Lecture to the August 2007 Field Representative Class Back
I'm Morton Blackwell, president of The Leadership Institute. I deeply regret that I cannot be here in person with you, but our Leadership Institute Studios enable me to record these remarks for you.
Congratulations, you are by far the largest group of field staff the Leadership Institute has ever recruited. In 2006 my staff and I engendered inquiries from 300 potential field staff. We hired and trained 20% of them, 60 people.
Experience is the best teacher. This year, spending on recruitment less than a third of what we spent last year, we received more than 1,100 inquiries and offered fewer than 10% of the applicants positions as field representatives this fall.
So you can see that this year we have been able to be more selective. I am quite confident that, on average, you are the best-qualified set of field reps LI has ever hired.
Your primary task this fall will be to identify, recruit, and organize conservative students on campuses which do not now have active conservative groups. And we expect you to enable the new groups you organize to grow stronger after you leave them. Prepare them to continue in operation for a long time.
Your training will be the best we have ever given LI field reps, and the useful materials you will give to students will be the best the Institute has ever produced.
Secondarily, but still very important, you will be expected to do all you can to strengthen existing clubs and to help already-organized students to create multiple conservative groups on their own campuses.
From its outset in 1997, our Campus Leadership Program has shown net growth. Some groups inevitably become inactive, but our organizing activities consistently create more new groups than the number of existing groups which fall by the wayside.
You are now important parts of a project which will have significant impact on our country.
You will change many lives, and some of your recruits may become your lifelong friends.
From years of observation and personal experience, I know that many students you recruit will build on the leadership skills they learn from campus activities and join the next generation of conservative leaders.
The Leadership Institute's Campus Leadership Program already has a powerful effect on many college campuses. In June of 2006, our number of active, conservative, independent campus groups reached 738.
I promised our Leadership Institute donors that we would have at least 1,000 active campus groups by the end of 2006. We achieved that goal.
I'm counting on you to achieve another major increase in the number of active groups this fall.
In January of this year, we published a directory of 1,004 active groups on 411 American college campuses.
This fall we are targeting primarily campuses which now have no existing, independent student groups, I expect you to double the number of American college campuses with organized, conservative groups. That will mean well over 1,000 active groups on well over 800 campuses.
Your efforts are an essential element of conservatives' long-term struggle against the campus left across America.
In many cases, CLP groups are the only manifestations of any conservative presence on their campuses.
The left does not take kindly to any expression of conservative principles on their campus strongholds. Over the years, the left has wiped out and excluded from many colleges and universities anything supportive of limited government, free enterprise, strong national defense, or traditional values.
Nevertheless, our Campus Leadership Program is over the moat and cracking their walls.
You should not expect a cordial welcome from the "powers that be" when you visit such schools, particularly when they learn that you intend to break their monopolies.
Two years ago I began a list of the problems faced by conservative students on so many college campuses.
What's wrong on campus is so massive and complex that the problem almost staggers the mind. I entitled this list "How Low Can Higher Education Go?"
At this point, I ask my staff to give each of you copies of that list.
(Pause for two minutes for copies to be distributed. Note to staff from MCB: At this point, please distribute copies of the new, organized list of How Low...)
You shall have with you copies of this list, printed on genuine, simulated parchment paper, for sharing with the conservative students you recruit.
Not every school experiences all these abuses, but any conservative college student you know who is now enrolled at any but the tiny handful of explicitly conservative colleges could curl your hair with stories of these abuses on his or her own campus.
And the professors, the college officials, and the national leftist groups which pour resources into student organizations know very well what they're doing: undermining the political, cultural, and moral foundations of America under the cover of "academic freedom."
Of course, in some cases, college administrators are not intentionally promoting such abuses. They have so many other things to do. And fighting such abuses or questioning leftist dogma would create problems for them with leftist faculty.
Even the liberal head of Harvard University recently found this to be true. He merely questioned a leftist belief, and he lost his job.
The people we are fighting truly hate Western civilization and are determined to destroy it. They hate virtually everything you and I love about America, and they will never forgive the United States for winning the Cold War.
It has often and probably correctly been said that there are today more convinced Marxists on American college faculties than there are in the former Soviet empire.
You may find the following background interesting.
After years of thinking and planning, I began the Leadership Institute's Campus Leadership Program in 1997 as a pilot program with only one staffer responsible for organizing and working with conservative student groups at campuses in the D.C. area.
With the generous help of Leadership Institute donors, I then gradually expanded the program to cover the nation.
In 2006 we more than doubled our investment in this program. Because more funding is available, I shall invest even more in campus organizing in 2007.
For a few years, LI had resident field staff in five regions of the country. They had the dual task of starting new CLP groups and personally working on site to advise existing CLP groups in their regions. Costs of the program kept increasing, but the number of active CLP groups did not change much.
Acting on good advice, I made the decision in 2003 that most of our resources for campus activity would go toward hiring full-time field staff who would work for ten- or eleven-week periods principally to form new groups.
At the same time, I added to the number of CLP staff officed in our building -- to increase the number and quality of services offered local groups by our headquarters staff.
This summer we have greatly increased the number of staff resident here who will assist you and all our active campus groups.
In an ideal world, we might have the resources to help every conservative campus group with frequent staff visits to their campus, or even install resident advisers on many campuses.
Donations are increasing, but we don't have vast resources. And closely supervising all the CLP groups' activities would amount to running a large, nationwide, membership organization.
I aim to build a movement, not an empire.
While we're getting better at keeping existing groups from fading away, there is always some attrition. For whatever reason, some groups don't expand their leadership, don't grow their membership, don't train good successors, and don't survive for long.
Nevertheless, LI's Campus Leadership Program, through your efforts this semester, will have a lot more active groups at the end of December than the thousand we had at the start of this year.
What you personally do this semester will change many lives. And some of your recruits may become your lifelong friends.
Many will develop into highly effective leaders in government, politics, and the media. In future public policy battles, that will shift, in favor of conservative principles, the balance of effective activists between conservatives and the left.
I had thought about helping conservative students create their own campus groups for many years. Let me share with you my thinking as I designed LI's Campus Leadership Program.
While College Republican clubs tend to be conservative, not all of them are. And partisan political clubs often focus on election-campaign activities to the exclusion of explicitly promoting their political principles.
It happens that none of the other non-partisan conservative organizations which work largely with college students had then, or has now, any program to organize significant numbers of student groups on campus.
Intercollegiate Studies Institute used to have a significant field program to organize ISI campus groups, but they virtually ended their field work many years ago and only recently have begun doing some field work again.
In the main, they create and distribute high-quality, intellectual materials which promote conservative principles. They do a superb job of assisting many conservative campus publications but now devote very little attention to creating new ones.
The vast majority of local campus publications ISI now generously supports were started by Leadership Institute graduates.
Young America's Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, had no program to organize student groups, in large part because they were an offshoot of the once-very-widespread Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a 501(c)(4) organization. YAF was composed for a long time of hundreds of local groups.
YAF virtually collapsed due to internal problems. For whatever reason, their offshoot, Young America's Foundation, chose not to take up the task of organizing conservative groups on college campuses. Their major on-campus program now provides many excellent conservative speakers to college audiences.
Often our CLP groups serve as the local sponsors of speakers generously provided by Young America's Foundation.
Other conservative groups (too few) do good work educating students in conservative principles, but none of them creates large numbers of local campus groups.
By the way, I have never thought that the Leadership Institute had any conservative rivals. We do have a lot of allies.
The field was wide open for some conservative educational organization to take up the important task of organizing local student groups. I saw the need, and I wanted to do this for years.
To build a strong, national program, I needed to think out how to do it and how to raise sufficient funds to pay for a field staff to visit campuses to organize new student groups. Then the Institute could learn through experience how to organize such groups cost-effectively.
Let me explain to you why I designed this program to create independent student groups, rather than a national membership group with affiliated chapters.
Each independent group gives a different set of young conservatives personal experience in leadership of conservative activities.
That's one major reason why I decided to create independent conservative student groups and not a national membership organization.
National student membership organizations necessarily have conventions and elections, which mean internal power struggles and, inevitably, purges of many who lose those power struggles. That is not entirely a bad process, because experiences in such a system teach important lessons.
But those lessons can be learned in, say, College Republicans and elsewhere.
And a national membership organization would require immense resources to supervise local campus groups ultimately subordinate to the national organization.
Without such supervision, any local group might do things (to which young people are prone) which would embarrass the national organization as well as all the other local groups which behaved entirely responsibly. There is a good reason why the words "young" and "foolish" are used often together in the same sentence.
The matter of legal liability also concerned me. I would not want the Leadership Institute held financially liable for the debts or actions of any local groups.
So under my plan the Leadership Institute began to identify and recruit conservative students to form their own, independent organizations. Once formed, these groups would make all their own decisions. LI has no control over them or any supervisory authority.
We do, of course, want to assist these local campus groups in many ways through a correspondent relationship: phone, fax, email, occasional visits, booklets and other materials which can help them succeed, and, of course, Leadership Institute training.
As they actively promote conservative principles and fight against leftist abuses on campus, I want student leaders to look to the Institute as a source of good advice and effective assistance.
From the outset, I realized that these new student groups would enlarge the pool of potential recruits for LI's now-39 different types of educational programs -- a big and long-lasting advantage which the Institute's donors would happily support.
I knew that success in organizing groups on a significant number of campuses would please and excite LI donors, and many donors would increase their donations. You can't save the world if you can't pay the rent.
Most LI donors get considerable satisfaction when liberal campuses near them have groups of organized and trained students fighting for their conservative principles. Sometimes our donors get to know the nearby conservative students and help them in various ways.
I knew LI donors would be enthusiastic. I knew they would generously increase their support if and when I could show considerable progress in organizing conservative student groups on college campuses.
The Institute continues to make a strong effort to get our graduates, our donors, and many other conservatives to give us the contact information of students they know who might be interested in our help to organize new, conservative campus groups.
Field reps this semester will leave here with some pre-identified contacts who should make your job much easier as you visit campuses in your assigned areas.
Most important, of course, is the value of having local student leaders promote conservative principles to fellow students on as many campuses as possible.
Just knowing they are not alone on campus, that other people around them on campus openly espouse conservative principles, encourages conservative students to resist the indoctrination, propaganda, and actual oppression which the left so often systematically imposes on American college campuses.
I intended the Campus Leadership Program as a "rescue mission" for conservative students subjected to leftist indoctrination and persecution. It's working.
Absent that moral reinforcement, more students would be sucked into the flow and come to believe that what their families and the healthy aspects of American culture taught them is old-fashioned and perhaps evil -- that it is doomed and not worth fighting for.
Surely the leftists who dominate most of our campuses savor the advantages they have over conservative students and delight in their power to indoctrinate students in socialist ideas. The last thing the leftists want is for conservatives to promote conservative principles effectively on college campuses.
So you can see why, from the outset, my plan was to organize groups on as many campuses as possible.
I knew that some campus groups we organized would not last long and that my staff and I would have to work hard with newly organized groups to get them to do those things which would result in success on campus, including long-term organizational survival. A dozen things such as:
1. Setting up a systematic, ongoing program to recruit large numbers of new members
2. Conducting programs which educate other students in conservative principles
3. Deepening their own education in conservative principles
4. Systematically studying how to win
5. Establishing working ties with conservative leaders and organizations at the local, state, and national levels
6. Creating realistic annual budgets for their groups
7. Starting their group's bank account
8. Raising sufficient funds for their own activities
9. Getting favorable publicity for themselves and their projects
10. Identifying and working with any local conservative faculty
11. Placing a high priority on preparing worthy successors to replace themselves after they graduate
12. Deciding they will remain involved in their groups as mentors and allies after they become alumni.
Staff at our Arlington office can persuade local leaders to do these things pretty well, and do it much less expensively than resident mentors on each campus. You can help CLP groups last a long time by persuading students you meet to achieve these desirable things.
You should know that the Leadership Institute provides other national conservative educational organizations with the contact information of all our CLP groups.
I frequently urge other conservative educational groups to offer their materials and services to the members of our CLP groups.
Many national conservative groups offer programs valuable to conservative students. These groups deepen students' understanding of conservative principles and of specific public policy issues. They assist the local activities of many campus groups our field staff organizes.
The most cost-effective things LI's Campus Leadership Program can do this semester are to organize new campus groups and strengthen the existing ones. That produces a wide range of benefits.
The next step, an opportunity made much greater by the existence of so many new groups: to help those conservative students in CLP groups develop skills, through training and their personal experiences.
Then thousands of them will become more effective conservative leaders and activists and stay active politically all their lives.
Organizing conservative student groups at essentially every campus in America must be the primary focus of LI's Campus Leadership Program.
All those new groups constitute a growing pool of recruits for LI's training programs, accessible to us at minimal cost of recruitment. This makes efficient use of donors' contributions for the Institute's many training programs.
Even if I had sufficient resources, I doubt I'd station resident field staff semi-permanently on individual campuses. In specific regions, to travel around and advise many different groups, maybe.
Someone stationed on an individual campus would amount to a boss, a hands-on supervisor. That top-down authority would curtail the independence of the local student leaders and make them essentially subordinates. Bottom up is the best way to develop new leaders.
Training potential leaders is highly useful, but leadership is like riding a bicycle: After instruction, you have to get up and actually do it yourself. For local students whom we want to develop into effective leaders, having a resident supervisor on campus would be like always riding a bike with training wheels.
Truly independent local campus leaders gain valuable self-confidence and develop the ability to take the initiative themselves.
To build a new generation of conservative leaders and activists who want to win, we must identify, recruit, organize, and train young conservatives.
Then we must provide them with opportunities to manage controversial activities and thereby gain experience in independent leadership in the public policy process.
Make no mistake about it: Some of the people you recruit, activate, and train will be fighting for conservative principles for the rest of your life.
Some will outlast you and do good things for our country which you will never see, things which will make America better for your children and your grandchildren.
You'll be able to see much of the good which will come from your activities this semester. But much more good will be done than you will ever be able to measure because when you launch people in the right direction they will do good things you may never see or hear about.
In 2003, I had a chance meeting with then-Gov. Bill Owens of Colorado. He had just been described in National Review as "America's Greatest Governor."
Gov. Owens gave me a hug -- not a little hug but a bear hug. I was completely nonplussed and gave him a modest hug in return.
He smiled and told me, "There is no reason for you to remember this, Morton. But back when I was a high school student in Texas, you organized a Teen Age Republican camp in Lafayette, Louisiana. I was one of the few out-of-state students to attend.
"For a week you trained me in political issues and political action, and that changed my life."
"Governor," I replied with a smile, "that TAR camp in Lafayette was in 1970, 33 years ago."
If I hadn't met Governor Owens by chance, I would probably never have learned that I had a formative role in his political activity.
In the past three years, our Campus Leadership Program has had considerable success. We know a number of methods by which new groups have been formed. You may be able to discover additional ways, but here are the methods we have found to date:
1. Field Staff: Organization of new groups by our field staff who visit campuses, recruit students, and organize them into new groups -- by far the most successful technique thus far for us.
2. Publications Creating Sister Activist Groups: A number of existing conservative campus publications have organized new and separate activist groups on their own campuses.
3. Existing Groups Creating Separately Organized Publications: The reverse of the second method. Some existing campus conservative groups have decided later to create free-standing conservative campus newspapers or magazines.
4. Calving: This is the organization of additional, more specialized groups on their own campuses by members of existing CLP groups which promote a wider range of policy interests.
Last January, we made a study of the 1,004 CLP groups.
We had twelve groups at the University of Arizona, eleven groups each at three other campuses, Michigan State University, The College of William and Mary, and Marquette University.
And twice in recent years, Leadership Institute graduates active in multiple CLP groups at the famously liberal University of Wisconsin at Madison took control of the student government there.
Although not all such multiple groups survive, there's good reason to have more than one conservative group on an individual college campus. For a generation, the left has organized a galaxy of student organizations, multiple groups on each major campus.
Why not match this with many different conservative groups on a given campus?
5. Colonizing: Some conservative student groups have successfully set out to organize additional groups (general groups, specialized-issue groups, or publications) on campuses other than their own.
That's a fine project for a local campus group.
6. Student Ambassadors: The Institute has had some success motivating individual students to serve as "Student Ambassadors" who take on the personal task of setting up recruitment tables on campuses other than their own. Local students sometimes create new CLP groups on nearby campuses, much as each of you will do full time for the next ten or eleven weeks.
We offer a variety of incentives for local students who succeed personally in forming new groups on new campuses.
7. Over the Transom: Sometimes, albeit rarely in the past, conservative students or someone who knows them contact LI for assistance in forming new organizations on their own campuses.
That is changing this year as we have spread better through conservative channels the news of the Institute's availability to help any conservative student who asks for organizing assistance.
New clubs in this category use materials provided by CLP staff from our offices and sometimes do not require a visit by our field representatives. That way LI saves the time, talent, and money it takes to send someone like you to these campuses.
As the network of CLP groups grows, we will reach "critical mass," where what we are doing becomes so widely known that more and more interested students will contact our offices for help in organizing on their campuses.
8. This year