It’s quite natural for a culture to value its young. Since mortality is an as-yet irreversible aspect of the human condition, our children are the means by which we perpetuate ourselves, preserve who we are, and pass on what we believe.
Given this plain truth, the most discouraging aspect of attending any given conservative event is the sea of silver hair present in just about every crowd. At 32, I often mind myself among the youngest, if not the youngest person in a room.
Reaching our youth with the conservative message is an essential mission. However, in an age where they are bombarded from every direction with the propaganda of the Left, trying to convey the wisdom of elders can be like lighting a match in a hurricane. That is why it is so encouraging to come across young people who already bear a torch for conservatism lit and maintained on their own.
Friday night, I was among several activists gathered in a downtown Phoenix restaurant during a brief intermission of the Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit. We were already feeling good, having sat through some valuable breakout sessions throughout the afternoon. But none of that held a candle next to the elation we all felt upon meeting The A Team.
No, not the crack commando unit. This A-Team is a cadre of young conservatives from southern California who claim to be “the first high school Tea Party club in America.” Together, these young men stand in defiance of expectation. Not only are they high school aged. They are racially and ethnically diverse. More importantly, chatting with them reveals a genuine concern about the world they live in. “We’re still focused on all the same things other kids are,” they told me at dinner. “Video games, television, girls. But we also care about our country.”
NRB: How did you guys get started?
Benjamin Kunzler: It really started when our teachers – we noticed that they’re liberal leaning, as most teachers are in California. And we wanted to change that.
Caleb Yee: We really wanted to change the stereotypes.
In terms of how we started it… One summer day I just realized how much trouble [our generation] would be in after listening to radio talk show hosts. And from that, I really wanted to do something…
It’s really hard to start a club by yourself. You really need a strong group of friends. I kind of knew that [two other members of club] were conservative. I didn’t know them too well. But then I messaged them on Facebook and we came up with the idea. So the three of us got together – C.J. [Webster], Ben, and me – and we said let’s do this…
NRB: Let me take it back further than that, because I know I went through a series of experiences in high school which brought me to conservatism. Before you got the notion that you wanted to start this group, obviously you arrived at a conservative identity…
Benjamin: I was listening to talk radio since the second [George W.] Bush election… I was listening to that in the car, learning a lot about politics. But what really sparked it was when I found out that one of my classmates was an outspoken communist socialist.
The boys went on to detail how prominent and accepted socialism was in their school. By contrast, as Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler related, the idea of a conservative political club met with resistence.
There were parents at school who were upset that they were going to charter a Tea Party club… That’s free speech in our high schools. Caleb was undeterred.
Caleb explained his mentality further in a speech delivered to an enthusiastic crowd on Saturday.
We knew that, if we continued to hide our patriotism and our values, then we would have to pay the consequences [in] our future… We knew that we could wait no longer, like our peers, blasting away on a video game system when, in reality, our soliders were dying to protect us. We knew that we could no longer wait as our friends were watching reality TV when, in actual reality, our nation was in a whole lot of trouble. We knew that we had to take the initative and make a difference in America, because we are the sleeping giants of America.
Together we decided to come out of the shadows and form a voice that would wake up the youth of America. This voice will be the A-Team Tea Party Youth Movement. The youth played a major role in the ’08 election. And we realized that the youth is a powerful force that could either be used to harm our nation or protect our nation.
The boys found themselves instant celebrities at the summit. As the group’s president and spokesman, Caleb found himself particularly trust into the spotlight. At the dinner on Friday, he told me they were overwhelmed by the attention they were receiving. That was before his speech on Saturday. Afterward, no less than Dick Morris was quipping that he wanted to advise Caleb’s future senate campaign.
Such attention was no doubt a tremendous inspiration to these young men, and rightfully so. As exciting as it is to see a group of young people committed to expressing conservative values, we must sober ourselves by remembering why. The fact is the A-Team is an exception to the rule. Their presence is exciting because it may portent an eventual rewriting of that rule. But getting from here to there will take time and commitment from patriots young and old.