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Featured Blog: A young female Republican’s experience at CPAC

Photo by Dylanni Smith
Written by Dylanni Smith

Last week, thousands of conservatives gathered at the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center located in National Harbor, Md. for their largest annual event of the year: the Conservative Political Action Conference. I had the privilege of attending the event with the Ohio University College Republicans. This is my experience, as a young female conservative, on attending CPAC for the first time.

Day 1: Thursday

My first day of the four-day-long conference began with a tour of the Capitol building. We took a bus to Union Station, grabbed some lunch and headed to the Capitol. Once inside, we were given an in-depth tour, covering areas such as the old House and Senate Chambers. It was a historically enriching experience that I will never forget.

Once the tour was finished, we hopped back on the bus and headed back to the Gaylord. After returning, I decided to go down to the bottom floor of the convention center, which housed a huge room filled with booths and a press area known as “the Hub.” The Hub contained information booths housing representatives from various organizations such as the NRA and Heritage Foundation. I do want to commend CPAC for keeping the Hub always organized and never overcrowded. It was easy to navigate, and a lot of really interesting groups were in attendance.

Next, the speeches began. My group and I headed down to the Potomac Ballroom, the area which held all the major speakers at the event. The first speaker of the night was actor Robert Davi. He mainly focused on making his opinions of Hollywood known, describing celebrities who vouch for the Democratic Party as being out of touch with real people and reality itself. I feel this is true for a lot of the Hollywood elite. They are not us. They are not the middle class. They are not working typical jobs and living normal lives. So for Davey to come out and acknowledge this was inspiring.

Following Davey, Fox News Commentator Jeanine Pirro took the stage, and she stole the spotlight. Pirro walked on stage with her head held high and fire in her eyes. She spoke confidently of her opinions on sanctuary cities, describing them as only hurting American citizens while aiding many illegal immigrants in continuing crimes they have committed in their time here.

She described a story of a man who came here illegally and killed a young girl. He was released and protected by a sanctuary city. Her sharing this story really put things into perspective for a lot of people in the room. Seeing a female conservative speaking so passionately was really inspiring for me and I’m sure for many other young women in the room as well.

Following Pirro, Vice President Mike Pence began to share what he and President Donald Trump have been doing since Inauguration Day. He spoke of the various executive orders that have been implemented as well as what he and the president discuss on a day-to-day basis. Taxes, immigration policy, border security and the U.S. military were all important topics that Pence discussed in great detail.

I am honestly proud to call this man my vice president. Not only did he deliver his speech smoothly and in a very professional manner, but he spoke with pure passion. I feel a good leader should always be passionate in their beliefs.

Day 2: Friday

At roughly 3 a.m., some fellow OU Republicans and I headed to wait in line to get seats to see President Trump speak. We were finally let into the building around 7 a.m. I was worried that having hundreds of people getting checked by the highest security in the nation would be a long, daunting process. However, it ran very smoothly. Within 20 minutes, we were through and in the Potomac Ballroom. I ended up sitting in the second row, directly to the right of the podium. As an aspiring political journalist, being so close to a sitting U.S. president during his speech made me the happiest girl in the world.

Trump took the stage to an introduction of “I’m Proud to Be an American.” The crowd was on fire, and excitement was in the air. Trump mainly spoke about the same things Pence spoke about. However, his main focus was explaining how he wants to put America first in all policies that pass during his time in office.

He explained he wants to expand the military in order to ensure that America will be kept safe in the event of attack. He also spoke intently about the loss of keeping God in politics, in keeping faith strong in America. As someone who is strong in her faith, I really appreciated Trump addressing this. I believe a president who is confident in his faith is confident in his ability to do anything.

Following Trump’s speech, I relaxed until it was time for the next two speakers: Sheriff David Clark and Duane Chapman (Dog the Bounty Hunter). Both focused on talking about policing. They are strong advocates for fairness in law enforcement and want to see a greater degree of law and order restored to the nation.

Dog also spoke a lot about women empowerment. He maintained that women have every chance in this country to be successful, if only they take that chance and work for it. Women can be CEOs; women can make scientific and medical advancements. Women can even be president of the United States. He feels very strongly that women can and should be equal and successful, and I couldn’t agree with him more.

Day 3: Saturday

Saturday was the closing day for CPAC. Once I woke up from an 11-hour slumber (had to catch up on my sleep from waiting in line to see Trump,) the College Republicans and I headed back to Capitol Hill for a day of visiting monuments and museums. I visited the Washington and Lincoln Monuments, the Smithsonian Natural History and Air and Space Museums, and the Archives building to see the historic documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It was a fun-filled day of witnessing our nation’s history firsthand.

Overall, CPAC was a memorable experience. I got to see some of the most influential people in the world speak, as well as got to meet many of them as well. The Gaylord Resort did an excellent job of hosting us. The volunteers were professional and kept everything running smoothly. I cannot say enough how well everything was put together. I already cannot wait for CPAC 2018.

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Dylanni Smith

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