LI Grad Spotlight: Joy Gjersvold and AnnMarie Adams
Matthew Hurtt
November 22, 2022
LI Grad Spotlight: Joy Gjersvold and AnnMarie Adams
Working-class Bremerton drives Kitsap County, Washington's Democratic politics. You may remember Bremerton from the Supreme Court decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, which reversed a 9th Circuit decision prohibiting a high school football coach from praying on the field after football games. The free exercise of religion guaranteed in the 1st Amendment is part-and-parcel of a wide range of issues galvanizing parents to take back school boards across the country. Meet parents Joy Gjersvold, a military spouse, and her partner-in-crime, AnnMarie Adams, who have collectively attended a handful of Leadership Institute trainings and co-founded a Moms for Liberty chapter in Kitsap County. Gjersvold was featured in POLITICO coverage of Moms for Liberty's national conference in Tampa in July of this year, at which Leadership Institute training played a central role: The moms flocked to Tampa from all over the U.S., including Joy Gjersvold, who leads a Moms for Liberty chapter in Kitsap County, Washington. Like many others, Gjersvold was inspired to get more involved in education by the pandemic — the closing of schools in her area, a “lack of preparedness” to go virtual, masking and vaccination requirements for students and teachers. Gjersvold found out about Moms for Liberty through a Facebook post and last August founded a local offshoot in Kitsap, which spans five school districts in Western Washington. In the time since, the group has expanded to include an executive team and district “captains” — parents who keep everyone posted on education happenings in their district. The group sees about 12-20 people at their regular meetings, Gjersvold said. “It spoke to me,” Gjersvold said in an interview. “I realized, with a daughter who is still in high school, I had to do something.” …. Moms for Liberty is clearly inspiring parents to take action locally as the movement continues to expand. In Washington, for example, Gjersvold said there are 15 local school board seats up for reelection soon that the local Moms for Liberty group is targeting. “There are red voters — there are conservative voters — who know what is happening is wrong,” Gjersvold said. “We need to empower them to have a voice.” Joy and AnnMarie are using their unique skills to advance pro-parent policies in Washington. Dena Espenscheid, LI's Director of Grassroots Coalitions, writes: “Joy is using her crafting skills and imagination to find new ways to introduce liberty principles and GOTV messages to the parents in their area. Joy and AnnMarie made a GOTV Photobooth for a massive Trunk or Treat event in late October. They are also using their Trunk or Treat space as an official Moms for Liberty ballot drop-off location for secure voting.” These political newcomers are using “this kind of out-of-the-box thinking,” as Dena puts it, to engage voters on important issues. Great work, Joy and AnnMarie!
Get to Know Pro-Life Emily
Kirsten Holmberg
October 28, 2022
Get to Know Pro-Life Emily
Meet Emily Berning, Leadership Institute (LI) grad and faculty member. I recently talked with Emily to ask about her role as a pro-life woman and as the founder of Let Them Live. She shares how she got where she is today, her struggles, and advice for conservatives unsure of their next steps.What motivated you to get involved in conservative politics? I first became involved with the conservative movement in college. I had grown up in a conservative and pro-life household and college was really the first place that I started exploring my own personal beliefs on politics and culture. I am someone who is strong-willed and when I really believe in something, I put all my energy and effort into it. Many conservatives on college campuses prefer not to get involved or make noise about their beliefs for fear of being ostracized. But that's just not who I am. People who know me know that I am extremely passionate and vocal and will stand up for what I believe in. I believe in many conservative principles, especially the right to life. The crux of why I got involved in the first place is that I saw so many things wrong on my campus at Colorado State, in my state, and in our country specifically related to abortion. I felt motivated by my need to do something about it. There is too much at stake to leave to someone else the role that I am supposed to fill.As President and Co-Founder of Let Them Live, what inspired you to start your organization? I have always been pro-life and during college people started to know me as “Pro-Life Emily.” I lived and breathed (and still do) advocating for the pro-life stance and when I met my husband through the Leadership Institute, he noticed that in me. He said, “You should start a pro-life nonprofit.” Having no clue how to do that or what my mission would be was scary but slowly the pieces started coming together. I came up with the name Let Them Live on a late-night car ride to Indiana from Virginia and then our true mission came about two months after Nate and I got married. Nathan stumbled across a pro-life Facebook page one night and saw a comment from a woman who was asking for advice on how to talk her cousin out of getting an abortion. After messaging back and forth, he found out that it was a financial burden that was causing her to feel like abortion was her only choice. She lost her job, was evicted, and was living in her van outside in the December weather. Nathan and I knew we had to help her so we sent her all the money we had, $1250, so she could get back into her apartment, and then she canceled her abortion! It was at this point that we started to realize that we had found our mission. We knew there were probably more women with abortions scheduled because of financial burden (73% of women in the US have abortions because of finances according to Guttmacher Institute) and we wanted to help. We knew we didn't have enough money to keep doing it ourselves, so we started reaching out to our friends and family for help. Three-and-a-half years later and we have helped almost 500 moms cancel their abortions and our staff has grown from just the 2 of us to over 70 staff members and over 200 volunteers!As a former Leadership Institute (LI) Field Representative and current LI faculty, how has LI helped you with your career in pro-life activism? I love LI. I cannot say this enough. LI was my first job out of college, where I met my husband without whom I could not have started Let Them Live (LTL). LI is where I met some of my greatest friends and where we have been given so much support. LI has been an amazing partner for Nate and me and Let Them Live. From supporting me and covering costs for me to speak on college campuses to spread the word about LTL to having me guest lecture and share LTL with new LI grads, LI has given us the tools we need to grow. On top of that, most of the knowledge we used to build and grow LTL came from LI trainings. Thanks to LI we know how to properly cultivate and steward our donors, partake in media interviews, grow our teams, and ultimately be the absolute best we can be so we can continue to create jobs for people in the pro-life movement, help women, and save lives from abortion.What are your thoughts on the importance of speaking out about your beliefs? There is nothing more valuable than being vocal about your beliefs. We live in a world where people are encouraged to be part of the status quo and not rock the boat. But my advice is to rock that boat. Speak up. There are people depending on your voice. In my case, it is the most defenseless human beings and their mothers who need me to speak on their behalf.What are you most eager to do at Let Them Live now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned? I am obviously eager to just continue showing up for women and giving them the support they need. I am also really excited for our new campaign called “I Fund Life.” This is our new peer to peer fundraising project which allows our donors to continue supporting us by creating GoFundMe style campaigns for LTL and having their friends and family donate. This will help us to grow our donor pool and keep raising as much money as possible for our cause. With Let Them Live specifically, the money we raise goes to help women pay their rent, car payments, utility bills, etc., so that they can confidently choose life. We are 100% donor funded. Without donations, we can't support women, and if we can't support women, we can't save lives from abortion. We have some direct competition from organizations that raise money for abortions, and we want to outraise them and show them that we can tangibly support women in choosing life. I am especially eager to substantially increase our fundraising because women are turning to the abortion funding organizations to cover the cost of their travel or their abortion itself, but we want women to know that they don't have to have those abortions because we can walk alongside them. But it takes money to make those commitments!Do you have advice for others who want to get involved in the pro-life movement or a movement that matters to them? My advice is to just go for it. I think a lot of people have huge hearts for this work and this mission but they aren't sure about the impact they will make or they are afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone. My advice is to step out of your comfort zone. It's a hard place to be but there is nothing more worthwhile.You can learn more about being an effective pro-life advocate at LeadershipInstitute.org/ProLife. If you want to start your own conservative organization, read Morton's advice in The Conservative Organizational Entrepreneur and reach out to learn more at the Leadership Institute's Conservative Organizational Entrepreneur training.
Meet Matthew Hurtt: Having Fun Saving the Country
Kirsten Holmberg
August 26, 2022
Meet Matthew Hurtt: Having Fun Saving the Country
“The late Andrew Breitbart implored us to be happy warriors, and I am grateful for the opportunity every day to be a happy warrior for our principles. If you're not having fun saving the country, you're doing it wrong.” Meet Matthew Hurtt, the Director of Professional Services at Leadership Institute. He is an internationally recognized fundraiser, organizer, writer, and public speaker. I interviewed Matthew to hear more about his background and draw on his vast political and fundraising experience. What motivated you to get involved in conservative politics? My parents were never politically inclined before I ran for office at age 19 in 2006. My interest in current events intersected with a local property issue that was affecting people in my church, and I decided to jump in head-first by running for local office. That interest stuck, and I remained very involved through college. I co-hosted a conservative talk radio show on 88.3 WMTS with my best friend, wrote editorials for the school newspaper, and was elected to Student Government. Off-campus, I worked alongside my elected state representative and senator and was a fixture in the state capitol before moving to Arlington to work at Leadership Institute in 2009. You currently serve as the Director of Professional Services at the Leadership Institute. Can you tell me more about your work? The Director of Professional Services oversees LI's Careers Training, ConservativeJobs.com, our Internship Program, and provides additional resources and support to LI's 250,000 trained activists across the country and across the globe. I tell people my role is the “switchboard” into the conservative movement. If you're looking for activist training, employment opportunities, and other movement resources, I'm your guy. What would you like our readers to know about Leadership Institute?Graduates of Leadership Institute training have an underutilized resource at your disposal – LI's vast network of other trained activists! I speak every day with people who benefit from that one introductory email to another LI-trained activist to help them advance their conservative policy, campaign, or professional goals. If you've taken LI training of any sort at any time, reach out to Leadership Institute and allow us to maximize your efforts.Before coming on as LI staff, you were a distinguished faculty member for LI. Why did you decide to teach for LI? What have been some of your favorite topics to talk about?I started teaching for LI almost by accident. When I worked as one of LI's Regional Field Coordinators in 2009, I began offering to help other departments and divisions teach their programming.I taught a Youth Leadership School at the University of Kentucky in August 2009 and a Campaign Management School during D.C.'s “Snowpocalypse” in December 2009. Once I left full-time employment with LI in early 2010, I continued to teach as guest faculty.My undergraduate degree actually includes a minor in secondary education. I wanted to be a high school history and civics teacher, but professors told me I'd hate the red tape and bureaucracy. Serving as guest faculty allowed me to scratch the itch to be in the classroom with almost no bureaucracy or red tape with an audience of students who truly wanted to learn.What is, in your opinion, the most valuable Political and Fundraising training, workshop, or school someone can take here at LI?I think the training that really has the most potential to produce the most generational benefit for conservatives is the brand-new Conservative Organizational Entrepreneur training.This training is designed to teach conservatives how to start your own nonprofit or issue advocacy organization.Our movement would greatly benefit from more organizational entrepreneurs who establish local, state-level, and even nationally oriented groups to advance conservative principles, and Leadership Institute training can point you in the right direction and empower you to launch your own organization.As the Communications Director of the Arlington GOP, what are you most looking forward to in the upcoming elections?I love crafting messages that excite our activists and get them off the couch. Conservatives don't win a lot of elections in Arlington, but our activists are engaged because I help drive a narrative that keeps them involved.Our 4,000-person email list always engages with our updates, and people turn out to our events because they read about them in our emails or across social media.We don't win a lot, but we certainly can't win if we don't show up. So, I really enjoy crafting messages that get our activists to show up.How has LI helped prepare you to serve as the Communications Director for the Arlington GOP?I think knowing LI's headquarters is within the boundaries of my local political engagement forces me to be a more effective activist; it allows me to test activism ideas because Leadership Institute is the incubator of conservative activism.To that end, I feel a certain responsibility to be the best and most effective activist I can be. I can't teach people about it in LI trainings if I haven't gone out and done it myself.Having managed numerous political campaigns, what would you tell a first-time campaign manager?Your candidate should be knocking on doors and raising money. If you outwork the other guy – especially in a small primary – you can win. Knock doors. Raise money. Spend that money effectively. Nothing else matters. Many people seem to be disillusioned with the country's current political climate. What would you say to them to encourage them to get involved?As a conservative activist in a community where 80% of my neighbors voted for Joe Biden, I tell people, “I'm the kid in the room full of horse manure, saying there's got to be a pony in here somewhere.” The late Andrew Breitbart implored us to be happy warriors, and I am grateful for the opportunity every day to be a happy warrior for our principles. If you're not having fun saving the country, you're doing it wrong.If you're interested in the Conservative Organizational Entrepreneur or any other Leadership Institute training, visit LeadershipInstitute.org/Training to explore your options.
Meet Rick Tyler: From the hospitality industry in Maine to Political Commentator & LI Trainer
Kirsten Holmberg and Jordan Deibler
July 27, 2022
Meet Rick Tyler: From the hospitality industry in Maine to Political Commentator & LI Trainer
Meet Rick Tyler, the Director of Core Schools at the Leadership Institute (LI). He is also a thought-provoking Political Analyst for the MSNBC Cable News Network offering a conservative perspective to unfolding political events. As a professional political strategist, Rick has helped hundreds of candidates prepare for the rigors of campaigning for public office. He is Co-Founder of Foundry Strategies, a strategic, communications firm specializing in helping candidates and campaigns hone their communications skills. Rick was the National Spokesperson for U.S. Senator Ted Cruz's presidential campaign. In the 2012 election cycle, Rick was a senior advisor and spokesman to the Winning Our Future PAC, a pro-Newt Gingrich for President Super PAC. Prior to joining the PAC, Rick was a key member of the former House Speaker's team for more than a decade serving as Gingrich's advisor and spokesperson. A gifted communicator, Rick has appeared thousands of times on national television news shows including MSNBC; Fox News Channel; CNN; CBS News; NBC News; ABC News; PBS; HBO; CNBC; CBN; Bloomberg News; BBC; CBC; RTE; and Al Jazeera. I interviewed Rick to hear more about his background and draw on his vast political experience. Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your background? I came out of the hospitality industry working in hotels and restaurants. I started my political career when I volunteered for the gubernatorial campaign of the mother of one of the waitresses in a restaurant where I worked in coastal Maine. I've worked in politics ever since. I've worked on campaigns. For five years, I was the executive director of the Maine Republican Party. In that position, I engaged GOPAC to come to Maine and conduct political training for our House and Senate candidates. Soon after, I became a political trainer for GOPAC teaching all over the country. For more than a decade, I trained thousands of candidates and activists to win elections including three trips over six years to train California Republican Assembly members at the request of then-leader Kevin McCarthy. You were the national spokesman for Ted Cruz for President as well as a personal advisor and spokesman for Newt Gingrich. What motivated you to work for these men? In 1994, I was just getting started in politics, but it was Newt Gingrich who grabbed my attention when he organized the Republican Party with a Contract with America that led to the Republicans gaining the majority both in the House and the Senate for the first time in 40 years. I followed him closely. When the opportunity came to meet his closest advisor, Joe Gaylord, I made clear my desire to work in what was then affectionately known as Newt-world. I had never met Senator Cruz when the call came asking me to work on his presidential campaign. But I soon met him, and we hit it off immediately. In Newt's case, I was motivated to work for him because he was a leader with a proven track-record having seized the speakership; in Cruz' case, because he had the potential of a future conservative leader. Are there any insightful stories that you can share from your time working on campaigns or with candidates? Everyone has a story. The key to developing a great candidate is telling their unique story that is relatable to voters. I have found that most candidates are bored by their own story because, well, it is their story. But people are fascinated with stories. Our stories connect us to the hearts of voters, not only getting them to like us. That will inoculate you as a candidate from criticism. We tend to defend people with whom we have made an emotional connection. Stories allow voters to know what the candidate is about and their character. This provides a solid foundation for putting their trust in that candidate. So, developing the candidate's story and personal brand is the most important part of a successful candidacy. You are the Director of Core Schools here at the Leadership Institute (LI). Tell us a bit about your position. My main goal as the Director of Core Schools was to create the Campaign Leadership College (CLC) as the most comprehensive course LI has ever offered. The purpose of the course is to develop campaign leaders who work at the senior level of campaigns for conservative candidates. For a candidate, being conservative is not enough. You must have experienced people to run a winning campaign. The CLC seeks to fill the current, severe shortage of trained conservative campaign managers and directors so that conservative candidates can have competent managers and directors to run their campaigns. What is, in your opinion, the most valuable Political and Fundraising training, workshop, or school someone can take here at LI? I think that all depends upon what your goals are. LI offers so many quality programs from the Youth Leadership School, to the Conservative Organizational Entrepreneur, to the Campaign Leadership College. However, I would say that everyone should take the public speaking course because even if you don't plan to become a public speaker, having the ability to communicate your ideas in a clear and persuasive manner will help you in any career goal. If you're interested in the Campaign Leadership College, Public Speaking Workshop, or any other Leadership Institute training, visit LeadershipInstitute.org/Training to explore your options.
Moms for Liberty Takes the National Stage
Dylan Craig
July 22, 2022
Moms for Liberty Takes the National Stage
As they saw their school boards dominated by Covid-19 fearmongers and leftist activists politicizing the classroom and corroding educational integrity, the founding members of Moms for Liberty quickly organized. They got advice from my boss, Morton Blackwell, and used Leadership Institute trainings and sheer determination to quickly become a national force.Started in January of 2021 by three concerned moms, Moms for Liberty quickly became a force to be reckoned with, with 195 chapters in 37 states and more than 95,000 members.Earlier this month, hundreds of concerned mothers gathered in Tampa Bay for the Moms for Liberty National Summit. In three days, these moms learned how to run for school board and effectively defend their children's rights to a proper education.Attendees learn how to influence public policy from Leadership Institute staff at a breakout during the Moms for Liberty National Summit. Since the early months of 2020, Americans have seen their rights violated on a scale rarely seen in American history. Despite children being at a very low risk of suffering ill effects from Covid-19, K-12 schools across the country were immediately shut down by bureaucrats, without any input or say from the parents of children who'd be directly affected.Children were isolated from their peers for two years and forced to learn through a screen.My elementary school years were some of my most enjoyable and foundational years. I learned how to socialize with others. I learned how the concepts of fairness and kindness work in practice. I learned the foundations of English, science, and math, establishing the basis of my knowledge.It absolutely devastates me to think of how many children missed out on these opportunities and were instead isolated from friends, forced to go through the motions of "learning" by staring at a screen for hours every day. I don't have any kids, but I can't imagine how especially devastated I'd be if I had been actively watching my children deal with the side effects of bureaucratic overreach, knowing it was all for no good reason.Now, American parents face a new threat. Covid-19 made leftist activists realize how much power they hold over America's education system. These activists quickly shifted their attention to capitalize on this newfound power. They work to establish and entrench many new curriculums that border on brainwashing.Rather than learning how to write a sentence correctly, many of America's children are exposed to relativist gender ideology. Rather than learning how the weather works, many of America's children are taught that the color of their skin makes them guilty of being racist.By gaining exposure to the minds of our innocent children, leftist activists seek to fundamentally shift the future of the country towards their nihilist beliefs.It's a massive understatement to say that things must change. They must change now for the sake of our future.Thankfully, parents are taking action as we speak. At this summer's first Moms for Liberty National Summit, notable conservative speakers showed up to offer their support, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and former HUD secretary Ben Carson.I'm proud to say Leadership Institute partnered with Moms for Liberty and supported the Summit as the top sponsor, official photographers/videographers, trainers, and all-around support. LI held training for attendees on Candidate Vetting, Grassroots Lobbying, Communications, Running for Office, Strategic Research, Vote Goals, and four hours of Media Training. Now, 150 more conservatives are trained to advance their principles in their local communities. LI's new Director of School Board Programs, Bridget Ziegler (center), discussed School safety with Senator Rick Scott on the mainstage at the Summit.I had the opportunity to attend this conference, and what I saw was deeply inspiring. The two greatest forces in existence are God's love and a parent's love for their children. Both were on display this weekend.I'm only 24, and don't have children just yet, but thanks to Moms for Liberty, I feel much more optimistic that my children will have access to an unbiased and wholesome education, one that lifts them up, rather than trying to indoctrinate them. I can only imagine where Moms for Liberty will be a year from now!Are you interested in becoming part of a Moms for Liberty group in your area? Visit their website here. Do you want to learn more about how to change your school board and protect the future of America? Visit LeadershipInstitute.org/Training for training to help you become a more effective activist or candidate.
Five Questions with Leadership Institute’s 250,000th Graduate
Matthew Hurtt
July 18, 2022
Five Questions with Leadership Institute’s 250,000th Graduate
Leadership Institute (LI) trained its 250,000th activist at its 2022 National Youth Leadership School (YLS), which was held over the weekend of July 2nd near LI's Stephen P.J. Wood Building in Arlington, VA. At the largest YLS on record, 285 conservative activists were trained to win.Kellyanna Brooking, a young activist and social media content creator from Seattle, Washington, became LI's 250,000th graduate at this flagship school. LI's Director of Graduate Relations Matthew Hurtt asked Kellyanna five questions about being a young activist: 1. How did you come to embrace your conservative principles? I'm from the Seattle, Washington, area and in the summer of 2020 (or as our mayor called it, The Summer of Love), a large group of extremists took control and occupied an area in Seattle. Rioters and Antifa thugs destroyed our city and our communities and drove crime rates to an all-time high. Seeing this firsthand and reading Tomi Lahren's book Never Play Dead helped me learn about being a conservative and how to use my voice to make a difference. 2. What is something you learned at the National YLS that you can implement in your community? I learned the importance of organizing around my principles to advance commonsense conservative public policy. LI's Youth Leadership School teaches young activists to organize on high school and college campuses for the conservative candidates or causes of their choice. This two-day training is intense, and I'm better equipped to fight for conservative principles in far-left Seattle and online because of it.3. Tell us what it's like to create content for social media. How do you find inspiration? I love using my social media platform to speak on issues I and other young conservatives face. My online platform helps me advocate for conservative principles on national news outlets and radio stations. It's motivating for me to use my voice and insight to connect with others who share my principles and care about the important issues we face.4. What do you think Leadership Institute training can provide to young activists? LI training can provide young activists everything you need to be successful in the political world. LI equips activists with the tools to win. The training has been a blessing and I can't wait to get back into my community to fight for my principles using what I learned at LI's Youth Leadership School.5. What advice would you give a young conservative looking to make a difference? I suggest young people get involved in local politics. Don't just hide behind social media and become a copy-and-paste talking head. Go out into the world and let yourself be uncomfortable at times. That's the space where you will be pushed; and you will become a more effective activist and better able to express your informed, well-rounded viewpoints. Kellyanna founded her Turning Point USA hub at age 12 and then at 14 became their youngest TPUSA Ambassador. Kellyanna can be found on national news outlets speaking out on issues such as defunding the police, cancel culture, protecting freedom of speech, indoctrination in schools and the importance of the youth using their voice.You can find Kellyanna on her show "A Few Words." Her goal is to help bring younger voices to the conversation and help future leaders to become proud and unapologetic Americans.If you would like to nominate a Leadership Institute graduate or be featured yourself, contact LI's Director of Graduate Relations Matthew Hurtt.
5 Digital Campaigning Secrets from Leadership Institute’s Newest Online Course
Eric Wilson
July 12, 2022
5 Digital Campaigning Secrets from Leadership Institute’s Newest Online Course
Digital campaigning is an essential skill if you want to advance your principles and win at the ballot box. Often, getting started can be the hardest part. There are so many platforms, options, and choices to make, and it's easy to become overwhelmed. But not if you understand the fundamentals of digital marketing and never lose sight of your goals. Leadership Institute's new Zero to 1,000: Social Media for Campaigns training series helps conservatives of all skill levels overcome the hurdle of getting started. It's three hours of video lessons with everything you need to know about launching your digital campaign.The best part? The training is FREE for a limited time.Sign Up HereTo give you a preview of what you'll learn, here are five digital campaigning secrets to improve the quality and effectiveness of your online efforts. KEEP IT SOCIAL The secret to social media marketing is right in the name. Too many campaigners only focus on the media component with photos and videos while overlooking “social” and “marketing.” Being social means you respond to comments, participate in conversations, and have a personality. Don't forget the marketing either. Your campaign should use social media to win an election by getting attention, raising money, and earning votes. If you know why you're using social media for your campaign, you'll stay focused on your marketing goals and not get distracted by the platform. BIGGER IS BETTER When it comes to online fundraising, the bigger your active email list, the more money you'll raise. That's the only secret there is. Text messaging – both broadcast and peer-to-peer (P2P) – is also increasingly important. Think about it: when someone signs up to support your campaign and opts in to receive communications from you, they are already on the way to being invested.BEWARE THE PLATFORMS Your goals are different from those of Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, and other online platforms. Your objective is to win an election. Their goal is to sell more ads by keeping users on the site.To avoid sharing your audience with big tech, do everything you can to make your campaign accessible through other means, including email and text. DATA TARGETING ISN'T PERFECTUsing data to target your digital advertising is essential, but targeting too narrowly is a mistake. The goal is to gain efficiency by showing fewer wasted impressions to the intended audience. You can't eliminate all inefficiency without trimming out key voters. Simply relying on past behavior – namely voting history – can also be a big mistake. As many as a third of voters in a primary election, for example, could be first-time voters. More citizens are coming into the political process than ever before.CONSISTENCY IS THE KEY Digital campaigning is fundamentally about audience building. The most effective way to build an audience online is to create and share content consistently. Think about your favorite TV show or podcast. You know when new episodes come out, and you make time to watch or listen to them. The same is true for the content your campaign or cause creates.No matter the platform, posting consistently builds and grows your audience. So, don't take on more than you can handle. Start with email and Facebook, then grow from there.YOU OWE IT TO YOUR PHILOSOPHY TO STUDY HOW TO WINIn the new Zero to 1,000: Social Media for Campaigns course, you'll learn these digital campaigning “secrets” and much more. Most important, this training will simplify the “why” behind key online marketing strategies so you can apply them in any context, regardless of experience or budget.
A Quarter Million Conservative Grads
Morton C. Blackwell
July 8, 2022
A Quarter Million Conservative Grads
The Leadership Institute just trained our 250,000th conservative -- what a thrilling achievement!That record-breaking LI graduate is named Kellyanna Brooking. She has a remarkable story.A high school student from Seattle, Washington, Kellyanna is younger than most Leadership Institute graduates. She began to challenge leftism in her high school after she saw that no one else was standing up for her values.Because she dares to speak out for her conservative principles, Kellyanna faces immense pressure from her classmates. They often threaten her and call her “racist, bigot, transphobic.”But Kellyanna is undaunted by those attacks.She signed up for my National Youth Leadership School July 2-3 at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University in Arlington, VA. She came to learn how to make an even bigger difference in her school and in her community.Little did Kellyanna know she'd make history!Here's a photo of me presenting Kellyanna with a certificate of her graduation.That wasn't the only record the Leadership Institute broke this past weekend.The National Youth Leadership School (YLS) Kellyanna attended was by far the largest YLS in Leadership Institute history. She was one of 285 students who learned that weekend how to take on the left -- and win.Those 250,000 Leadership Institute graduates advance freedom on campus, on the campaign trail, in government, in conservative organizations, and in their communities.Thanks to thousands of generous donors, a quarter million graduates are trained and ready to advance their conservative principles. Please consider supporting the Leadership Institute to continue to build an army of strong conservative leaders, like Kellyanna, to save America.
Making History – Highly Trained Conservative Campaigners
Dylan Craig
June 30, 2022
Making History – Highly Trained Conservative Campaigners
On Friday, June 24th, I attended Leadership Institute's inaugural Campaign Leadership College. It's a day I'll never forget. When I woke up on the 24th, I didn't expect it to become a historic day, a day I'll tell my children about. It started out typically. As always, I made breakfast and went for a brief "wake-up walk," as my grandfather calls them. I got dressed and headed to the Campaign Leadership College venue, looking forward to attending LI's newest (and most comprehensive) training, a bold nine-day project designed to develop conservative activists into senior campaign executives. In a representative republic, ideas alone don't win elections; it takes a competent team of campaign staffers to elevate these ideas into elected office, where they can then be translated into tangible policy victories. The current state of our government is a prime example. Leftists hold the legislative and executive branches, despite having absurd and philosophically unsound beliefs. They're not elected to office because they're right; they're in office because they've benefitted from skilled campaign workers running effective campaigns. For decades, the left has excelled at this. The Campaign Leadership College was created to alleviate this problem. Over nine days, campaign experts teach forty conservative activists how to build a winning campaign from the bottom up. Upon graduation, these graduates enter the political field, taking their newfound expertise from campaign to campaign. They learn how to analyze districts, interpret and apply voter data, budget, fundraise, conduct opposition research, and find and keep good staff. An hour into day seven of the College, an attendee jubilantly stood up and blurted out some major news; the Supreme Court had officially overturned Roe v. Wade, revoking the long-standing federal right to an abortion. The room, filled with conservative activists of all ages and backgrounds, erupted in celebration. It was a beautiful moment, not only because it was a step towards abolishing abortion, but because it symbolized what can be accomplished when conservatives effectively organize. For years, many thought Roe v. Wade would never be overturned. Thanks to effectively managed campaigns, in the face of all odds, the conservative movement had its most significant victory in living memory. As future Campaign Leadership Colleges continue to send highly trained conservatives into the political field, I can only imagine the conservative victories America will continue to enjoy.
LI Grad Interview: From chairing the Arlington GOP to becoming President of APL Consulting, Andrew Loposser consults the conservative movement
Kirsten Holmberg and Jordan Deibler
June 30, 2022
LI Grad Interview: From chairing the Arlington GOP to becoming President of APL Consulting, Andrew Loposser consults the conservative movement
Meet Andrew Loposser, a Leadership Institute (LI) grad and grassroots activist. For the past decade, Andrew has been politically active in the Northern Virginia community, Chairing the Arlington GOP and 8th District GOP Congressional Committee - taking the challenge directly to progressives in deep-blue Northern Virginia. Andrew is President of APL Consulting, where he helps new Republican candidates navigate how to run for office and win. For more than 15 years, he's worked on the ground with candidates at the local, state, and federal level — from strategy and messaging to organizing and voter targeting. In my recent interview with Andrew Loposser, we discussed his background and how he decided to become active in politics. He even offers some advice for conservative activists and candidates. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?I'm originally from Charlotte, NC, but I've been in Virginia for the past decade, and I consider it home. I've spent all ten of those years in Arlington County. I'm one of those rare people who came to the DC area and stayed. I live in the Ballston neighborhood with my wife, Emily, and black lab, Lucy.? As a leader inside the conservative movement, who are some of the people who aided you most in helping you get to where you are today? Hands down, Matthew Hurtt. Matthew was the first conservative activist and GOP party member I met when I moved to Arlington County. He helped get me involved with the local unit committee and introduced me to individuals who would become some of my closest friends and mentors. I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mr. Morton Blackwell. I credit the Leadership Institute for much of my professional success, and none of that would have been possible without Morton. What is a valuable lesson you have learned from being the President of APL Consulting?Growing a company requires dedication. As a small business owner, you are constantly working to grow your business and develop yourself professionally. Since starting my company, the most valuable thing I've learned is that you have to invest in yourself and have a growth mindset.Have Leadership Institute trainings helped you in your career and activism?I've taken several trainings at the Leadership Institute, so it's hard to be concise with this answer. I'll narrow it down to three areas: campaign management, coalition building, and public speaking. I use the lessons I've learned from LI trainings on those issues weekly and implement them into my campaigns with clients.The Campaign Management School and the Public Speaking trainings with Rick Tyler are two of my favorite LI trainings.What is one piece of advice you would offer to conservative grassroots activists? Keep showing up. Keep on the pressure. Keep learning how to fight for our principles and philosophy. This fight is never over. As Morton always says, "You owe it to your philosophy to learn how to win."
DC Summer Internships: What To Know
Dylan Craig
May 9, 2022
DC Summer Internships: What To Know
Every year, hordes of interns from around the country descend upon Washington, DC. Summer is the most popular season for internships, since it enables students to gain valuable professional experience without missing a semester of classes. More and more colleges now accept internship experience as valid credits that count towards graduation. Summer remains the most popular time of the year for internships. Many unique opportunities and challenges come with an internship in the nation's capital during the hottest months of the year. If you plan to intern this summer, or would like to, here are some things to know: Supply and Demand First and foremost, the classic law of supply and demand applies. A limited supply of available internships confronts a high demand for summer internships. Competition is much higher during the summer, so do not be discouraged if you don't get accepted to your dream internship. Often, if you re-apply for the same internship but for a fall or spring semester instead, you'll be accepted! One component of this higher demand, outside of the fact that you will not be missing classes, is that there's generally much more happening in the summer months. Despite relatively mild winters, the social scene in DC seems to completely shut down from October to April. It seems as if most people go to work, and then immediately return home afterward. In mid-April, when the temperatures become consistently warmer, the social scene in DC becomes significantly more active. This presents an abundance of networking opportunities. Networking Networking is important in any professional field, but it's exponentially more important in an industry where people-skills are in high demand, such as the political field. In DC, people tend to hire from within their own personal networks, rather than hiring interns based on their resumes. This means a well-developed personal network is crucial to your career advancement, and the abundance of social events over the summer provides an abundance of opportunities. You won't meet people if you do not put yourself out there and attend events with other like-minded individuals. However, the abundance of social events and opportunities is both a blessing and a (potential) curse. Many interns prioritize socializing over their work. This subtracts from their professional advancement. Those new to a professional environment (or those who've recently turned 21) are most vulnerable to the temptations of socializing. Constant networking can be a huge drain on financial resources. It can also easily subtract from the quality of your performance within the office. Work/life balance is crucial, and the abundance of social events over the summer can prevent you from receiving the full value of an internship. Reputation Congressional offices are rife with stories of hungover summer interns who were barely capable of any work in the mornings. If you develop a reputation as an intern who prioritizes socializing or partying over your work, you will dramatically shrink your future job prospects. It doesn't matter how adept or personable you are; it doesn't matter how big your network is. If you can't obtain a work/life balance, your prospects in DC will be narrowly limited. As a young burgeoning professional, your reputation will be worth its weight in gold. And DC is a town built on reputations. A Few Final Tips It's impossible to mention summer internships without mentioning DC's brutal humidity, which can make even a simple commute miserable. To counteract this heat, many office buildings overcompensate and crank up the A.C. to uncomfortable levels. While it may seem counterintuitive, layers are especially important in the summer. On especially brutal days, it's not uncommon for people to wear casual clothes on their commute and then change into professional attire once they arrive at the office. It's hard to understate how miserable it is to wear a black suit in 95-degree weather! Summer internships offer opportunities for both professional and personal development, especially since many offices ramp up their hiring in the fall. An impressive performance over the course of your summer internship can easily lead to a job offer if the timing is right. Beyond the professional context, DC offers endless opportunities for personal growth. Very few people who work/live in DC are actually from DC. This makes the city a fascinating melting pot of people from all over the country and world. Your internship will provide you with endless opportunities to meet lifelong friends, challenge your philosophical worldview, and expand your knowledge about yourself and your abilities. Good luck! If you're interested in more career advice, networking opportunities, and training, check out the Leadership Institute's career opportunities page.
How to Get Your Master’s Degree without the Leftist Slant
Ethan Madsen
May 5, 2022
How to Get Your Master’s Degree without the Leftist Slant
Your level of education often defines the opportunities available to you. The Monday after my graduation, I began working in an Amazon warehouse. During my initial training and orientation, senior management made it abundantly clear that the fast-track to promotion (a hot commodity considering the physical workload of the average employee) ran through the halls of higher education. Furthering your education while you balance an active professional life can be complicated when you're already well underway on your chosen career path. To further complicate things, you and I live in a world of political bias and rampant intolerance in academia. As a conservative, the idea of being constantly excluded on campus may be intimidating. The good news is, you have options when you're looking for that Master's degree. Today, I hope to help you overcome the limitations that an active work life and being a part of a philosophical minority can present as you look at graduate programs. Below, I will explore the opportunities provided by a few institutions known to be philosophically open, if not reliably conservative. 1. Hillsdale College School of Government Located in Washington, D.C., the Steve and Amy Van Andel School of Government is a graduate school run by Hillsdale College. The campus is within walking distance of the U.S. Capitol Building, the Supreme Court, and Union Station. The school's goal is to prepare its students to further the work of restoring constitutional self-government in the United States. The only program available is a Master of Arts (MA) in Government. Classes are offered in the evening, and Saturday seminars are provided to accommodate the working schedules of the attendees. The typical duration of the program is 2.5 to 3 years, and the average tuition and fees are $25,420. However, scholarships up to full tuition are readily available to accepted applicants.2. Liberty University Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University is a private evangelical university. It is known as a consistently conservative institution, with more than 87% of university employee's donations going to conservative candidates in the 2020 election, according to Leadership Institute's (LI) Campus Reform. The majority of the university's students attend virtually. As to the graduate programs offered, Liberty provides online tracks to obtain such degrees as: Juris Masters Master of Business Administration Master of Arts in: History Government Geography Military Operations The average tuition and fees for the graduate programs were $8,349 for the 2020-2021 academic year. For military service members, the price is reduced to $275-$300 per credit hour. 3. Purdue University Global Purdue Global is a public, non-profit university run by Purdue University. All courses are offered online, allowing for a personalized schedule. Purdue Global boasts of more than 25 areas of study, with degree options including the following: Master of Science in Legal Studies Master of Science in Management and Leadership Master of Science in Criminal Justice Master of Business AdministrationThe average cost of tuition and fees was $9,618 for in-state (Indiana) students and $10,674 for out-of-state students in the 2020-2021 academic year. For members of the military, Guard, Reserves, as well as veterans, tuition rates are cut by 14% to 30% per credit. Similarly, rates for military spouses are reduced by 10% per credit. 4. Texas Tech Texas Technical University is a public university in Lubbock, Texas. It is reliably conservative, with more than 58% of employee donations going to conservative candidates during the 2020 elections, according to Leadership Institute's Campus Reform. Texas Tech offers more than 100 master's degrees, 60 doctoral degrees, and 60 graduate certificate programs. Many options are available with in-person, online, and accelerated tracks to earn an MS, MA, MBA, PhD, or JD. For graduate programs, the average cost of in-state (Texas) tuition and fees was $9,350, or $17,530 for out-of-state. In comparison to the other universities on this list, Texas Tech provides more robust STEM training, as well as interdisciplinary degree options. 5. Baylor University Baylor University is a private Christian school located in Waco, Texas. It offers more than 100 post-graduate programs, with an average tuition of $36,936 during the 2020-2021 academic year. Apart from their in-person classes, Baylor offers a wide range of online programs. I've listed several here: MA in Journalism MSCS in Computer Science MBA in: General Cyber Security Executive Communication Global Trade and Supply Chain Management Marketing6. The Institute of World Politics The Institute of World Politics (IWP) is a graduate school located in Washington, D.C. It's focused on master's programs to equip leaders for national security, intelligence, and international affairs. The typical cost for a Master's degree is $67,600 for the full two year program, though IWP does grant scholarships and tuition discounts for military, military spouses, law enforcement, as well as federal government employees. Leadership Institute graduates can also get a $200 discount per credit hour. The Institute's mission shows a strong commitment to America's founding principles, reality-based foreign policy, and a solid sense of ethics. IWP offers several degrees, some in person in D.C. or VA, and others online. This includes a Master of Arts in: Statecraft and National Security Affairs Statecraft and International Affairs Strategic Intelligence StudiesNational Security Affairs Strategic and International Studies Statecraft and Strategy Are you interested in more university news? Visit Leadership Institute's Campus Reform website. If you'd like further help advancing your career, get advice and training with Leadership Institute's Career Team.
Meeting Moms for Liberty's Marie Rogerson, military brat, parent, and activist
Kirsten Holmberg
April 22, 2022
Meeting Moms for Liberty's Marie Rogerson, military brat, parent, and activist
"This story is being replicated in counties across the nation. Moms and dads are awake. They do not want to co-parent with the government, and they will not allow classroom doors to slam closed on their parental rights – and God bless them for it.” – Marie RogersonMeet Marie Rogerson, a Leadership Institute graduate, Campaign Management Consultant, and the Director of Development at Moms for Liberty. During my interview with Marie, we discussed her past involvement in non-profit organizations, her views on parental influence on local government, and experiences from her current role in Moms for Liberty. Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?I'm a military brat. I've moved more than 30 times in my life. My father's military experience taught him to remain vigilant, and that extended into the arena of local politics. There were 6 of us kids, 4 boys, and 2 girls. My father paid extra attention to the goings-on at our school board. Even back in the mid-nineties, he realized education in America was going in the wrong direction and couldn't stand by without taking action. When I was about 13, he ran for school board. Mind you, we lived in basically the only blue county in the state of Kansas and my father was as conservative as they come. He knew he stood little chance, but he also understood that he could bring attention to key issues while exemplifying the importance of standing up for what you believe in. He didn't win, but I consider his run my first foray into politics. When I was 21, I served for 18 months as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, teaching the principles of Christ's liberty in the Spanish language. Serving in California, most of the individuals I taught were illegal immigrants. They told eye-opening stories about the corruption in their home countries and the lengths they went to cross the border. After my mission, I did a study abroad through Latin America and witnessed firsthand the places many of the people I taught came from. Both experiences deepened my appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy in America as well as the benefits of our free-market system. They also strengthened my empathy and gave me a human connection to an issue that I had previously only seen on the news as pundits speculated on the state of our border.Besides a brief stint as a Communications major, I mostly studied Political Science while at university. Unlike many professors today, mine were excellent at encouraging critical thinking rather than indoctrination. We discussed the political history of the world openly, and I walked away from the experience with a deep understanding of how entirely flawed systems like communism and socialism are.I finished my degree while pregnant with my first daughter. My husband Aaron and I have now been married for 15 years and have a total of 3 girls. Honestly, I owe most of who I am and what I've accomplished to him encouraging me to pursue my passions and continue to learn.You are the Director of Development at Moms for Liberty; what inspired you to get involved with this organization? Tina Descovich, one of the Co-Founders of Moms for Liberty is a close friend of mine. I helped manage her first campaign for school board. After we both lost our elections in 2020, we found ourselves with unexpected time on our hands and started a book club (for lack of a better word) to study the founding documents. We would dissect every word and phrase and discuss how the document applied to current events. It took us nearly six months, meeting twice a month, to read the Declaration of Independence. During that time Tina launched Moms for Liberty and asked me to help design a program around what we had been doing, which we now call Madison Meetups. Shortly after Moms for Liberty launched, one of the three founding members had to step back, and I was asked to take her place on the Executive Board. What was pitched to me as a “silent partner” position, has been anything but – which is good considering redheads aren't known for biting their tongues. After months of balancing our explosive growth, a demanding but adorable toddler, and my duties as Director of Operations for Foster Florida, I made the decision to resign from my paid job and cast my lot with moms in America, fighting for the survival of all we hold dear. While I had numerous attachments to the organization, there are two main things that tipped the scales for me in favor of Moms for Liberty. First, the grassroots focus. This isn't a national organization promising a magic 12-step program that will fix local schools. They understand that schools can only be fixed, with any lasting effect, by local people with the autonomy to take the fight in the direction they need. Our chapter leaders aren't paid activists, they already have skin in the game. The children they drop off at school every morning and pick up each afternoon are their motivation. Second, it isn't about merely drawing attention to the issue, it is about plugging parents in and helping them understand the system so they can fix it. There is plenty of conjecture and discussion about these issues; what we need are engagement and action. That is what Moms for Liberty brings to the table.Do you have any insightful stories about your work at Moms for Liberty? There is a mom whom I have known for several years. Since 2018, I've invited her to get involved in a number of ways without much success. When Moms for Liberty launched, she showed up at a chapter meeting. She then attended the next school board meeting. The following month, with trembling hands she addressed the school board for the first time. At each event I watched her come out of her shell as she found her people. She stood shoulder to shoulder with moms who also weren't exactly “political” people but were willing to learn together to preserve their parental rights. It is amazing to see these women don a navy shirt like armor and stand on the frontlines for their children. Almost a year later, this mom is boldly petitioning for what is right everywhere I look.This story is being replicated in counties across the nation. Moms and dads are awake. They do not want to co-parent with the government, and they will not allow classroom doors to slam closed on their parental rights – and God bless them for it.You are also a Campaign Consultant. How has Leadership Institute helped prepare you to ensure your candidates run successful campaigns? When the pandemic hit, like many people, my family began doing puzzles. It wasn't until we dumped out the first box and my daughter began attempting to put together random pieces that I realized no one had ever explained to her that you start with the edges then work your way in. She could have figured the puzzle out eventually, but she would have endured a lot of frustration in the process. Leadership Institute was like that for me. I had volunteered and worked on campaigns before, but until I sat through four full days of Campaign Management School, I was trying to solve a complicated puzzle by identifying patterns and putting random pieces together. Now I have the skills to organize effectively, mobilize, and win. We need more people capable of efficiently matching pieces to reveal beautiful images demonstrating how the principles of liberty can bless their communities.You were the Director of Operations for a non-profit serving the foster care community. What experience from that position has helped you in your current roles?My time with Foster Florida taught me about working on a board, the basics of running a non-profit, and most importantly the limit to parental rights. The goal when a child is first removed from their family and placed in care is reunification. That is not always the result, unfortunately. Even fundamental parental rights have limits. It has been a wonderful perspective enhancer to go from the world of foster care into the battle for parental rights. I have watched the anguish on a good mother's face as she was denied her parental rights temporarily due to poor choices as well as her joy when they were restored. I see the same anguish and joy on parents' faces now as the Director of Development for Moms for Liberty. The difference is that these parents did nothing to warrant the violation of their rights and were afforded much less due process.Many people seem to be disillusioned with the country's current political climate. What would you say to them to encourage them to get involved?Disillusionment is the feeling of disappointment from discovering something is not as good as it was believed to be. I do not believe you can be disillusioned with America. You can be disillusioned by its people and its leaders, but you cannot be disillusioned with it because it was literally founded on goodness – the idea that all men are created equal and deserve to live freely. What greater good could there be in a creation of man? America's leaders and its people may have made tragic mistakes along the way but that does not change the principle. If you find yourself disillusioned, you have likely lost sight of the mark. Focus less on the mistakes of man, and more on the divine principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. Spend more time doing things that reinforce those principles and the light of hope will grow in your life. Manage your expectations, people have always been flawed. Find a principle that is not and hang on to it for dear life.Are you ready to take action and learn how the puzzle fits together, so you can make a difference? Check out the Campaign Management School Marie says gave her “the skills to organize effectively, mobilize, and win.” If you're looking for training you can take online on demand – including a free one on school boards – you can find a whole list of on-demand training here.
How and Why to Start Your Own Conservative Organization: LI's brand new training!
Morton C. Blackwell
April 11, 2022
How and Why to Start Your Own Conservative Organization: LI's brand new training!
For decades, conservatives have struggled to fight back against the radical left. The left is backed by unions, government bureaucracies, and even some businesses. The right does not have these institutions, and victory is often an uphill battle. The greatest conservative victories come about because of work done by organizations that recruit and mobilize Americans and get them engaged and excited about the issues you and I face. How many more restrictions on the Second Amendment would there be without organizations like the National Rifle Association, National Association for Gun Rights, and Gun Owners of America? Would there be a growing number of pro-life victories without the efforts of the March for Life or the dozens of allied groups? How much worse would our schools be without Moms for Liberty, Parents Defending Education, and the Noah Webster Foundation advocating for our children? I believe that conservatives must seek out and persuade more people to start non-profit organizations that will be active in the public policy process.You can change the balance of power in our country.Your Leadership Institute now offers a training to teach you the lessons you need to start your own organization. The first iteration of this brand-new training, How and Why to Start Your Own Organization, will occur on April 20th, both at the Steven P.J. Wood Building in Arlington, VA and Online.I said a few words encouraging conservatives in this video. Please watch and share this training opportunity with your conservative friends!
Meet Nicole Neily: Founder and President of Parents Defending Education
Kirsten Holmberg
March 25, 2022
Meet Nicole Neily: Founder and President of Parents Defending Education
Meet Nicole Neily, a successful conservative organizational entrepreneur who saw a problem on a college campus and took action to be the solution. In our recent interview, Nicole and I discussed her experience founding two conservative non-profits – Parents Defending Education and Speech First.Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?I'm originally from the Chicago suburbs and went to graduate school at Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy, where I read Milton Friedman and realized that the free market was a more effective way to help people with dignity. After moving from California to DC, I worked at a series of advocacy organizations including the Cato Institute, the Independent Women's Forum, and the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. In 2017, I launched Speech First, a campus free speech organization that defends students' First Amendment rights primarily through litigation – and in March 2021, I launched Parents Defending Education!As the founder and president of Parents Defending Education, what inspired you to start your organization?While running Speech First, it struck me that a lot of the problems on campus seemed to start a lot earlier – for example, students arriving on campus didn't really understand the First Amendment because they hadn't received a proper civics education in high school. At the start of the pandemic, a number of my friends who are parents reached out from across the country to express their frustration with school closures, and I was really struck by how disenfranchised parents were – and how little they knew about how to effect change. From there, the thing that really flipped the switch for me was reading a July 2020 Wall Street Journal interview with the superintendent of a district in the Chicago suburbs – near where I grew up – who said he would allow “black and brown” students to return for in-person education before white students in the name of “anti-racism.” I told a friend that I wanted to start Speech First for K-12 schools and to sue the district, because such a practice would be unconstitutional! He was supportive of the idea but countered “unfortunately most people don't know that's unconstitutional – you might need to start from a different place.” So, we started building things out from a slightly different place – to tell people what their rights are, so they know where the red lines are. That way if (or more likely, when) those lines are crossed, they know that something has to be done – and then we walk them through options on how to engage constructively!Do you have any insightful stories about leading Parents Defending Education?I'm a firm believer in the saying “sunshine is the best disinfectant,” which is why we've seen outlets like Leadership Institute's Campus Reform make such an impact! We have a tip line and receive 100-200 tips each week from across the country, which is absolutely astonishing. Nearly every single person who sends us information wants to be anonymous, because they fear retaliation not only against themselves, but also against their children. We vet and fact-check everything and tell their stories – that way WE get the hate mail, not them! An interesting trend that we've noticed is that after we expose an incident at a school and it's publicized, we often have other people from that community reach out to us and let us know that there are other problems too – which is how we ended up compiling enough evidence about a district in Massachusetts that we filed a federal lawsuit, which was settled in early February. Unfortunately, many administrators are used to getting away with murder behind closed doors. We want to change that equation. By exposing what's really going on, we are able to hold those individuals accountable for their decisions – and change the risk calculus for others who might want to get away with similar hijinks in the future.You have worked at many limited government-focused organizations. How has the Leadership Institute (LI) helped prepare you for your important roles in public policy organizations? Without a doubt, I could not have been successful at Speech First without the Leadership Institute's help! The regional coordinators' knowledge of the landscape at each university was invaluable – they knew the heads of every student organization and each leader's strengths and weaknesses, and were able to make introductions and suggestions as issues developed. I think of LI as being the early warning system thanks to their on-the-ground knowledge – and of course, we cited LI's Campus Reform articles in Speech First's lawsuits repeatedly! Over the years, I've worked with a number of people who have participated in LI trainings and workshops, and I so appreciate how the Leadership Institute has helped to professionalize early-career staffers to make them more effective advocates!You were the president of Speech First, what experience did you gain from that position?Speech First was the opportunity of a lifetime. I was able to be an entrepreneur for freedom and build a 501(c)3 from scratch – what could be better? I'm married to a constitutional litigator, so I'm definitely a fan of leveraging the courts to protect our freedoms – but also to fight these battles in the court of public opinion as well. I got to be a jack of all trades – raising money, speaking to students, working with phenomenal appellate attorneys, and going on TV & radio to raise awareness about the problems plaguing our country's colleges & universities.Many people seem to be disillusioned with the country's current political climate. What would you say to them to encourage them to get involved?Many conservatives have focused so exclusively on the federal level that they've neglected state and local politics – but as the past two years of the pandemic has shown us, your state and city have a huge amount of power over your day-to-day life! Dick Armey used to say “politics goes to he who shows up,” and it's time for everyone to show up and get involved. That being said, “being involved” means different things to different people – and that's ok. Even doing something as minor as keeping an eye on what's happening in your local school district and passing on an anonymous tip to us helps to improve accountability and oversight in our schools – which will lead to better outcomes for ALL children.If you, like Nicole, see the problems our nation faces and you want to make a difference, take a look at the Leadership Institute's new training How and Why To Start Your Own Conservative Organization. This intense, one-day training will be hosted in Arlington, VA on April 20th, and is designed to equip you to take your idea for an organization from your imagination to successful implementation.
Steven Sutton: Navy, Campaign, Hill, Non-Profit - Advice from 30+ Years of Experience
Kirsten Holmberg
January 28, 2022
Steven Sutton: Navy, Campaign, Hill, Non-Profit - Advice from 30+ Years of Experience
“Democracy is not a spectator sport to be watched from the sidelines. It is participatory and a civic obligation to be involved at some level. We have ceded the battlefield to the left for too long. It is time to take it back.” - Steven SuttonMeet Steven Sutton, Senior Vice President of the Leadership Institute.In my recent interview, Steven and I discussed his 30+ years of political experience, on both conservative campaigns and non-profits. He gives his advice on everything from fundraising to campaign leadership and offers stern words for conservatives who aren't involved in the political process.What motivated you to get involved in conservative politics?As a junior officer in the Navy stationed at the Pentagon in the mid-1980s, I began to research different investment opportunities, for example, real estate and stocks. Almost universally, professionals I spoke with or read about cautioned that whatever might seem like a good investment could be turned into a bad investment by politicians who might change the laws, sometimes retroactively, governing various types of investments.That concerned me and led me to learn more about politics. The more I learned, the more I concluded that electing conservatives to public office was important.You currently serve as the Senior Vice President at the Leadership Institute (LI). Can you tell me more about your work? What would you like readers to know about the Leadership Institute?As Senior Vice President, my focus is to use my 30+ years of political, campaign, Capitol Hill, and conservative non-profit management and leadership experience to train and mentor future conservative leaders. Whether it's one-on-one or as part of an organization, I'm available to help anyone who is interested...just contact me at 703-647-3340.Regarding the Leadership Institute, there is no finer organization which exists to help conservatives advance their personal and professional goals. LI is truly the human resources department of the conservative movement.When you were the Vice President for Development, revenue rose from $7 million per year (2010) to $24 million (2020). What was the key to that success?Learning and implementing best practices and creating a culture of respect for LI's donors. Any organization with a record of successful programs can have similar success in fundraising if they do the same.Having managed numerous political campaigns from city council to U.S. Congress, what would you tell a first-time campaign manager?It is almost certain that a first-time campaign manager will not be taken as seriously as someone with more experience. That will lead to much frustration as your recommendations may not be followed by the candidate. Try to make allies on the campaign's steering committee and finance committee and work closely with them to implement your ideas. If you can't convince someone close to the candidate that your ideas have merit, you will be unlikely to convince the candidate on your own. Have the senior-level ally who is close to the candidate advocate for your ideas.Many people seem to be disillusioned with the country's current political climate. What would you say to them to encourage them to get involved?If smart, capable, conservative people refuse to get involved, they will be governed by stupid, inept, liberal people...and deserve to be.Democracy is not a spectator sport to be watched from the sidelines. It is participatory and a civic obligation to be involved at some level. We have ceded the battlefield to the left for too long. It is time to take it back.If you're interested in learning more about campaigns, fundraising, or leadership, go to LeadershipInstitute.org/Training and take your next step to get involved in the political process.
What I Saw: My Journey to the Leadership Institute
January 7, 2022
What I Saw: My Journey to the Leadership Institute
In early September, I found myself driving down the New Jersey turnpike towards Virginia. My car was loaded with suits, toiletries, and most important, my collection of tattered G.K. Chesterton books. I was unusually stressed, not just because I was surrounded by the turnpike's notoriously aggressive drivers, but because I was on my way to start a fall internship at the Leadership Institute (LI). Like anyone who's starting a new job or internship, I was nervous and unsure of what to expect. I was somewhat familiar with LI, having taken their (excellent) Youth Leadership School, but accepting an internship there had been a spur-of-the-moment decision. Eventually, I pulled into the driveway of LI's intern house and started my journey. Four months later, I'm beyond blessed to be working here at LI full-time. As an intern who transitioned into a full-time role, I've become intimately familiar with LI. The fifth-floor coffee maker is by far the best. Kirsten Holmberg, our Deputy Director of Political and Fundraising Training, always has a bowl of gourmet sweets on her desk. There's a faucet in the third-floor Men's restroom that randomly runs scalding water, so always be careful. But most important, I've become familiar with LI as an institution, and what exactly this organization does. The year 2021 was a great year for me (except for the fact that I got blown out in my Fantasy Football playoffs), and it was an even better year for LI. In 2021, the Leadership Institute (LI) prepared 18,195 trainees - from college students to campaign managers - to advance and act on their conservative principles. Each week, LI provided an average of 57 hours of live training, boosting the conservative movement towards electoral successes in 2022 and beyond. My journey with LI started when my friend invited me to attend LI's Youth Leadership Workshop (YLW), a three-hour training that equipped 1,606 young conservatives last year with tactics and tools they can use to advance conservatism on campus and beyond. After I attended the Youth Leadership Workshop, I was hooked and wanted to learn more. Being a conservative student on a heavily left-wing campus just outside of Seattle was extremely intimidating, but the YLW sparked an epiphany in me. Remaining quiet meant that I was letting the radicals on my campus win. Remaining quiet is exactly what they were hoping I would do. This epiphany motivated me to take the LI's two-day Youth Leadership School (YLS), an intensive 29-hour training that extensively expands upon the content taught in that first three-hour workshop I took. It teaches young conservatives how they can win. In 2021, 532 student leaders were trained in the YLS. Sixty-four YLS grads organized efforts for conservative candidates across the country, enabling candidates to capture the youth vote and drive a youthful image that has become increasingly important in elections.Some Youth Leadership School graduates eventually become interns at LI, like me!Over the course of 2021, 32 interns came through LI, including 11 in my fall class. We came from all over the country, from the urban megalopolis of NYC, to rural Georgia. Despite coming from different regions and cultures, we became incredibly tight knit. I've made lifelong friends and I know many of us will be attending each other's weddings. One highlight of the internship was our Book Club, where we read a classic work of conservative literature each week. From Hayek to Goldwater, LI interns collectively read more than 45,600 pages of conservative literature. My personal favorite was Douglas Hyde's Dedication and Leadership, which I'd highly recommend to newer conservatives.I'm currently in the External Affairs division, but my time at LI started as an intern in the Career Resources department. Helping fellow conservative jobseekers was important to me during my internship. My supervisor went out of his way to train me how to help others secure employment and jumpstart their careers. Ultimately, I was able to use what he taught me to land my own full-time position here at LI! In 2021, LI released an updated version of ConservativeJobs.com. The website attracted more than 33,800 unique visitors in 2021 and helped job-seekers streamline their job searches. On top of that, LI's careers team also met one-on-one with 451 conservatives for personal career consultations, offering conservatives customized advice and guidance to help them navigate the often-turbulent job market. While I lived in the intern house, one topic that continually came up during our conversations, other than whether the North or the South had better food, was the dramatic growth of Critical Race Theory within the halls of our schools. 2021 was the year when the encroachment of divisive left-wing ideology into every aspect of American society, even into the classrooms of our children, was made abundantly clear to conservatives. Unfortunately, many school boards are now used as social engineering tools instead of focusing on preparing our children for higher education and the workforce. Parents knew that they couldn't simply stand by. Thanks to the generosity of LI's donors, LI supported these parents through the creation of the on-demand School Board Campaign Training, which more than 1,500 concerned citizens have registered to take. This training provides parents with the skills to wage and win successful campaigns for their local school board, where they can help protect the integrity of their children's education. LI also offers other on-demand courses, a diverse array of training that educates conservatives on both principles and practice. The History of the Constitution and Conservative 101 on-demand trainings both had more than 1,000 registrants this year. Many also took the Social Media Bootcamp, where they learned how to translate their conservative principles into action. It's not just parents who are standing up for education, college students are too. Being openly conservative on a college campus is a difficult task. I attended college in Washington State, just outside of Seattle. Though I was surrounded by gorgeous mountains and enchanting evergreen forests, I was also surrounded by leftist students who lacked any tolerance for even the slightest differing opinions. Once, when I was reading Ronald Reagan's diary on campus, I was so afraid of being confronted by these leftists I replaced the book sleeve with a sleeve from one of my Harry Potter books, just so I could read in peace. LI's Campus Leadership Program (CLP) directly supports conservative students like me, who feel as if they must remain undercover. Thanks to LI's generous donors, LI gives students the resources and training they need to speak up and restore balance on American campuses. LI's CLP program now includes more than 2,000 active student groups. In 2021, CLP added 816 new student groups and newly identified more than 96,900 conservative students. With CLP's support, conservative students were able to put on 2,583 public events on their campuses; each event promoted conservative ideas and values to students. Just a few decades ago, the average college campus was a bastion of intellectual openness, a place where students of all political stripes could freely discuss their beliefs without any fear of judgment or retaliation. Now, campus institutions are saturated with left-wing bias.This left-wing bias is exactly what motivates the Leadership Institute's Campus Reform (CRO), a team of journalists who identify and expose left-wing bias on America's campuses. CRO uses a nationwide network of investigative student reporters to expose these institutional left-wing biases, restoring integrity to American campuses in the process.In 2021, local and national television programs featured LI's Campus Reform students, staff, and stories 994 times.Online, the Campus Reform stories and YouTube channel garnered 27.2 million views over 2021. Campus Reform's popularity is a testament to the fact that America's conservative students have had enough. Unfortunately, what is happening on our college campuses is just a microcosm of what is happening across the country. From Alaska to Alabama, and everywhere in-between, institutions are slowly being captured by left-wing bias. Thankfully, conservatives are standing up for their rights. The effort to safeguard America's principles is a multi-faceted effort, and that's why LI offers a diverse array of political trainings, both online and in-person. While I was an intern, I was granted free access to these trainings, and I can attest to the fact that they are a huge tool in the toolbelt of the conservative movement. In 2021, the Leadership Institute (LI) expanded the number of trainings offered, ultimately training more than 18,195 conservatives. LI now has 51 different trainings available. Each one equips conservatives with a range of skills necessary to make a difference in communities across America. For selfish reasons, I wish LI had a training on how to meet conservative women in a heavily liberal region, but given that there are more pressing issues at hand, I doubt that training will be created anytime soon! Currently, three US senators and 27 members of the House of Representatives are graduates of LI's political trainings. Having met some of the motivated individuals attending these trainings, I'd bet my entire savings account that this number will only increase. As the midterms approach, and as liberal politicians continue to lurch even further leftward, it's more important than ever to become involved. If you are motivated in 2022 to use your talents for conservative activism either on campus or in your community, visit LI's website for the complete list of 2022 trainings available. Thanks to LI's generous donors, they are low-cost or no-cost, and can be found here: LeadershipInstitute.org/Training.
LI Grad Interview: From LI intern to Heritage Foundation VP, Andrew McIndoe Furthers Faith and Freedom
Kirsten Holmberg and Mark Madsen
December 22, 2021
LI Grad Interview: From LI intern to Heritage Foundation VP, Andrew McIndoe Furthers Faith and Freedom
Meet Andrew McIndoe, a former Leadership Institute (LI) intern, current LI faculty, and the highly successful Vice President of Development at The Heritage Foundation.In my recent interview with Andrew McIndoe, we discussed his experience working for Morton Blackwell and how Andrew sees the trajectory of conservative politics. Andrew left me reenergized to further the principles of faith and freedom, not just in my professional life but in all that I do.Can you tell me a bit about yourself?I was born and raised in Oak Ridge, North Carolina. I spent 18 years there before making my way to Grove City College in western Pennsylvania. Then I moved to DC right after graduation, and after doing a few internships I landed at The Heritage Foundation where I have worked for almost ten years. As a former LI intern and now Vice President at one of the leading conservative think tanks, when did you become interested in the world of policy and politics?My earliest political memory is doing “kids' voting” with my dad. We went into a little kids' booth that's much shorter than a regular booth. And I just thought it was so cool that we could go and have a say. It was neat because you felt like you were able to contribute. Even at a young age, I could feel the weight of fulfilling one of the most important civic duties.I don't remember a ton of political conversations around the dining room table. Though we must have had some, because I ended up working on a congressional campaign in high school. I attribute that to the Leadership Institute's Youth Leadership School (YLS).I took a YLS binder from the Leadership Institute and basically ripped it off and presented it to this candidate and said, “You need to have a youth campaign.” Working on a campaign plus doing a lot of speech and debate is how I entered electoral politics.I remember finding Heritage Foundation research and reading it over and saying, “Wow I agree with a lot of this stuff. This is cool.” It quickly became my go-to source for evidence in the speech and debate world and later in my studies. I never dreamed or thought about working at Heritage someday.What important skills were you able to develop through your Leadership Institute internship?During my time at the Leadership Institute, I was fortunate to be Morton Blackwell's intern. Morton is an exemplar of good character in the conservative movement, and through him I learned the importance of having integrity in all that you do.This experience working for Morton showed me that I could have a career advancing freedom, liberty, and the principles that make this country great. If it wasn't for that realization, I'd probably be out selling widgets and figuring out how to make a certain product faster or better. But instead, I found that there is great fulfillment and opportunity in supporting the free market and limited government and winning new audiences over to our side.And then the actual vocation and the actual work too. To realize that you could get paid to advance the cause of freedom was a remarkable lightbulb moment. I'm a lot more fulfilled working in the conservative space than I would have been if I had started in the private sector like a lot of my classmates.What were the most useful LI trainings for you? Getting to go to every single training that LI offered during that summer was a great perk of the internship, and I did my best to take as many as I could. Certainly, the Comprehensive Fundraising Training was an important one. I wasn't thinking about development as a full-time profession at that point, but looking back, that is one that I think is great even if you don't think fundraising is in your future. I learned what good donor relations looks like. Again, I think about Morton's rule: You can't save the world if you can't pay the rent.As a leader within the conservative movement, who are some of the people who helped you most to get where you are today? I'll just praise Morton Blackwell. He lives out his laws of the public policy process. What he says about "expanding the leadership” and “giving them a title and getting them involved” is great. I believe that he exhibited that advice well with me as an intern. While getting to work on special projects for him, he would share his wisdom and advice. He played an instrumental role in guiding me into the conservative movement and taught me some of those early lessons that have made all the difference in my career. I'm particularly grateful to Morton for that.As the Vice President of Development for The Heritage Foundation, what has your position taught you about the conservative movement?It wouldn't be a surprise for you to hear me say that the best ideas and solutions don't come from inside of DC – they don't come from the swamp – they come from outside the beltway. They come from people who have met payroll before, who have invented something, who made something of themselves. We need to bring more of those ideas and more of those people into the solutions here in DC.I think that too often our movement is focused on what happens inside of the beltway. And so, with 500,000 Heritage members across the country, a couple thousand in every congressional district, you need to speak into what's going on in the policy-making process and get them a channel or vehicle to do that. Are there changes we should be on guard for as a movement looking forward? First, I think the movement is about a lot more than just one person. It's about policies, and we need to winsomely articulate what those policies mean and tell really great stories about what it means for people on an individual basis.We've got a huge opportunity in a post-Covid education space, and if we don't take advantage of that we will have missed a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change the conversation about education. That's something I'm concerned about. So, if we can't present an alternative that's compelling and empowers parents to make good decisions for their own kids, I think we've done a disservice to the moment that exists right now.Second is a tendency to preach to the choir. I think the Leadership Institute does a great job of training people to not do this. We need to go out to non-traditional audiences, people who aren't in the pews already, and bring them into the fold. And we've got an opportunity with the wide variety of issues to do that. We need to speak to people about what's happening in their local communities. A lot of apolitical people are fired up right now, and we should look for more opportunities to highlight the contrast between the bankrupt policies of the left and the policies on the right that advance freedom and prosperity.What is an underutilized resource that we have as conservatives? I think that conservatives should be proud to put bumper stickers on their cars and yard signs in their front yards and not be ashamed of those things. We need to just embrace who we are and be willing to step out and say, “No, conservatives are not three-headed monsters. Just because I believe in school choice and believe in lower taxes doesn't make me a crazy person.” But too often I think we feel self-conscious because of the way that the mainstream media portrays issues, the way we are taught in our schools, the way that conservatives are portrayed in Hollywood. It's easy for us to feel like we are a silent minority. But we are really just a more silent majority.The Leadership Institute believes that all politics are local. And LI, before anyone else, understood the importance of school board elections and city council races, mayoral races, state senate races, etc. More of these battles are happening at the local level, and so the Leadership Institute's focus on training local leaders to step up and to serve in more of these important races is a massive comparative advantage and is of huge strategic importance to the conservative movement. Those are reasons that I am a donor to the Leadership Institute as well.What would you say to the people who feel apathetic about politics?I think it's easy to look around and be discouraged. You look at inflation and prices soaring, and it hurts people at the gas pump and grocery stores. It especially hurts the people who are having a hard time making ends meet. You look at a botched withdrawal in Afghanistan that was completely avoidable. You look at all the legislation being passed that contains hundreds of billions in wasteful spending, at critical race theory and transgender ideology permeating culture in schools and it's understandable for people to feel discouraged. But then, on the other hand, you look at what happened in the Virginia gubernatorial race. One candidate said that parents should have a say in their children's education, that you shouldn't have to wait for hours in line at the DMV, and that decisions shouldn't be made solely in Richmond.This candidate won dramatically in a state that has not been trending in the right direction. So, I think there's great reason to be encouraged by the fact that Americans are waking up. They don't believe in critical race theory. They believe that America is an exceptional nation and that our founders should be appreciated and revered.We should expect great things in 2022, and I think at this point it's ours to lose. And so, I hope that for those who have felt apathetic or discouraged in the past you can look at some of these things that have happened lately and get a bit more pep in your step and be encouraged because there are great reasons to be. If Andrew's words encouraged you to get involved in your local elections next year to send America back in the right direction, sign up for a Leadership Institute 2022 training. You'll learn how you and your conservative community can make a difference.
It’s Official: 2022 Political and Fundraising Calendar
Kirsten Holmberg
December 22, 2021
It’s Official: 2022 Political and Fundraising Calendar
Conservatives have the potential for great victories in 2022.Proper training will secure those victories.In addition to the hundreds of events that the Leadership Institute (LI) will conduct across the country, you'll find 20 fundraising and political trainings already scheduled at LI's Arlington, VA headquarters in 2022. Many additional trainings will be added during the year.Take a look at the 2022 calendar. You'll find everything from campaign management and candidate training to direct mail and high-dollar fundraising training. Pick the Leadership Institute training that's right for you and register now.Coming up, the Future Candidate School will run from January 13-15, 2022, and will help prepare you for your candidacy. If you plan to run for office in 2022, this training will show you the ropes, whether you're running for school board or Congress. And LI can help you even more if you're considering a run for office in 2023 and beyond.Check out the calendar above to find the right training for you! Then, register here for your favorites.
Are you listening? Learn how to win through Leadership Institute’s Podcasts!
Carol Wehe Cocks
December 9, 2021
Are you listening? Learn how to win through Leadership Institute’s Podcasts!
Conservatives are learning to win everywhere these days!In addition to its 48 different types of online and in-person trainings, Leadership Institute (LI) also produces podcasts to help reach and train conservatives where they are. These high-quality, accessible podcasts are educational and entertaining. They further the movement by training conservatives to win.The Leadership Institute provides trainings in so many areas and the additional podcast content produced is top notch. But, you don't have to take my word for it. Here are a few comments from LI's podcast fans.“I started with Tech Talk #8,” said one Instagram listener. “I enjoyed it so much, I have been working myself backwards to watch them all.”“This is great!” said another.Here are three Leadership Institute podcasts I subscribe to, that I think you'd enjoy too:Learn Right: School Board Campaign Training Podcast -- listen in every other week to new content and dive into political technology for conservatives to use in School Board campaigns. You'll learn how to campaign, how to raise funds, and what to do once you are elected. You can listen on Apple, Amazon, Acast, Spotify, and iHeart Radio.Tech Talk -- watch this weekly podcast about new digital technology and effective strategies to support your online activism. You can watch on YouTube.Campus Countdown -- watch this weekly podcast to get the top campus stories of the week, straight from a student who's a Campus Reform reporter. Campus Reform, a project of the Leadership Institute, is America's leading site for college news. As a watchdog to the nation's higher education system, Campus Reform exposes bias and abuse on the nation's college campuses. You can watch on YouTube.Make sure to hit the subscribe button, so you'll get each new episode!
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