Here’s the next generation of conservative leaders

I would say that the internship changed my life because it genuinely did. I can’t wait to come back to D.C. and to work for the movement in the future. ~Mimi Teixeira, Heritage intern summer ’17

Heritage believes strongly in preparing the next generation of conservatives for their role in leading our country. 

Through the Young Leaders Program young conservatives from around the country get a chance to work at Heritage and learn about the conservative principles that made this country great.

Yesterday, our summer intern class graduated.

Below is one interns story about her experiences this summer:

‘Here’s what the Heritage internship did for me.’

As our internships through The Heritage Foundation’s Young Leaders Program draw to a close, I want to tell you how grateful we all are for your generous support that made this opportunity possible.

This summer alone, Heritage trained 67 principled and passionate young conservative leaders. As part of our 12-week internship, we have been equipped through meaningful work experiences, thought-provoking lectures and discussions, exceptional community, and mentorships by the dedicated Heritage staff. We learned from experts and we developed a greater grasp of the principles behind our politics. We learned how to communicate these principles and policies. By working closely with Heritage’s renowned policy experts, we have conducted challenging research projects and we’ve gained critical experience in valuable professional skills like resume writing and networking.

My fellow interns and I wanted to take this moment to share with you a few of our favorite aspects and key takeaways from this internship. Below are some of our class reflections:

This summer we learned many things about Heritage, including that it hosts many international guests and dignitaries for both public and private events. We have also been impressed by the number of Heritage staff who have transitioned to the Hill or the administration. We have been encouraged by the culture of the organization – where everyone, no matter the title, is valued and genuinely respected by all other employees.

Some of our favorite memories from this summer included meeting and interacting with many influential individuals like Newt Gingrich, Kellyanne Conway, and Ben Shapiro and hearing from foreign leaders like the President of Romania and President of Ukraine. We came to realize just what a significant venue Heritage is in bringing together important leaders and decision makers. You never knew who you would meet in the elevator! This, in addition to the time Heritage’s own experts took to brief us and invest in us was very impactful. We also enjoyed the many opportunities to refine our professional focus, and were touched by the willingness and eagerness of employees to share with us and to assist. Many of us also had our first articles published, whether that was in The Daily Signal or a Heritage research publication, highlighting Heritage’s willingness to showcase its interns.

When it comes to key takeaways – lessons Heritage taught us that we look forward to carrying on with us – here are a few things the class had to say:

  • We learned: “the power of networking, and the power of associations. Doors open to you when you have taken the initiative to go to new places and meet new people.”
  • We learned: “how important it is to have friends who share your values to keep you grounded and help you make the right decisions. D.C. is a big city full of ambition and temptation, and it would be easy to be swept away by it without good friends.”
  • We gained: “the knowledge of being able to articulate what [we] stand for, rather than believing in a platform of knowing what [we] stand against.”
  • We learned: how to articulate, defend, and promote, our conservative principles and solutions, and are now prepared “to take the debate to our college campuses.”

According to one Heritage intern:

This internship has greatly enhanced my understanding of Conservatism. The First Principles lunches taught me the the foundations of conservative philosophy. The lectures and policy briefings showed me how these policies based on Conservative principles benefit all of American society. The practical experience and philosophical training that I received from Heritage will prove invaluable as I seek to advance Conservatism in America.

And as Max Morrison, the homeland and cyber security intern, put it:

I sincerely appreciate the effort, funds, and time that went into providing us all with this wonderful opportunity, and that the energy was not wasted because you’ve trained the next generation of leaders in the conservative movement.

How true this is! There are 67 of us in the summer intern program. 67 distinct individuals with unique callings and personal passions, but a common purpose. As my friends have highlighted above, we know what we believe. We know why we believe it. We know how to articulate, defend, and promote our beliefs. In short, we’re not your average 20-somethings. And as we now leave for our college campuses and careers across the country, thanks to Heritage, we are well prepared to spread our conservative values. As Dr. Feulner says, there are no permanent victories, no permanent defeats, only the permanent battle of ideas. We have the ideas, the solutions. And so with grace and humility we will continue to break through the liberal echo chambers on college campuses and in society, boldly and effectively confronting the left-wing ideology that sweeps up so many, and encouraging our conservative peers to do the same.

Heritage has equipped us, empowered us, and challenged us to do this and more. This summer, we have seen firsthand your and Heritage’s inspirational dedication to investing in us– the young conservative leaders of today– and we are forever grateful. Your dedication is ensuring American values and principles are restored and secured. You are truly shaping the future of the conservative movement. Thank you.

-Kathleen Reynolds, summer intern 2017

Heritage 2017 summer intern class. 

Do you believe in Heritage’s mission to shape the next generation of conservative leaders? Why or why not?

Building a network of conservative professors

Heritage’s Simon Center for Principles and Politics is busy fighting against the liberal indoctrination in colleges by building a network of conservative professors and providing them with the research and support they need.

We know that in order to win the hearts and minds of the young people in our country we have to train and educate their professors in conservatism. That’s why the Simon Center has created a targeted academic outreach to over 200 professors across the country– getting conservative materials and discussions on students’ syllabi. We are training professors on our founding principles, how to defend the Constitution, and on current conservative thought so that they are equipped to prepare their students to defend the conservative principles this great nation was founded on.

The Simon Center’s main objectives are to:

  • Promote conservatism in a way that connects with people in the 21st century
  • Undermine Progressivism by exposing it’s lies
  • Defend the Constitution and rein in the administrative state
  • Protect free speech by countering it’s main threats

During the year, the Simon Center hosts academic conferences in which 10-20 senior academics from prestigious schools discuss the Center’s research interests, including topics like race relations, the administrative state, and the future of the family. Such conferences help conservative professors think more deeply about these issues and better articulate a worldview based on absolute truth, logic, morality, and the wisdom of history when they return to their campuses and students. These conferences also give professors the confidence to expose the dishonest tactics of their liberal colleagues.

The Simon Center is also combating liberal indoctrination through our exceptional Young Leaders Program.

Thanks to your support, Heritage is able to keep working to turn the tide against liberal indoctrination in higher education.

What do you think are the most effective ways to fight against liberal indoctrination in higher education?

Meet Heritage’s newest education expert, dedicated to the fight for school choice

About two-dozen states have considered Education Savings Account (ESA) legislation in the past 4-5 years. Six have ESA programs in place. We are truly moving into a golden age of school choice now that the debate has shifted from, “should there be school choice,” to “what are the best practices for education choice.”

Heritage recently brought education expert Jonathan Butcher, of the Goldwater Institute, onto our education policy team. Jonathan began as an education research assistant at Heritage in the early 2000s. We are excited to have him back and to share his story with you.

This week I had the privilege of speaking with Jonathan to talk about highlights of his career, recent victories in education policy, and the work he is doing at Heritage.

Interview with Jonathan Butcher

Kathleen: What did you do before Heritage and what brought you to Heritage?

Jonathan: My previous position was at the Goldwater Institute as their Education Director. What I’m most proud of is that our team at Goldwater was creating the first Education Savings Account program in the nation in Arizona. We took that program and expanded it almost every year that I was there, until this year when we helped to craft the legislation that would make the program available to every child in the state of Arizona that wanted to apply. We also helped make ESAs possible in five other states while I was there. So being able to expand the nation’s oldest ESA program and helping create laws in other states and expand the program to other states – we’re very proud about that. And then this year we created, at Goldwater, alongside Stanley Kurtz at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a proposal to protect free speech on campus. The legislators in North Carolina used that proposal and just passed a law based on our proposal on Monday. They became the first state to do that and there are three other states considering the legislation.

Kathleen: How would you describe your role at Heritage on the education policy team?

Jonathan: We will be continuing to research how ESAs are having an impact on the children that are using them and the communities those children are a part of – so the impact they are having on the way that families choose their family’s educational experience, the way that families customize their child’s educational experience. Heritage has an important role to play in holding the line on the truth about how parental choice in education benefits children. And that is a high profile issue right now because the president has voiced his support for school choice, the secretary of education obviously has a background that is strong in the area of school choice, and that has made this issue a hot button one in the media. Heritage has an important role to play when it comes to putting the truth in front of people about how parental choices in education have helped children succeed from all walks of life all around the country.

Kathleen: Have we influenced public opinion enough when it comes to explaining why our conservative solutions are the best solutions on school choice?

Jonathan: Surveys show that when parents are asked what they think about public education in the United States, they generally give it a poor rating. But when they are asked what they think of their local school, they tend to over-estimate how well-performing their local school is. What we’ve found is that public schools have a similar place in their communities, and people still feel an affinity towards their local public school while thinking the overall public school system is low-performing. That makes for a challenging dialogue when you talk about giving people access to other learning options. I think the people who understand the value of school choice the most are those that have children that, for whatever reason, don’t fit in in their local school. Families that have children with special needs often find themselves arguing with their school districts about how their children should be taken care of in the classroom, and they tend to be very open early on to finding other options. But it could be something as simple as a child being bullied in class, a child who had a great teacher one year and a sub-par teacher the next year and parents can think – gosh this up and down isn’t really going to work for my child; we can’t have this 50/50 chance that a child is going to have a quality instructor each year. And that will open their eyes to what else is out there. I think we also find in surveys that when we say every child is different, and every child deserves the chance to succeed, people in polling agree with that sentiment. I think when we come at the issue of parental choice in education from that perspective – from the perspective of we are trying to give every child a chance at the American dream, regardless of their zip code—I think that helps to open up people’s minds to the idea that those quality options could be something besides an assigned public school. And you know we see in states like Florida and Arizona in particular that have had private school choice options for many years that even families that don’t participate in some kind of school choice program, they somehow feel the culture of school choice as a part of their state and so they don’t think its foreign when people want to do something else in the school choice world, or add another option, or expand another option that’s available. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Arizona was the state that was the first to pass ESAs. We have the nation’s first tax credit scholarships in Arizona, we have a public school open enrollment law. we have one of the nation’s oldest charter school laws. And then the second state to enact ESAs was Florida, which by the same token has had vouchers for many years, has had charter schools for many years. You know when you make the idea of choosing how and where your child learns mainstream and normal, people grow accustomed to it and if they don’t start to demand it they’ll at least think it’s normal and not strange that families want more choices in education. So that’s what we have to do…

Kathleen: How did you first get involved in politics and how did you get interested in education choice?

Jonathan: When I was working for a small think tank in Northern Virginia, I met someone…who was working at Heritage…I got to know [him], and I came over to Heritage and worked my way in as a temp and then as an intern and then the position opened in education research and I was in the right place at the right time. So I had to learn very quickly what was going on around the country with state laws. Now remember this was 2002, so school choice was still pretty new, right on the horizon…So I scaled the wall of information pretty quickly doing research at Heritage, and after that I went and did various other things, I worked for a school district, a charter school authorizer. I worked at a university and was able to try different parts of education research. The foundation that Heritage gave me prior to doing those things was really a great place to lift off and be able to do different things in the policy world in education policy because of what I learned at Heritage. And now coming back, hopefully I bring back with me the experience from working in a variety of places around the country on this issue.

Kathleen: Why are you a conservative?

Jonathan: There is a difference between right and wrong. There are things that are true and there are things that are false. Our worldview as free market conservatives – about what is best for individuals, family and liberty, protecting liberty and what that means – is all built into that free market conservative worldview. And I think that protecting that and interpreting that for people as they come across the complicated questions in policy and the news and our world today is really an important role. And I think being able to decipher for people and help them understand why things like the minimum wage are harmful to young workers, why public school assignment is not the best answer for every child…those things aren’t obvious to people who don’t study these issues. So being a part of a movement that helps translate these important lessons to the general public and to lawmakers…is a blessing.

Please join me in welcoming Jonathan back to The Heritage Foundation. What questions do you have for Jonathan?