By Akash Chougule
A dozen of the most prominent conservative leaders in the country convened with 700 activists this past Saturday at Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s inaugural New Hampshire Freedom Summit, and the themes that were echoed made it clear that the conservative movement is serious about winning the war of ideas. Speakers included Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, American Enterprise Institute President Dr. Arthur Brooks, and other opinion leaders from around the country. Throughout the day, the overarching message was that conservative ideals can create opportunity, prosperity, and happiness for everyone – and the least fortunate are those with the most to gain.
In perhaps the most powerful speech of the day, Dr. Brooks challenged the audience to make school choice the “civil rights issue of our time.” Conservative political leaders in Washington, DC and throughout the states have been increasingly loud in their call for educational freedom – a seemingly obvious reform held up almost entirely by powerful, left-wing special interest teachers unions. Brooks and others acknowledged that mobility and opportunity start with a great education, and too many poor and minority children are being deprived this basic right.
Brooks eloquently laid out a “social-justice agenda” of conservative policies that would not only have broad appeal, but would be far more effective in uplifting the poor than the ineffective policies of liberalism have proven to be.
Speakers also challenged leaders of the conservative movement to embrace true free-market principles and put an end to corporate welfare. Cronyism wastes taxpayer dollars, reduces choices and innovation in the economy, and drives up costs on consumers. Senator Rand Paul specifically made mention of the impending vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, which hands out US taxpayer dollars to foreign corporations that invest in big American businesses. Senator Mike Lee made his opposition to reauthorization known in a piece for National Review, and is challenging conservatives in Congress to show America they are truly serious about equality of opportunity.
Finally, the failures of President Obama’s liberal agenda were highlighted throughout the day. From ObamaCare’s cancellation of millions of health plans and a stagnant economy to a rapidly expanding welfare state and runaway growth in government spending, the speakers noted that despite his rhetoric, under Obama’s administration the gap between rich and poor has reached record levels – with the wealthiest Americans insulated by big government protectionism while opportunity and growth elude low income and working class families.
The past few years have made it clear that America needs a new direction. On Saturday in Manchester, NH, conservative leaders laid out a vision to unite the country behind free-market ideals that empower every single American and have proven themselves the greatest source of prosperity and well-being in human history.
As New Hampshire’s own Senator Kelly Ayotte told the crowd, “You will hear from some of the most powerful conservative stars out there today – but don’t forget your own power.” If Saturday’s event was any indication, leaders and activists alike have plenty of reason to look to the future with optimism.