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Over the course of the past year, college campuses have become a hub for political activism. Whether it’s an anti-socialism event, a Black Lives Matter Protest, or a controversial speaker, millennials have become increasingly involved in the political movement on campus, ensuring that their voices are heard.
Being an effective campus activist, though, is about far more than leading protests against a speaker or yelling at people as they pass by because you think their political views are wrong. Effective campus activists can craft a message and communicate it to the appropriate audiences in such a way that is inspirational and sometimes even transformational.
How do you return to a college campus where you are quite possibly in the minority of political ideologies and engage in appropriate debate and civil discourse with your colleagues across the spectrum?
1) Educate yourself.
If you are going to speak to other students and faculty around your campus about what you believe in, you must first know why you believe it. Possibly even more important is knowing exactly why you don’t believe in the opposing ideologies. Furthermore, to ensure a credible message, it’s important to hone your ability to differentiate facts from the media’s skewed message and the opinions of others. Educate yourself about the political ideologies you are speaking both for and against. This will allow you to understand individuals who disagree with you and, in the end, better combat their misconstrued ideology and way of thinking. If you haven’t already, pick up one of Edmund Burke’s or Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy In America. Readings such as this will provide you with the base of traditional conservatism. From there, move into reading works by more modern conservatives such as William F. Bucky and Barry Goldwater. Equip yourself with the knowledge to gracefully and intelligently discuss the ideas, policies, and philosophies that you are advocating for on campus.
2) Become involved in everything.
The conservative movement has an incredible breadth of organizations that are active on college campuses around the country. Some organizations advocate for individual freedom, some focus on free markets, and some focus on empowering young women. But each of these organizations aims to spread its message in the most effective way possible to encourage more people to join the conservative movement. Speaking up in classrooms is important, but these organizations provide a platform around the community and nation to become a leader within the conservative movement. If there is a conservative organization on your campus that you’ve been interested in, stop waiting. Go to the first meeting, get to know the other members, and find out how you can be an asset to the organization. The more involved you become, the greater of a voice you start to have. If there isn’t an organization already present on your campus, start one! There are other students looking to get involved, and your passion and drive could be just what they need to speak out.
3) Speak out and speak loud.
Once you join these organizations and feel well equipped to discuss these philosophies, don’t be afraid to speak out in class and around campus. If you’re at all like me, conservatives are a minority on campus. This means that my voice isn’t a common one that’s heard. Change that. If someone says something in class that you disagree with, respectfully and tactfully express your views and back them up. It takes courage to speak against the crowd, and you will have to do it louder and more often than your peers, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Becoming an effective activist on campus means caring a little less about what the world around you thinks, and having the courage to speak up for your core beliefs and convictions. You never know who needs to hear what you have to say.
4) Empower others to speak out.
Two is always better than one. Once you’ve found the courage to speak up for your philosophies, encourage others to do the same. Encourage people to take advantage of the platforms you’ve found and educate people about the ideas they are speaking up for. Conservatism, at its core, is all about empowering the individual and as a leading campus activist, it is your duty, so to speak, to play a part in that and encourage those who may be less likely to stand up for what they believe in. The more individuals that you empower, the stronger the conservative movement on your campus will become, and the more effective you will be in making a true impact on your campus and the movement as a whole.
5) Be willing to fight back.
Especially if you are a minority on campus, you will have individuals and organizations that fight against you. Don’t let that stop you, and definitely don’t let that silence you. As others try to silence you, fight harder. Speak out, and if you get barred from speaking out, speak out about not being able to speak out. Eventually, someone will hear you and someone will be on your side. On college campuses today, a large majority of conservatives are unfairly silenced, despite what the media says. It takes courage and it takes might, but fighting back is the most important part about being an effective activist on campus. Fighting back is what gives credibility to your message and expresses to the community that you aren’t speaking out because it looks cool, but that you wholeheartedly believe in what you are speaking for. People will notice this and it will draw others to the movement. The world, and especially college campuses, is not a nice place. But don’t give up because others tell you to.
6) Have a positive perspective.
Sure, you have to be willing to stand up and fight back. But screaming and protesting those around you is not always the most effective way to go about it. Advocating for what you believe in with a positive message will make you stand out from the crowd. People will listen to you and ultimately, more people will respond to you. A positive message puts you on a level above those you are generally fighting against and demonstrates that you will not succumb to their scare tactics. A positive message is encouraging and empowering to those already within the movement and to those wishing to join the movement. Don’t allow others to walk over you, but don’t resort to the same tactics they use – stand out from the crowd and communicate the empowering message that conservatives ultimately stand for.