Young America's Foundation
Young America's Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to ensuring that increasing numbers of young Americans understand and are inspired by the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values, with the motto of "The Conservative Movement Starts Here."
As the principal outreach organization of the Conservative Movement, the Foundation introduces thousands of American youth to these principles. YAF pursues its mission through conferences, seminars, educational materials and activism resources, internships, and a campus lecture program.
Ron Robinson serves as president of Young America's Foundation. Their Board of Directors is comprised of Frank Donatelli, Wynton Hall, T. Kenneth Cribb, Jr., Ron Pearson, Thomas L. Phillips, Peter Schweizer, and James B. Taylor.
Founding and Early Years
Young America's Foundation began at Vanderbilt University in 1969 when a group of students started an organization called University Information Services (UIS) to provide students with conservative ideas that were missing in their educations. In 1971, UIS became a national organization and is renamed Young America's Foundation. The goal of bringing conservative speakers to campuses remained, but the Foundation launched a nationwide effort to share the Conservative Movement's greatest minds and voices with student audiences to provide intellectual balance. Beginning in 1974, the Foundation expanded its activities by sponsoring a nationally syndicated radio program featuring California Governor Ronald Reagan. Foundation leaders Frank Donatelli and Ron Robinson also established the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). In 1976 the Foundation inaugurated a national bicentennial program to highlight our Founders' philosophy of freedom. In the summer of 1979, Young America's Foundation held its first annual National Conservative Student Conference (NCSC).
The 1980s and Reagan Years
After taking office in 1981, President Reagan began the tradition of hosting Young America's Foundation's annual summer conference at the White House. Young America's Foundation published in 1982 "American Economic Texts: A Free Market Critique," analyzing the array of economics principles being used colleges. The Foundation made national headlines in 1983 when D.C. police arrested two summer conference attendees for protesting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan outside the Soviet Embassy. Young America's Foundation appealed the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court when, in 1988, the Court awarded the students a major First Amendment victory. The ruling in Boos v. Barry overturned a 50-year-old law barring protests outside of embassies. In 1984, the Foundation sponsored a set of campus tours by two groups of overseas students. The first during the spring of 1984 featured two pro-Contra students from Nicaragua and Costa Rica who spoke on a dozen campuses in support of freedom fighters. That fall, a group of pro-Americans students from Europe spoke on campuses in support of NATO and the placement of Cruise and Pershing II missiles. The Foundation published "Entrepreneurs vs. the State, A New Look at the Rise of Big Business in America" by Dr. Burt Folsom in 1987. The book was later renamed "The Myth of the Robber Barons" and is currently in its sixth edition. In 1989 Young America's Foundation reprinted "The Conscience of a Conservative" by Barry Goldwater.
When campus leftists led by university faculty and administrators tried to force ROTC programs off campuses across the country in 1990, Young America's Foundation launched a national campaign to protect students' rights to participate in ROTC and have equal access to military recruiters on their campuses. Young America's Foundation organized one of the largest pro-troops rallies in the country at Washington and Lee University during the Golf War in 1991. President Ronald Reagan addressed the 15th Annual National Conservative Student Conference in 1993. In 1995, the Foundation urged Congress to cut taxpayer funding for universities hostile to the armed forces. This effort led to the passage of the ROTC Campus Access Act which was later renamed the Solomon Amendment. Despite challenges to the amendment's constitutionality by professors at elite law schools, the US Supreme Court unanimously declared it constitutional. Following many requests from students and parents, Young America's Foundation launched the National High School Leadership Conference (NHSLC) in 1997. This is the first of several Foundation programs geared toward high school students who wish to learn more about conservative ideas. In 1998, Young America's Foundation stepped forward to save President Reagan's Western White House, also known as the Reagan Ranch and Rancho del Cielo, with the blessings of the Reagan family. The National Journalism Center merged with Young America's Foundation in 2001 to continue training the next generation of truth-seeking journalists. Also in 2001, the Foundation acquired a building in downtown Santa Barbara, California, which eventually became the Reagan Ranch Center.
2000 and Beyond
To support American troops serving in the war in Iraq, Young America's Foundation organized a rally in 2003 which drew thousands to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Also in 2003, after noticing many schools did little, if anything, to observe the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, the Foundation launched its "9/11: Never Forget Project" to ensure the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks is remembered.
In 2004 Young America's Foundation launched its Freedom Week initiative on campuses nationwide to commemorate the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and Veterans Day. Young America's Foundation's newly renovated Reagan Ranch Center opened in downtown Santa Barbara, California, in 2006. Created as a "Schoolhouse for Reaganism" the Reagan Ranch Center features classrooms, conference space, a theater, library, boardroom, interactive exhibits and galleries, and offices that house the Foundation's Reagan Ranch team members.
In 2007 Young America's Foundation launched its inaugural Reagan Ranch High School Conference at the Reagan Ranch Center to teach young people about the principles and life of President Reagan. Foundation leaders Ron Robinson and Nicole Hoplin published "Funding Fathers: The Unsung Heroes of the Conservative Movement" in 2008 to tell behind-the-scenes stories of the men and women who made the Conservative Movement the giant force it is today. The Foundation formed an Alumni Board of Directors in 2010 comprised of those who were involved in Foundation programs as students or staff and who continue their engagement with Young America's Foundation's mission.
In 2011, Young America's Foundation launched its "Reagan 100: Freedom's Future" initiative to bring President Reagan's ideals and vision to life for the next generation, and to deinstitutionalize freedom through the Reagan Ranch Center, Rancho del Cielo, and the programs of Young America's Foundation. As part of the Foundation's Reagan 100 celebration Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Vice President Dick Cheney headlined a weekend to celebrate the centennial of President Reagan's birth. Also in 2011, the Foundation debuted its inaugural film "Still Point in a Turning World: Ronald Reagan and His Ranch." Young America's Foundation formally merged with Young Americans for Freedom in 2011, with Young America's Foundation remaining the name of the parent organization and Young Americans for Freedom joining the National Journalism Center and the Reagan Ranch as projects of the Foundation.
As part of its celebration of President Reagan's "A Time For Choosing" speech in 2014, Young America's Foundation set a goal to double the number of its student programs. Also in 2014 the Foundation relocated its national headquarters to Reston, Virginia after more than 25 years in Herndon, Virginia. Its new HQ features ample space to host student programs year-round and allowed the Foundation to expand outreach and programming with more staff and production space. In 2015 Young America's Foundation partnered with the Foundation for Economic Education to publish "Excuse Me, Professor: Challenging the Myths of Progressism." This latest publication debunks more than 50 liberal cliches in a way that is concise and easy for students to understand.
Despite being generally committed to the defense of conservative values, YAF has occasionally acted like establishmentarians. In June 2018, Young America's Foundation conspired to exclude Turning Point USA, an influential conservative non-profit founded by activist Charlie Kirk with connections to the Trump administration, from the conservative movement. In November 2019, two YAF executives signalled people not to be interviewed by libertarian activist and co-owner of Liberty Hangout Kaitlin Bennett, and when Bennett confronted them, they ran away from her, calling security who blocked her out of the building.
Young America's Foundation has an aggressive portfolio of projects and programs across the nation to advance its mission, focusing on high school and college campuses.
- Young Americans for Freedom is Young America's Foundation's chapter affiliate with clubs in high schools and colleges around the country.
- The National Journalism Center focuses on "Training Responsible Journalists" with a 12-week paid media internship in the Washington, DC media market.
- The Reagan Ranch was saved by Young America's Foundation in 1998, and is now preserved for students and Conservative Movement leaders to witness the "Western White House" and beloved home of President Reagan, walk in Reagan's footsteps, and see where history was repeatedly made.
- The National Conservative Student Conference
- The National High School Leadership Conference
- The Road to Freedom Conference
- Great Beginnings: A Seminar for Emerging Leaders
Important Members & Notable Alumni
- Ronald Reagan - Joined the YAF board.
- Ann Coulter
- Greg Gutfeld
- Katie Pavlich
- John Tamny
- Rep. Alex Mooney
- Marc Thiessen
- Tim Carney
- Peter Schweizer
- Rep. Herrera Beutler
- Wynton Hall
- Alex Marlow
- Todd Buchholz