On Feb. 10, 2022, a small group of Straus Scholars traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend a panel discussion and networking event hosted by the Manhattan Institute. Titled “Who’s Right? Millennials, Gen Z, and the Future of American Conservatism,” the event brought together students and young professionals working in politics, policy, and journalism from across Washington, D.C. and New York City. The event’s centerpiece was a panel discussion featuring National Review staff writer and Ethics and Public Policy Center visiting fellow Alexandra DeSanctis, Wall Street Journal letters editor Elliot Kaufman, and American Moment president Saurabh Sharma. The panel was moderated by Teddy Kupfer, associate editor of City Journal.
The panel began with remarks from The Manhattan Institute’s Director of External Affairs, Jesse Arm, who highlighted the mission of the Manhattan Institute and the policy objectives of the think tank. Arm emphasized the importance of young individuals engaging with policy questions and debates as they achieve greater prominence in the country’s newsrooms, boardrooms, halls of government and academia.
The panel discussion touched on a number of contemporary political issues, including religious liberty, school choice, pandemic policies, trade, foreign affairs, the future of the conservative movement and the challenges facing American society today. Coming from differing ideological backgrounds, the three panelists debated how best to approach these problems from a conservative policy perspective.
All the panelists agreed that the current political moment was one of major upheaval, given the COVID-19 pandemic and shifting cultural currents. “Cultural problems are first solved by families, communities and institutions,” argued DeSanctis. “The conservative movement cares about social issues…we can push back in a way that resonates with the average American.”
Kaufman highlighted the role the pandemic played in changing the American political landscape. “The pandemic played a huge part in the surge in the school choice movement. The pandemic turned school choice into a primary issue,” he explained.
On the question of foreign politics, Sharma argued in favor of focusing on domestic politics. “We need to wind down foreign commitments to address acute domestic crises, especially our production capacity [in America],” he argued.
Straus Scholar Allie Orgen shared her thoughts on the panel discussion. “It often feels like our generation is left out of important political conversations, and so it was incredible to hear from a panel of young, accomplished individuals like Elliot, Alexandra, and Saurabh,” she said. “One of the themes throughout the panel was their shared desire to focus on the policies that unite us rather than divide us. It was refreshing to get that perspective, especially in a time of hyper-polarization ahead of the 2022 midterms.” Orgen herself is passionate about politics. She is a foreign policy legislative intern for Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-5) and serves as a campaign policy intern for Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1), who is currently running for governor in New York. Orgen looks forward to spending summer 2022 in Washington, D.C., as an international affairs summer fellow at The Fund for American Studies. Read more about her here.
Like Orgen, Straus Scholar Natan Ehrenreich was also impressed with the panel’s lineup. “The conservative movement is undergoing a realignment, and it’s primarily young people who will decide its future,” he said. “I really enjoyed hearing from and meeting other young conservatives who are invested in a good faith effort to solve some of our nation’s problems.” Ehrenreich is a leading member of Yeshiva University’s AEI Executive Council, and his writings have twice appeared in The Wall Street Journal. His commentary on the 2022 midterm elections can be read here, and his commentary on American politics and anti-Semitism can be read here.
“For me, it was especially interesting to hear other young people discuss, with nuance, their thoughts on the future of American conservatism. I also enjoyed our walk through the Washington Mall and the Lincoln Memorial,” said Straus Scholar Daniel Ganopolsky, a member of the Tikvah Collegiate Forum.
This trip was coordinated by the Straus Center’s Impact Office and was made possible through a generous grant from the Paul E. Singer Foundation. “Many of our Straus Scholars hope to pursue careers in policy, politics, and journalism, and this event was an exciting opportunity for them to hear from young journalists who are at the forefront of today’s political and cultural debates,” explained Sarah Wapner, Straus Center impact and recruitment officer. “The event allowed our students to network with like-minded young professionals, and it gave them an opportunity to meaningfully represent Yeshiva University and the Straus Center to those less familiar with our mission. I look forward to running many more trips like this one in the coming months.”
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