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Young Americans for Freedom

Young Americans for Freedom
Abbreviation YAF
Formation September 11, 1960
Type Conservative Youth Organization
Purpose Conservative Activism
Region served
United States of America
Program Officer
Raj Kannappan
National Chairman
Michael Jones
Affiliations Young America's Foundation, National Journalism Center, The Reagan Ranch
Slogan Passing on the Torch of Freedom

Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) is an ideologically Young America's Foundation. The purposes of YAF are to advocate for public policies consistent with the Sharon Statement, which was adopted by young conservatives at a meeting at the home of Mr. William F. Buckley in Sharon, Connecticut on September 11, 1960: to promote social welfare and individual freedom; to study any legislation from any governmental bodies or agencies that seek to affect social and economic problems of the individual; to support the preservation and enhancement of individual freedom for all Americans; to provide aid and information to students and such young adults throughout the nation to assist them in achieving and maintaining the ideological realization of the beliefs in the Sharon Statement; and to maintain and operate a chapter-based organization with national, regional and local networks throughout the United States of America.

While the 1960s were its most successful years in terms of numbers and influence, YAF has experienced a resurgence in recent years, becoming active as a national organization with chapters on college and high school campuses throughout the United States. YAF's official publication is "The New Guard".[1]


  • Factionalism 1
  • Influence 2
    • Creating a conservative movement 2.1
      • Conservative or libertarian organizations 2.1.1
      • Notable alumni 2.1.2
        • Notable alumni in public office
        • Notable alumni – conservative movement
  • Statement of principles 3
    • Sharon Statement 3.1
  • Publication: The New Guard 4
  • Philosophy 5
  • History 6
    • National conservative activism, 1960–1965 6.1
    • Reaction to radical activism, 1965–1971 6.2
    • Advocacy politics, 1971–1985 6.3
    • Campus activism, 1985–1990 6.4
    • Rebuilding years 1991–1999 6.5
    • Resurgence 2000–2010 6.6
    • Present 6.7
      • Unification with Young Americas Foundation 6.7.1
  • Footnotes 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


Historians have emphasized the bitter factionalism inside YAF starting in the 1960s. Kenneth Heineman writes, "YAF itself suffered internal strife. In 1969 the organization split into competing, irreconcilable factions."[2] Gregory L. Schneider states, "In the mid-1970s YAF suffered from weak leadership based on factions and personalities rather than ability".[3] Jerome Tuccile adds, "The second faction of rebels consisted of radical libertarians or anarchists, most of them belonging to Karl Hess IV's Anarcho-libertarian Alliance. This contingent was more interested in splitting off from YAF entirely."[4] Rebecca E. Klatch writes, "When one young libertarian burned his draft card on the convention floor, the crowd turned into an angry mob and, ultimately, purged all libertarians from YAF. One libertarian faction stormed out of the meeting."[5]


YAF's influence is felt through the number of conservative leaders and figures who began their careers as members in college.

From its beginning as an outgrowth of the efforts to obtain the Republican vice presidential nomination for a conservative in 1960 up through its determined campaign to ensure that a conservative vice president was renominated in 1992, YAF was a major player in late 20th century American politics.[6]

Karl Zinsmeister

wrote the following about YAF

Although YAF members and chapters were engaged in many projects to influence public policy and elect conservative candidates to office, the leadership of the organization was well aware that their goals and objectives were more long-term. YAF was recruiting, training and preparing young people to assume even more important roles later in life. YAF spawned many of the organizational elements of the 21st century conservative movement and provided the leadership and manpower to build those publications, organizations, and foundations into the significant elements of American society that they are today.[8]

Creating a conservative movement

YAF played a critical role in the development of many of the new conservative organizations that were established in the 1960s, 1970s and beyond. Those who were college students and young adults active in YAF went on to form new groups or serve as important personnel in conservative organizations founded by others. To fully understand the influence of YAF on the creation of a lasting movement in America, it is helpful to view those organizations formed by YAF alumni and then those which YAFers have played an important contributing role.[9]

Conservative or libertarian organizations

Below is a list of conservative or libertarian organizations YAFers founded or played an important contributing role:

Notable alumni

Notable alumni in public office
Notable alumni – conservative movement

Statement of principles

Sharon Statement

The Sharon Statement is the founding statement of principles of the Young Americans for Freedom.

Written by M. Stanton Evans with the assistance of Annette Kirk, wife of Russell Kirk,[14] and adopted on September 11, 1960, the statement is named for the location of the inaugural meeting of Young Americans for Freedom, held at William F. Buckley, Jr.'s estate in Sharon, Connecticut. The statement reads:

Publication: The New Guard

The New Guard is the official publication of Young Americans for Freedom.

Founded in March 1961, one year after the creation of YAF, its first issue appeared under the editorship of Lee Edwards. Starting out as a sixteen-page publication, it grew in size and continued as a monthly magazine until 1978, when it was converted to a quarterly magazine with interim newsletters, and was published sporadically thereafter. As the initial editorial noted,[15]

The New Guard served as the voice of Goldwater-Buckley and American conservative youth for decades, but in the 1990s, during the rebuilding years of YAF, the magazine went defunct.

In 2010 The New Guard was relaunched at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Currently The New Guard is published as an online blog, covering campus and national issues from the perspective of conservative youth.


Since its founding, YAF continuously identified itself as "conservative". However, the term "conservative" has changed in meaning over several generations. Before World War II, most American conservatives were non-interventionist. But as the Cold War began to dominate American foreign policy, the old conservatism disintegrated. After Robert A. Taft was defeated for the Republican nomination in 1952, non-interventionist conservatism mostly vanished. In the 1950s, a new kind of conservatism arose. This new ideology was formulated in large part by the newspaper Human Events, the magazine National Review, and National Reviews editor William F. Buckley, Jr. This new conservatism combined free-market economics, respect for traditional values, orderly society and anti-communism.

In the late 1960s, the term

After 1969, the relationship between conservatives and libertarians in YAF was often rocky.[16] A majority of members identified themselves simply as conservative, but some identified as both conservative and libertarian, and still others identified themselves simply as libertarian. From time to time, power struggles broke out; when this happened, the libertarians almost always ended up losing.

In later years, new viewpoints would be amalgamated by the conservative movement, including neoconservatism in the early 1970s, the New Right in the late 1970s and the Religious Right in the 1980s. Some YAF members identified with some of these philosophies, others opposed them and still others were content to simply identify themselves as conservative without further specificity.

Today, YAF members at colleges and high schools focus primarily on campus issues, but also on national ones.


National conservative activism, 1960–1965

In September 1960, about 90 young people met at the Sharon, Connecticut home of Sharon Statement, was drafted. The New Guard magazine made its debut as the official magazine of YAF in 1961. In the first four years of its existence, YAF grew rapidly on college campuses.

Ronald Reagan joined the YAF National Advisory Board in 1962 and for 42 years served as the Honorary Chairman.

In the 1960s, the Republican Party was divided between its conservative wing, led by Barry Goldwater, and its more liberal wing, led by Nelson Rockefeller. YAF members fell squarely on Goldwater's side and spearheaded the campaign of Barry Goldwater for president. However, some members had sympathy with the conservative Southern Democrats known as Dixiecrats, and thus from its inception YAF was deliberately non-partisan.

On March 7, 1962, a YAF-sponsored conservative rally filled Madison Square Garden in New York City, drawing 18,000 people. In attendance was Barry Goldwater. The event has been described as "the birthday of the conservative movement."[17]

The second national YAF convention was held in 1963 at the Gault Hotel in Florida. With over 450 voting delegates in attendance. Hotel management at the Gault Hotel refused accommodations to Don Parker, an African-American delegate from Brooklyn. As word of this spread around the YAFer's in attendance, a number of delegates and numerous others began gathering in the lobby of the hotel demanding that either the Gault Hotel allow all the black YAFers to stay and the hotel change its segregation policy or YAF would move the convention to another site. From that day on any person was allowed into the Gault Hotel.

By 1964, YAF was a major force in the campaign to nominate Goldwater, and then after his nomination, to elect him president. Goldwater's run for the White House catalyzed YAF more than any other event in its history. Lee Edwards, former New Guard editor, said "Barry Goldwater made YAF, but YAF also made Barry Goldwater." Goldwater's massive defeat in the presidential election of 1964 demoralized many members.

"STOP RED TRADE" becomes a hallmark of YAF's 50 plus year history. IBM, Mack Truck, and Firestone Tire and Rubber were targeted for engaging in high visibility trade with the Soviet Bloc. YAF successfully stopped Firestone's attempt to build a synthetic rubber plant in communist Romania through letter-writing campaigns, boycotts, and demonstrations. YAF's plan to distribute 500,000 flyers at the Indianapolis 500 was seen as a key to the decision by Firestone executives to cancel their Romanian plans in April 1965.

YAF faced opposition from groups like the John Birch Society.

However, YAF did honor segregationist and Senator from South Carolina Strom Thurmond with its Freedom Award in 1962.[18] An unsubstantiated claim has been made that a YAF member was involved with the 'Welcome Mr. Kennedy to Dallas' ad placed in the Dallas Morning News (coincidentally on the morning of JFK's assassination), which accused him of ignoring the constitution.[19]

Reaction to radical activism, 1965–1971

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and New MOBE in support of a U.S. victory in Vietnam. These fights carried YAF into its second decade.

YAF members tended to hold similar opinions to their older compatriots within the conservative movement. YAF began and continued a number of projects to support Vietnam veterans and their causes. "Project Appreciation" gave YAFers the opportunity to write, visit, and provide needed supplies to hospitalized veterans. YAF worked on various POW/MIA issues and Jane Fonda became a target of YAF attacks.

A faction of YAF philosophically extended the group's traditional support of limited government in economic issues to social issues and a foreign policy of non-interventionism. This group came to be known as libertarians. A more serious and lasting challenge for YAF came from this group, those who believed in limited or even no government – radical libertarians and anarchists.[20] YAF's Libertarian and Anarchist Caucuses were purged at the YAF's 1969 national convention in St. Louis, and members of this faction were among the founding members of the Libertarian Party in 1971.

The majority of members during this era supported Ronald Reagan's successful bid for governor of California in 1966, as well as his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968.

Advocacy politics, 1971–1985

In the 1970s, YAF became much older, demographically speaking. Rather than merely staging campus demonstrations, they focused on influencing national politics by lobbying and occasionally staging and publicizing small demonstrations.

YAF went on the offensive when President Nixon enacted wage controls, price controls, abandoned the gold standard and opened relations with the communist People's Republic of China, ceasing relations with Taiwan. YAF felt he was abandoning conservative principles so YAF publicly denounced the administration for these moves, becoming the first conservative organization to do so.

A number of YAF projects were started as ad hoc committees and affiliated groups to address specific issues. These groups include Youth for the Voluntary Prayer Amendment, Student's Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Young America's Foundation, Free Campus News Service, STOP-NSA Committee, and the National Student Committee for Victory in Vietnam. Today some of these organizations still exist, and continue "to fight the good fight."

In 1974, YAF, along with the American Conservative Union, sponsored a modest and ambitious gathering called the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). CPAC has become the largest annual gathering of conservatives and is still held annually in the DC area.

On college campuses, YAF was more conservative and less partisan than the College Republicans. Members were willing to oppose liberal candidates and support conservative candidates regardless of party affiliation. During many local and national races throughout this era, YAF members were divided about whether to support a moderately conservative electable candidate or to support a staunchly conservative long-shot candidate.

YAF supported Reagan's almost-successful bid to win the Republican presidential nomination in 1976 and his victorious race for the presidency in 1980.

The Carter Administration was an easy target of YAF, and YAF was active in opposing the Panama Canal and SALT treaties. The Iran Hostage Crisis focused public criticism on the Carter Administration and provided YAF a rallying point in 1979. YAF held a campaign to generate thousands of letters of encouragement to the hostages and pressed the Administration to take action.

In 1980, Raymond Donovan, Interior Secretary James Watt, Circuit Court Judge Dan Manion, Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, and NSC staff member Lt. Colonel Oliver North.

By the mid-1980s, many of YAF's leaders were in their thirties and long out of college. Some of them held positions in government while continuing to run the organization as a lobbying and fund-raising group for conservative causes. At the same time, internal problems paralyzed the YAF hierarchy. The national board was still controlled by lawyers and lobbyists who remembered the glory days of YAF fund-raising in the early 1980s. The new activist element resented and distrusted the old guard, and began to gradually whittle away at their power.

Campus activism, 1985–1990

As YAF grew older, most of the original members went on to other things, while younger members dominated YAF. In 1989, an alliance of Californian and New York activists ousted most of the old guard from national leadership positions.

Rebuilding years 1991–1999

Though the presence of National YAF was lax during the 1990s as they were focusing on revitalizing and rebuilding the organization, there remained very active pockets of YAF activity throughout the country, campus charters and statewide units that organized and operated on their own. California YAF continued as a strong conservative force on campuses and in that state's political arena.[21] Many states like Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia and others still had very active individual campus chapters.[22]

By 1991, the national board of YAF contained a majority of Californians—the first time a single state had had a majority in the governing council. However, this new régime found itself unable to effectively run YAF as a financial and organizational entity. The strength of its activism was shattered by the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). NAMBLA members got quite a surprise at one of their events in Washington DC in 1996 when YAFers held banners warning the effects of 'deviant and un-natural sexual practices.'

In 1997, Brian Park, National Director and state Chairman of California YAF, organized support for the rights of American Indians when their tribal sovereignty was being encroached upon by Governor Pete Wilson. Full page newspaper ads centered on YAF’s resolution to support tribal sovereignty were place in every major newspaper across the state of California to pressure the Governor. The negotiations failed and the historic Proposition 5 was placed on the ballot in 1998. YAF made over 1 million voter contacts with direct-mail pieces to educate the public on American Indian Sovereignty issues and the measure passed overwhelming with bi-partisan support of 62.4% to 32.6%. Proposition 5 was eventually challenged in the courts and YAF filed a “Friends of the Court” brief (case number S074850) with the State Supreme court in 1999. Though YAF lost, its leg work assisted in a passage of Proposition 1A in year 2000 with no real opposition to fix the legal problems with Proposition 5.

In 1998 Cigar-Man was launched against President Bill Clinton. A YAFer dressed in a Cigar-Costume followed President Clinton to various fundraising functions to highlight Clinton’s presidential achievements.

At the 1999 Academy Awards in Los Angeles, YAFer's rallied in support of the Academy of Motion Pictures decision to award famous director Elia Kazan with the lifetime achievement award. Confronted by over 600 union activists and other leftists YAFers continued with their peaceful pro-Kazan rally. When the rally turned ugly YAFers defended themselves and assisted the police to apprehend the violent leftist perpetrators.

Later in the 1990s, YAF returned to national advocacy politics. The national office organized petition drives and staged a variety of events to promote the conservative viewpoint on a variety of public issues. Some of these events would have an attention-grabbing theme such as "Pardon Oliver North" and "Impeach Janet Reno".

Resurgence 2000–2010

Members of the University of Michigan YAF Chapter protest affirmative action in [23]

Beginning in 2009, Young Americans for Freedom has organized a number of new college chapters to supplement the long-standing units on campuses such as Penn State. On college campuses, YAF chapters have been involved in activities including sponsoring conservative speakers, rallies supporting the armed forces, advocacy for strict control of legislation enacting anti-discrimination protection for transsexuals.[26][27]

In 2009, YAF, a coalition of Tea Party groups, retired police and fire fighter association, and Keep America Safe hosted the "9/11 Never Forget" Rally in New York City. The Coalition united to fight the decision of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to try the 9/11 co-conspirators in New York City’s federal court. The coalition claimed Holder's decision gave alleged war criminals the same rights as American citizens; it also said trying the defendants in New York City would endanger the citizenry. The rally brought nationwide attention to Holder's decision and eventually led the Department of Justice and the Obama administration to move the trial from New York City.


Unification with Young Americas Foundation

On March 16, 2011, Young Americans for Freedom passed National Board Resolution #001, unifying the [29] Young America's Foundation has been known for bringing speakers like Ann Coulter, David Horowitz, and Michelle Malkin to College Republican groups across the United States.[30][31]

As of May 16, 2011 Young Americans for Freedom officially became a project of Young America's Foundation. The existing board members of Young Americans for Freedom, at the time of the unification, became part of a newly formed [board of governors]. Existing YAF chapters were brought under the auspices of the Foundation.

Today, the unification has concluded. Current chapters receive a wide variety of materials, training, support, and encouragement based on YAF's decades of activism experience.[29]


  1. ^ "History of the Young Americans for Freedom". Young America's Foundation. Retrieved January 5, 2015. 
  2. ^ Kenneth J. Heineman, Put your bodies upon the wheels: student revolt in the 1960s (2001) p 160
  3. ^ Gregory L. Schneider, Cadres for Conservatism: Young Americans for Freedom and the Rise of the Contemporary Right (1999) p 162
  4. ^ Jerome Tuccille, Radical libertarianism: a right wing alternative (1970) p 104
  5. ^ Rebecca E. Klatch, A generation divided: the new left, the new right, and the 1960s (1999) p 9
  6. ^ Wayne Thorburn (2010). A Generation Awakes: Young Americans for Freedom and the Creation of the Conservative Movement. Jameson Books Inc., p. 486.
  7. ^ Karl Zinsmeister,"The Other Activists," The American Enterprise, May–June 1997, p37.
  8. ^ Wayne Thorburn (2010). A Generation Awakes: Young Americans for Freedom and the Creation of the Conservative Movement. Jameson Books Inc., p. 487.
  9. ^ Wayne Thorburn (2010). A Generation Awakes: Young Americans for Freedom and the Creation of the Conservative Movement. Jameson Books Inc., p. 487-489.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Wayne Thorburn (2010). A Generation Awakes: Young Americans for Freedom and the Creation of the Conservative Movement. Jameson Books Inc., p. 489-498.
  11. ^ Wayne Thorburn (2010). A Generation Awakes: Young Americans for Freedom and the Creation of the Conservative Movement. Jameson Books Inc., p. 535.
  12. ^ Wayne Thorburn (2010). A Generation Awakes: Young Americans for Freedom and the Creation of the Conservative Movement. Jameson Books Inc., p. 531.
  13. ^ Wayne Thorburn (2010). A Generation Awakes: Young Americans for Freedom and the Creation of the Conservative Movement. Jameson Books Inc., p. 419.
  14. ^ "The Kirk Center – Talk by Annette Kirk". Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  15. ^ a b Wayne Thorburn (2010). A Generation Awakes: Young Americans for Freedom and the Creation of the Conservative Movement. Jameson Books Inc., p. 51.
  16. ^ Bruce Bartlett. "Libertarian GOP defection?". Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  17. ^ Bernard von Bothmer (December 31, 2009). Framing the sixties: the use and abuse of a decade from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush.  
  18. ^ Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty! An American History Volume 2, Norton Seagull Edition 2006, 890.
  19. ^ "Warren Commission Hearings Vol XXIII". Retrieved September 27, 2009.  see also File:Welcome mr kennedy to dallas small.jpg
  20. ^ Wayne Thorburn (2010). A Generation Awakes: Young Americans for Freedom and the Creation of the Conservative Movement. Jameson Books Inc., p. 250.
  21. ^ Wayne Thorburn (2010). A Generation Awakes: Young Americans for Freedom and the Creation of the Conservative Movement. Jameson Books Inc., p. 472.
  22. ^ Wayne Thorburn (2010). A Generation Awakes: Young Americans for Freedom and the Creation of the Conservative Movement. Jameson Books Inc., p. 473.
  23. ^ "Young America's Foundation – The Conservative Movement Starts Here.". Retrieved October 12, 2014. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ "CNNU: Students debate affirmative action -". CNN. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ "The State News: Lansing ordinance prompts protest". Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  28. ^ "YAF National Board Resolution #001". Retrieved March 21, 2011. 
  29. ^ a b "Young America's Foundation – Young America’s Foundation and Young Americans for Freedom Unite". Retrieved October 12, 2014. 
  30. ^ "David Horowitz at St. John's University". Retrieved March 21, 2011. 
  31. ^ "Ann Coulter at the University of Wyoming". Retrieved March 21, 2011. 

Further reading

  • Andrew, John A., III. The Other Side of the Sixties: Young Americans for Freedom and the Rise of Conservative Politics. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press (1997), 286 pages, ISBN 0-8135-2400-8 (paper). Covers the history of YAF from 1960 to 1964.
  • Crawford, Alan. Thunder on the Right: The "New Right" and the Politics of Resentment. New York: Pantheon Books (1980), 381 pages, ISBN 0-394-74862-X (paper). A negative portrayal of 1970s and 1980s conservatism, including much material on YAF.
  • Klatch, Rebecca E "A Generation Divided" Berkeley, University of California Press (1999), 334 pages, ISBN 0-520-21713-6 (paper). A scholarly and academic work with many references to Young Americans for Freedom, SDS, and campus activism of the 1960s and early 1970s.
  • Nash, George H. The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945. Wilmington, Delaware: Intercollegiate Studies Institute (1996), 467 pages, ISBN 1-882926-12-9 (hardcover). A history of the different strains of conservative ideology from 1945 until 1976, updated to 1996 in the second edition.
  • Rusher, William A. The Rise of the Right. New York: National Review Books (1993), 261 pages, ISBN 0-9627841-2-5 (paper). A history of American political conservatism from 1953 until 1981, updated to 1993 in the second edition. Includes much material on YAF.
  • Schneider, Gregory L. Cadres for Conservatism: Young Americans for Freedom and the Rise of the Contemporary Right. New York: New York University Press (1999), 263 pages, ISBN 0-8147-8108-X (hardcover). Covers the history of YAF from 1960 to 1985.
  • Thorburn, Wayne. A Generation Awakes: Young Americans for Freedom and the Creation of the Conservative Movement. Ottawa, IL: Jameson Books (2010), 564 pages, ISBN 978-0-89803-168-3 (hardcover). Covers the history of YAF from 1960 to the mid-1990s
  • Shirley, Craig (2005). Reagan's Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson. . review by Human Events Covers the history of YAF and Conservative movement in mid 70s.  
  • Shirley, Craig (2009). Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America. Wilmington, Delaware: Intercollegiate Studies Institute. . online review by Lou Cannon Covers the history of YAF and Conservative movement 1976–1980.  

External links

  • Official website
  • “Break On Through (to the Other Side)”: An Overview of The Historiography of U.S. Conservatism in the Sixties
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