DENVER, July 20, 2014 — The fifth annual Western Conservative Summit was held in Denver this weekend for a crowd of over 2500 people.
The theme of this year’s event was “America at its best.” Also highlighted was the motto of Colorado Christian University, “Faith, family and freedom.” Those themes were reflected in the mix of speakers, events, and exhibitors.
Conference attendance has grown steadily since the conference was launched in 2009. It is put on by the Centennial Institute of Colorado Christian University.
The summit is unique among conservative conferences. It’s not much about policy, like Freedomfest. Whereas the organizer of the latter conference bragged that no politicians were speaking, at the WCS virtually all the headliners were big-name politicians. Nor is it a youth-oriented convention like CPAC, although there was a large contingent of students and recent graduates from CCU. There are additional youth-oriented activities in advance of the main conference itself.
Probably the most similar conference is the Values Voter Summit. WCS appeals mostly to mainstream, socially conservative Republicans. While Freedomfest attracted vendors selling gold coins and property in Belize, the WCS attracted vendors selling Bibles and books.
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Not that grassroots, liberty-minded activists were slighted: For the second year, Tea Party Patriots were a major sponsor of the conference. They also ran six Citizen Action workshops, part of a line-up of some two dozen workshops. It is a testament to the growing maturity of the liberty movement that almost all of these workshops were conducted by organizations that didn’t exist when the conference started in 2009. Many were home-grown in Colorado.
At the closing session on Sunday, the Principles of Liberty organization gave an award to the top-rated Legislator of the Year, Justin Everett. Principles of Liberty rates all Colorado state legislators on their votes based on eight principles.
The WCS has always contained elements of entertainment. The Legacy Quartet and Irish tenor Anthony Kearns provided music; artist David Garibaldi painted portraits to music; The Silhouettes dance troupe performed; and Shawn Welcome recited his poetry.
As at Freedomfest earlier this month, the headline speakers were optimistic about 2014 and the future generally. Friday night, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal highlighted education reform in his state and Utah Sen. Mike Lee talked about his experiences in the Senate. Dr. Ben Carson emphasized working together for common-sense solutions to our nation’s problems.
Closing a very long “Vision Rally” Saturday night, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was arguably the most optimistic of all. Speaking around the country, he said, he is seeing more and more Americans waking up to the failures of the current administration’s policies and ready to take action. Speaking earlier in the evening, Sen. Jim DeMint echoed the bias toward action, saying “The battle is outside of Washington. The federal government isn’t going to solve our problem.” Cruz’s speech was almost constantly interrupted with bursts of applause.
The key to the future, everyone agreed, is to take the Senate in 2014 and the presidency in 2016. The nation’s problems today are mostly self-inflicted and with the right leadership and policies, won’t be hard to fix.
A two-day conference can’t be all things to all people, but the WCS gave attendees a bit of everything they need to fix what ails us. From the plenary sessions they got advice from pundits. From the workshops they got practical lessons on organizing and acting. They could connect with vendors such as Heritage Action to begin actually doing something. And from headline speakers, a sense of optimism.