to CPAC 2016!
Plans were made. The flight was good and I checked in to my room with no problem–and soon I found myself heading for the elevator to begin what might be a life changing experience.
The first sessions on Wednesday consisted of what was called an Activism Boot Camp presented by American Majority and Turning Point USA. The sessions that really got my attention were the social media training, with tips about getting hired in politics. In the social media training, they discussed websites that could help anyone be more effective in how they use various social media platforms. These sessions really got my attention because I am very interested in a political career.
Once the Boot Camp was over I attended one of the many receptions in the coming days where it’s a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. I got to talk with a couple who lived in the DC area and really enjoyed hearing their perspective on life in politics when you live in Washington, DC. We talked for over an hour about churches in the Northwest, Bush v. Gore, Nixon, and why they voted for Jimmy Carter even though they were Republicans.
Wednesday was simply a taste of what was to come because Thursday was the real beginning of CPAC in all its glory!
DAY 2 OF CPAC
When I entered the main stage inside the Potomac Ballroom, I expected to have a grander sense of the event being there “live and in person” but I also felt comfort to be around so many people of similar values. Normally when I’m at a major event I tend to be all over the place; sometimes listening to speeches, outside talking with others, or checking out exhibits. But with CPAC, there is so much going on–mostly at the same time–so I just couldnt keep up with it all. I walked up and down media row a few times, checked out some of the smaller sessions that were going on, and wandered around the massive exhibit hall downstairs. I was stopped a number times by media for interviews, which I agreed to do. (Actually, agreeing to an interview a few weeks ago is the reason I’m writing this article now!)
One cool moment happened while I was roaming the Exhibit Hall. I found myself “up close and in person” with a vibrant group of red polo shirt-wearing young conservatives in Turning Point USA. I’ve connected with a number of the ambassadors on social media and was glad to meet some of them for the first time. I’ve said many times that I feel that if Turning Point USA continues on the right path there are going to be future leaders of this country coming out of this organization. I’ll even go so far as saying I believe they could be a newer, younger Heritage Foundation.
DAY 3 OF CPAC
By the time I got to Radio Row to be interviewed on Breitbart News Daily on SiriusXM Satellite Radio I was going on only 4 hours of sleep but I was full of adrenaline, wide awake and ready for another day of CPAC.
The Breitbart radio interview went well, soon after was asked to do a “Man on the street” piece with Ben Howe for The Daily Signal.
Here’s a light-hearted moment that no one knows about until now. So I was hanging around Media Row and got to speak to Michelle Malkin near the Conservative Review set. I told her that I attended the Conservative Convention in Greenville and thought they did a great job and that I was a “Conservative Review Insider”. She was very appreciative and we took a selfie. I told her that I’m writing my first article and was looking for advice when it comes to writing.
Unfortunately for me I can’t remember the first few sentences she said! Why? Because I was having an inner dialogue that went something like this:
Me: Wow! This awesome I’m getting advice from Michelle Malkin! Yeah, HotAir.com, MichelleMalkin.com. and now with Conservative Review. Books like Culture of Corruption on New York Times bestsellers list, this is amazing! Hey, maybe I should think about this later because I’m pretty sure I didn’t catch what she just said!
One of my personal highlights at CPAC was meeting Andrew Wilkow. When anyone asks me whose political analysis and opinions I respect most, the two names I instantly think of are Thomas Sowell and Andrew Wilkow. Wilkow’s rational political analysis is second to none and I always learn something every time I listen to his show, The Wilkow Majority 12-3 EST on SiriusXM. I told him that it was a honor to finally meet him and that in many ways he was the reason I was at CPAC and why I am so involved in politics.
If I can think of one word that summed up my experience at CPAC it is encouragement. It’s encouraging to come across organizations like Future Female Leaders, Turning Point USA, and others that are engaging young people to bring up future generations of conservatives. And it was encouraging seeing the thousands of like-minded people who continue to give their time and money to try to make their communities a better place by promoting conservative values. On a personal level, it was also encouraging to have so many people willing to give me advice about writing this, my first article.
Whether it was current and former Politichicks, bloggers, editors, and various media contributors, with every bit of advice they gave I felt more and more confident that I could get this done.
On that last day in the Potomac Ballroom as Glenn Beck was ending his speech to close out CPAC and the recap video was playing on the screen, a sense of melancholy was quickly replaced with a bit of excitement mixed with uncertainty. I headed back up the elevator and pulled out my laptop. After it slowly powered on (and I mean slowly–wifi is notoriously bad in the Gaylord Hotel) I looked at the blank page and said, “Well, here we go.” (Psalms 19:14)