Ethan Young

Ethan Young head shot

Age

18

Location

Farragut High School, Yale University (staring fall 2014)

Occupation

Student

Twitter

@ethanyoung9

BIO

Ethan Young is a student from Knoxville, Tenn. He served as student body president, and in 2013, he gave a speech at his local school board that went viral online. The video has more than two million views, and led to numerous appearances on the Fox News Channel. Most recently, Young was named a Jefferson Scholar, the Tennessee School Boards Association Statewide Student of the Year, and a Ronald Reagan Foundation Student Leader. He will attend Yale University in the fall of 2014.

 

Why is it important that at this particular point in time, right-of-center youth become involved publicly, whether in politics, media, their communities, or another capacity?

I would first say that political involvement for a young person of any viewpoint is critical at this point in time, not exclusively conservatives. The Internet, social media, and its various offspring have undoubtedly created a more connected and accessible realm of knowledge. Yet, I believe strongly that this over-abundance of information has resulted in a generation, my generation, whose original ideas, beliefs, and convictions are devalued and overshadowed. This country is in desperate need of the ingenuity and determination that I know my peers possess, and young people should not feel intimidated by the presence of “adults.”

To speak about young conservatives in particular, it is apparent that our nation could benefit from a reintroduction of conventional values. Our leaders need to be reminded that hard work works, that responsibility and transparency must be ubiquitous attributes of the government, and that the most expensive path is the cheapest shortcut. Young people are in an exceptional position to be that reminder.

 

What must elected officials and others in positions of leadership do to make a right-of-center message resonate with the Millennial generation?

Conservatives may benefit from presenting their positions as justified by rationality and wisdom, not time and tradition. Too often, I have conversations with friends who feel the conservative movement relies too heavily upon convention and suppresses innovative ideas and strategies. Too often still, I hear Republicans in the House and Senate defend particular policies by referencing the past. It is not to say that precedent and history are not relevant or sufficient means to justify beliefs, but rather they are not ideal arguments when addressing young, open-minded, novelty-thirsting people. My peers are interested in groups that reinvent and adapt with the youthfulness they enjoy, which frequently leads them away from conservatives.

 

Where would you like to see the conservative movement in 10 years — and how can it get there?

I sincerely hope to see the conservative movement shift toward a more independent position and away from such a divisive stance. I do not wish for conservatives to weaken their convictions or distance themselves from key topics they find important, but rather I hope to see a collective spirit of compromise and neutrality emerge. The current polarization of politics has gone too far: little is accomplished, nobody leaves the discussion satisfied, and any progress achieved by one polar can be undermined in short order by its opposite. I am not supportive of the many flamboyant actions of Congressional Republicans to refuse compromise. Likewise, I am disappointed in similar actions by Democrats. I feel the conservative movement specifically is one with such universal appeal, more so than other structures of thought, and it is time its leaders recognize the value of sharing its tenets with everyone, not rallying behind them in entrenched, futile arguments.

Thirty Under Thirty – 2014

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