Rebels With a Cause_The Growth and Appeal of the Young Americans for Freedom in the 1960s
Rebels With a Cause:
The Grow th and Appeal of the
Young Americans for Freedom in the 1960’s*
April 30, 2010
In 1964, with a liberal administration in the White House, increasing unrest about the
Vietnam War, the sexual revolution growing and leftist student movements igniting across
college campuses, the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a national organization for young
conservatives, increased its membership by 5,400 students. Even more surprising is the fact that
in the same year, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), YAF’s more famous peer, had a
total membership of 1,500.1
The Young Americans for Freedom, founded in the same year as
SDS in 1960, followed a similar path as its rival organization, including an expansive national
network, individual campus chapters and an ideological split at their respective national
conventions in 1969. Yet, it is SDS that historians and journalists have identified as the political
activists of the 1960’s. While this paper is not a comparison between the Young Americans for
Freedom and the Students for a Democratic Society, it is important to note that YAF survived the
Sixties to remain an active organization in 2010 and SDS did not.
Although it was the young left that dictated the terms of this decade, rebelling against
their parent’s consumerism, dodging the draft and embracing at least some of the counterculture
of sex and drugs, few people today realize that the young conservatives in YAF saw themselves
as the true rebels of this period. While SDS and the Left received vast amounts of media
attention, YAF built a movement of young people hoping to change the current American
political discourse. In spite of their apparent invisibility, by 1964, the Young Americans for
Freedom had a much larger membership than SDS, so what was the appeal of this organization
to young people?
* Title Taken from: Lee and Anne Edwards, Rebels with a Cause, A History of YAF, 1968,
University of California Southern Regional Library Facility.
John Micklethwait and Alan Wooldridge, The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America,
(New York: The Penguin Press, 2004), 51.
The answer to this question cannot be discovered by reading conventional accounts of the
Young Americans for Freedom. The two books that focus solely on the history of the YAF, The
Other Side of the Sixties: Young Americans for Freedom and the Rise of Conservative Politics,
by John A. Andrew III, and Cadres for Conservatism: Young Americans for Freedom and the
Rise of the Contemporary Right, by Gregory L. Schneider, did attempt to alter the historiography
of the Sixties by including the forgotten youth movement of the New Right. Both read as a
biographical hagiography of YAF, emphasizing the greatness of the organization as an incubator
for conservative thought and the New Right Platform that came to dominate the Republican
Party in 1964 and which commanded the national stage in 1980 with the election of Ronald
Reagan. While they are accurate, they fail to add any analytical insight to their praise. Yes, YAF
contributed greatly to the growth and expansion of conservative ideals, but the focus of my paper
is not to write an uncritical history of the Young Americans for Freedom.
Closer to the topic of my paper is Rebecca Klatch’s book, A Generation Divided: The
New Left, the New Right, and the 1960s, which is a comparison study of a sampling of members
from SDS and YAF. Her goal is to understand how these young Americans, living in relatively
similar situations, had such dramatically different views about politics and the world. From the
bulk of her research, mostly oral histories taken from members in both organizations in the
1960’s, I found interviews that addressed the direct appeals of YAF to these young
conservatives. However, her book does not address why young people joined the Young
Americans for Freedom and the appeal of YAF occupies only a small section of her larger
In contrast to the secondary sources already listed, there are others that tout themselves as
comprehensive histories of the conservative movement in which YAF is relegated to a footnote.
Turning Right in the Sixties: The Conservative Capture of the GOP, by Marcy C. Brennan, omits
YAF almost entirely in spite of the fact that her book focuses on the same decade when YAF
became the vehicle for young conservatives to enter the national stage of politics. Additionally,
in The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldrige,
present a timeline of the rise of Conservatives in the United States from the 1950’s to 2002 upon
which YAF and young people hardly make an indentation.
Despite YAF’s neglected story, its history is deeply tied to both the maturation of the
conservative movement and the story of the 1960’s. Fifty years ago, in 1960, at the Republican
National Convention, Barry Goldwater, a self proclaimed Conservative, lost his bid to be the
Vice Presidential nominee for the GOP. This blow to conservatives in the Republican Party
underscored the fact that they still lacked a voice to participate and influence the principles of the
party platform. William F. Buckley, editor of the National Review, a popular magazine dedicated
to conservative commentary about American politics and society, attended the 1960 Republican
National Convention with his associate in public relations, Marvin Liebman2
. Both men had
powerful reputations in political circles and each worked in their specific spheres to move the
GOP away from the liberal Republicans who dominated the party. While at the convention,
Eric Pace, “Marvin Liebman, 73, Dies; Conservative for Gay Rights,” The New York Times,
April 3, 1997. Marvin Liebman eventually worked on Ronald Reagan’s candidacy for President
and then for multiple Federal agencies after Reagan was elected. He came out to his close friend
and colleague William F. Buckley, in 1990, in a letter that Buckley published in the National
Review. Though he came out late in life, he spent the rest of his years advocating for Gay Rights
within the Republican Party. He wrote an autobiography, “Coming out Conservative,” and said,
“To be gay, conservative and Republican is not a contradiction. I’m proud to be all three.”
Though homosexuality and Conservatism is not addressed in my paper, it is important to note
that many influential YAFers came out later in life and became Gay Rights Activists to confront
the paradox of their identity and conservative beliefs: See Douglas Caddy and Robert Bauman.
Buckley and Liebman met Douglas Caddy3
and David Franke, both of whom attended as
representatives of Youth for Goldwater for Vice President. Together, these four men would turn
their disappointment in Goldwater’s loss into a national conservative youth movement.
Impressed by the passion of Caddy and Franke and their attempts to organize
conservative youth in the past, including the creation of the Student Committee for the Loyalty
Oath in 1958, Buckley and Liebman decided to mentor them. The loss of Goldwater for the Vice
Presidential nomination convinced Buckley that young conservatives in the GOP needed to be
fostered from the top down. He believed that young conservatives, with his guidance, could
change the American political discourse. Consequently, Buckley hired Franke to intern at the
National Review and Caddy worked for Liebman in public relations. Their first major task was to
organize a national youth group for conservatives funded by Buckley.
In September of 1960, on the Buckley family estate in Sharon, Connecticut, over 100
students from 44 different colleges and universities across the country assembled to devise a plan
to capitalize on the growing conservatism of American youth and turn it into an organized
The result created the Young Americans for Freedom, officially chartered
on September 11, 1960, and the adoption of the Sharon Statement at the conference. In the
Sharon statement, YAF articulated its critique of American society and proclaimed, “In this time
of moral and political crisis, it is the responsibility of the youth of America to affirm certain
John A. Andrew III, The Other Side of the Sixties: Young Americans for Freedom and the Rise
of Conservative Politics, (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1997), 217-218. Douglas
Caddy became a lawyer and represented E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Libby, infamous for the
Watergate Hotel break-in. He went on to become president of the Energy Consumer Coalition
and later came out as gay.
Young Americans for Freedom, Inc.: The First Ten Months, A Report on the Activities of YAF
1961, Shields Special Collection, Shields Library, University of California, Davis.
These eternal truths ranged from embracing ideals of economic freedom, rugged
individualism, small government and most importantly, anti-Communism, all of which
eventually became the essentials of New Right6
’s platform. However, the Sharon Statement
came before older conservatives had fully articulated a cohesive platform.
Buckley announced the birth of the Young Americans for Freedom to his readership in
the National Review and reaffirmed the dual goal of YAF as not only to establish chapters on
college campuses across the nation but to also promote the truths manifested in the Sharon
Statement. “Every chapter of YAF,” he wrote, “ in every college will shape a program rooted in
the principal concerns of its own campus; except that no one will be accepted as a member who
does not endorse the Sharon Statement.”7
The Sharon Statement, like the New Left’s Port Huron
Statement, announced YAF’s ultimate vision for the county. It contained the broad principles all
young conservatives, Libertarians and Traditionalists, wanted to incorporate into a national
political debate. More than anything, the Sharon Statement expressed a pronounced fear about
the fate of the United States. It felt personal to young conservatives because they saw their
futures hanging in the balance, as the US federal government continued to grow and
Communism continued to spread across the world. Contrary to popular belief about the 1960’s
and the New Right, the appeal of the Young Americans for Freedom was not simply a young
conservative’s reply to the widely publicized Radical Left but an attempt to build a movement
for young people, based on the ideals of the Sharon Statement. They did not see themselves or
See Figure 1 in Appendix for complete Sharon Statement. Young Americans for Freedom, Inc.:
The First Ten Months, Addendum A.
Andrew, 149. YAF leader Lee Edwards first coined the term the “New Right” in 1962.
William F. Buckley Jr., “The Young Americans for Freedom,” in Conservatism in America
Since 1930, ed. Gregory L. Schneider, (New York: New York University Press, 2003), 226-228.
their goals represented in the national narrative of politics. YAF offered them chance to have an
Conscience of a Young Conservative: Personal Appeal
The same year Barry Goldwater, Senator from Arizona ran for the Vice Presidential
nomination of Republican Party, he published Conscience of a Conservative to confront some of
the main issues he saw facing conservatives in the United States. “So many people today with
Conservative instincts,” he explained, “ feel compelled to apologize for them.”8
issues he had with American society like a large federal government, high taxes, the welfare
state, federal aid to public education and the “Soviet Menace,” always referring back to what he
said should be the conservative’s first concern, “Are we maximizing freedom?”9
In the domestic
sphere he meant more individual freedom and smaller government. In terms of foreign policy, he
meant spreading democracy and stopping Communism. Throughout his critique of American
society, he encouraged his readers to proudly wave the flag of conservatism and no longer hide
their beliefs. For his teenage readers, who felt ostracized from their peers for their conservative
opinions, this book marked their political awakening. YAF offered a place to transform this
awakening into action.
For the young Libertarians who joined YAF, Ayn Rand, not Goldwater, was a major
early influence on their decision to enter politics. Many Libertarians said Rand taught them how
to clearly express their ideas, and nineteen-year-old Sharon Presley, interviewed by sociologist
Rebecca Klatch, said Rand’s works propelled her into politics. Atlas Shrugged, written in 1957,
“came along at just the right time,” explained Presley. “What she did for me was get me thinking
Barry Goldwater, Conscience of a Conservative, (Shepherdsville: Victor Publishing Company
Inc, 1960), 9.
about things in those kinds of philosophical terms that I never had before.”10
opinions and ideas about the world and government that Presley had felt, but did not have the
language to fully communicate, until she read Rand’s books. Empowered by her new vocabulary,
Presley, like many other young Libertarians, joined YAF to find a community of like-minded
Lastly, William Buckley’s National Review, founded in 1955, provided teenage
conservatives the tools to fully convey their beliefs. Buckley intended his to magazine promote
and encourage respectable conservative thought in the hopes of creating a society governed and
influenced by conservative ideas. The best way to achieve this goal began with education, which
the magazine provided, especially for its young readership. More importantly, the National
Review demonstrated to young readers that they did not have to feel alienated anymore for being
conservative in high school, college, and American society in general. Early YAFer, Maggie
Kohls, for example, grew up in a conservative household but felt ostracized in high school from
her liberal and apolitical peers. The first time she read the National Review as a teenager, she
burst into tears and exclaimed, “This is wonderful! I didn’t know there was anybody who agreed
Maggie’s emotional response demonstrates the overwhelming feeling of loneliness
that many young conservatives grappled with until they joined the Young Americans for
Goldwater, Rand and the National Review proved to be the most significant initial
introduction for young people to the conservative ideals of small government, laissez faire
economics, anti-Communism, and how to promote these ideals in a seemingly hostile political
Sharon Presley, as quoted in Rebecca Klatch, A Generation Divided: The New Left, the New
Right, and the 1960s, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 70.
Maggie Kohls, as quoted in Klatch, 69.
environment. These authors also legitimized their young reader’s beliefs. Teenage conservatives
now had Senator Goldwater and other well-known American political thinkers to reference when
confronted by liberal classmates. Each author defined a view and vision that appealed to their
young readers and sparked a desire in him or her to do something to change the world. Joining
YAF was the next step for these burgeoning politicos. The Young Americans for Freedom, the
only national group established dedicated to conservative ideals alone, offered young people a
means and a national network to translate their beliefs into real political action.
Until this point, young conservatives divided themselves between the Young
Republicans, Youth for Goldwater and the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists. Buckley
invited the leaders of these organizations to his estate in Connecticut for the Sharon Conference
in September 1960. Those three days on the Buckley estate generated the energy that resulted in
a new movement that had the potential to change the American political discourse. “We felt like
pioneers,” said Carol Dawson12
, a member of the Young Republicans and an early YAFer. “It
was challenging, it was…a thrill to travel up there and be among those people.”13
Conference offered many young conservatives, like Dawson, the power to build an organization,
instead of joining an established organization. Though William Buckley hosted and funded the
group, adding a sense of distinction to the conference, all decisions came from the students
The 100 delegates in attendance decided every aspect of the Young Americans for
Freedom, from the bylaws to the advisory board. From the beginning, the students understood
Cited in Klatch and throughout this paper as Carol Dawson, but when she was involved in
YAF she was known as Carol Bauman. Married to Robert Bauman, YAF’s former National
Chair for 21 years, they divorced when a political scandal forced him to come out as a
homosexual. After YAF, Dawson worked for the Consumer Products Safety Commission for
under both Reagan and Bush Administrations.
Carol Dawson, as quoted in Klatch, 20.
that they needed to embrace the two main strands of conservative thought, Libertarianism and
Traditionalism, in order to create a movement large enough to spread across the country. Each
strand embraced the essential conservative ideals of small federal government and anti-
Communism, but Libertarians wanted freedom in very aspect of life including the freedom to be
irreligious. Traditionalists, on the other hand, wanted to promote the moral order of the
Protestant religion. In an eerie foreshadowing of what was to come, organizational problems
between the two strands erupted at the Sharon Conference. The first seed of unrest, which
foretold years of disagreement until 1969, came when they argued over the use of “God” in the
Sharon Statement. The phrase under contention stated, “That foremost among the transcendent
values is the individual’s use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from
the restrictions of arbitrary force.”14
Libertarians felt that the use of “God” in the statement was
inappropriate and against their principles of liberty, not necessarily God-given. When brought to
a vote, it stayed in the draft of the statement. For the time being, the Traditionalists won.
Above all, the Sharon Statement stressed a stanch anti-communist view, and stated, “that
the forces of international Communism are, at present, the greatest single threat to these
Libertarians and Traditionalists could unite over the more important issue of the Red
Menace, which subdued the debate about religion. M. Stanton Evans16
, youngest editor of the
Indianapolis News and main author of the Sharon Statement, purposely wrote it to be open to
interpretation. “Differing emphases within the conservative camp,” he explained, “are aspects of
a single coherent body of thought and the draft was an attempt to show this.”17
However, he also
Young Americans for Freedom, Inc.: The First Ten Months, Addendum A.
M. Stanton Evans continued to write publishing multiple conservative works such as The
Fringe on Top in 1963 and The Liberal Establishment in 1965.
M. Stanton Evans, as quoted in Klatch, 22.
stated that “how the principles would apply, in practical circumstances, remained to be seen.”18
The overarching prominence of anti-Communism, as well as anti-statism, as Stanton purposely
wrote into the statement, kept both of the stands together for now, to start a cohesive
conservative movement. YAF needed numbers to gain media attention and financial support and
therefore could not create two separate movements. The ultimate goal of pushing conservative
thought into mainstream American politics took precedence over religion. Stanton was right, for
aside from the use of “God,” neither group of students challenged the rest of the draft.
The principles agreed upon by the conference and written down in the Sharon Statement
outlasted its original writers. The statement needed to attract generations of young conservatives,
not just the 100 delegates on the Buckley estate. There was an overwhelming sense throughout
the conference that those present had the power to start something, not just for themselves, but
also for the future of their nation. “America stands at crossroads today,” wrote Douglas Caddy in
the formal invitation to the conference. He asked, “Will our youth be more conservative or more
liberal in future years?” and told them, “You can help determine the answer to this question.”19
Caddy pierced right to the heart of the appeal of helping to create YAF. The young people
invited felt a deep patriotism but saw their vision for the United States slipping away from them
along with their hope for the future. They needed to do something to change their fate. For the
first time, young conservatives felt a part of a movement, a movement much like the growing
New Left movements, which would have an impact on the direction of this country. Scott
M. Stanton Evans, Revolt on the Campus, (Chicago: H. Regnery, 1961), 111.
Letter from Douglas Caddy to Robert Croll, 1960, YAF Archives, Washington, D.C. Andrew,
217. Robert Kroll did attend the Sharon Conference and went onto serve on the National Board
of YAF in 1964. After he left the organization he turned to a career as an academic.
, a Sharon attendee, felt convinced after the conference, that “we were the wave of the
future. We arrived as a mist of raindrops and went away a great and crushing wave with lots of
Those there discovered a community that they had not known existed and felt
ready to challenge the reigning conservative narrative, the GOP and the Left.
More than anything, YAF appealed to young conservatives by creating a sense of
community. This was the time of John F. Kennedy and Camelot idealism, which many young
Americans embraced whole-heartedly. In JFK, young liberals saw hope, change and progress. He
appealed to their age and patriotism, capitalizing on this by offering them ways to give back
through programs like the Peace Corps. Kennedy inspired them to take part in a system that had
not paid attention to them as young Americans and young voters. He was known as the “Young
People’s President.” But what about those young people who did not see their dreams and
ambitions for the United States embodied in him?
Before the Young Americans for Freedom, the only other group formed specifically for
conservatives was the John Birch Society. While the John Birch Society did embrace ideals of
anti-Communism and limited government, they had a reputation as a radical group. YAFer’s
immediate goal was to build a movement that could eventually impact policy while working
within the parameters of government; they did not see themselves as a fringe group. Early
YAFers did not want a reputation similar to the John Birch Society and so they choose the name
Young Americans for Freedom. It inspired patriotism and kept them from being pigeonholed as a
radical group. YAFers needed to attract as many people as possible in order to survive.
Andrew, 219. Scott Stanley reappeared in politics during the Gulf War when he founded a
group in favor of the war under the Bush Administration.
Scott Stanley, as quoted in Klatch, 23.
The reputation of the John Birch Society22
and therefore, conservatives, had little
credibility at this time. As Goldwater said in this book, most conservatives felt the need to
apologize for their views, instead of taking them into the national debate. Standing up for their
views, especially on college campuses, intimidated many young conservatives. To help their
members find conservative enclaves on university campuses, YAF published, “Professing the
Forbidden Faith,” in the second edition of their magazine, The New Guard. The author told
students that while many professors would not outright claim conservatism, “these scholars stand
for ‘the old and tired as against the new and untried’ (Lincoln’s definition of conservatism); they
are conservators of our culture and our civil social order.”23
This helped ease apprehensions
about attending colleges with liberal administrations, but many early YAFers still knew that
“conservative” in the early1960’s was a pejorative term as evidenced from the fact that even
university scholars would not outright claim the conservative views.
“To be young and conservative in the sixties was to be an untouchable, a pariah, a Jew in
Syria, a black in South Africa,” said Lee Edwards24
, editor of YAF’s magazine, New Guard,
rather dramatically. “We were scum. We were reviled. We were scorned.”25
statement was extreme, it demonstrates the overwhelming isolation young conservatives felt in
Gregory L. Schneider, Cadres for Conservatism: Young Americans for Freedom and the Rise
of the Contemporary Right, (New York: New York University Press, 1999), 48. The John Birch
Society, founded in 1958 by Robert Welch, was named for an American solider killed by
Chinese Communists in 1945 who supporters viewed as the first casualty of the Cold War.
Welch called President Eisenhower a “conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy” after
Eisenhower implemented a policy of détente with the Soviet Union. Views like Welch’s about
President Eisenhower, which received a lot of press attention, did not help create a welcome
space for conservatives in the Republican Party.
Russel Krik, “Professing the Forbidden Faith,” The New Guard, April 1961, 4. (YAF Archive,
Andrew, 217. Edwards continued his career as a conservative author after YAF and wrote
biographies of Ronald Reagan, Walter Judd and Barry Goldwater.
Lee Edwards, as quoted in Klatch, 35.
their present situation. While most YAFer’s were white, upper and middle-class men and women
and hardly had to fear for their lives as a “Jew in Syria,” what was at stake- the soul of the
country- felt just as life threatening to them. In the early Sixties, YAFers saw their country at a
political crossroads and it felt up to their generation to push the United States in the right
direction, which was why young conservatives needed YAF. They did not see themselves
represented in Kennedy. They felt alone on college campuses. The media ignored them and even
the Republican Party rejected their candidate for Vice President, Barry Goldwater.
The GOP, in 1960, did not have space for a conservative influence in the party. Old
Eastern Seaboard Republicans, who embraced ideals of fiscal conservatism, but held much more
socially liberal views than YAFers, dominated the party and did not want to give up their
authority. This meant, that in the political realm, young conservative activists did not hear their
voice in the conversation. YAF created a space for them to interject their views into the dialogue.
Coming together with the support of Conservative celebrities and starting something bold was
intoxicating. Much like SDS or the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), YAF
provided like-minded young people with a home. For first time, young conservatives felt like the
instigators of change.
However, only 100 delegates attended the original meeting in Connecticut. YAF needed
to dramatically increase their numbers so that the media, other young conservatives, and
politicians on the left and right would finally pay attention to them. The way YAF accomplished
this was by welcoming everyone who embraced the principles of the Sharon Statement,
including women, into their organization. While Carol Dawson, previously the Executive
Secretary for Youth for Nixon and present at the Sharon Conference, was the lone female elected
to the twelve-person board of directors in 1960,26
which remained male dominated throughout
the decade, there was not a sense of overt exclusion. In fact, most women felt welcomed with
open arms and many became chapter leaders on their campuses. “When you’re a minority
movement like that,” Traditionalist Dawne Winter told Rebecca Klatch, “you appreciate
everyone who comes in. So it doesn’t matter whether they’re male or female, white, black,
yellow, red, whatever,”27
Winter’s statement is representative of how most women in YAF felt
about participating in the organization, according to Klatch. YAF women felt welcomed and
included but also chose not to address their lack of equal representation on the national board.
YAF women wanted to hold onto 1950’s idealism, which glorified women in the home. They did
not want to start the Women’s Movement. Though YAF’s agenda did not address women’s
issues, the young women who joined did not feel this was an oversight.
Nevertheless, YAF women became political activists at a time when the political arena
was reserved for men. Despite advocating for the traditional role of women in the home, YAF
women expanded the scope of female involvement in politics, simply by being activists. Much
like Phyllis Schlafly in the 1970s, YAF women were at the forefront of this paradox of
advocating the home while not remaining in the home. The juxtaposition of female activism and
a 1950’s worldview created a unique space for women in YAF, which was why their parents
supported their political involvement. Because conservative women preached 1950’s ideals and
sexual mores, unlike women in the New Left, parents encouraged their daughters to join the
organization. As opposed to the young people in the New Left, who wanted to disrupt the status
quo, YAFers wanted to encourage more people to embrace traditional social and moral values.
Young Americans for Freedom, Inc.: The First Ten Months.
Dawne Winter, as quoted in Klatch,174.
By September 1962, only a year after the Sharon Conference, YAF’s numbers increased
exponentially. Executive Secretary Richard Viguerie28
estimated in a supporter letter that
membership grew approximately by 1,000 members per month29
with 310 YAF chapters already
established. YAF’s massive growth, when a year before Sharon delegates did not know other
young conservatives existed, helped the organization gain financial support from wealthy
conservatives across the county who also wanted to see the American political discourse change.
YAF awakened a spirit and drive within its members and supporters to make a place for young
conservatives in the national narrative of politics. The next step was to create a space for young
conservatives on their respective college campuses.
Revolt on the Campus30
: Taking on Liberal Activists and College
YAF had to transform this newfound collective energy into tangible activism quickly as
ideas fall flat unless backed by action, especially when trying to build brand new movement.
Their first challenge was to carve out a space for conservative thought on their home campuses.
A national network could be useful, but the real work began in the environment closest to them.
Executive Secretary Richard Viguerie felt that “without the benefit of a YAF Chapter to supply
[students] with the necessary facts concerning Constitutional government and Communist
strategy and tactics for world domination, many young people attending school today [would]
Andrew, 219-220. Richard Viguerie became one of the most influential former YAFers in
conservative organizing after he aged out of the organization. He learned fundraising strategy
from Marvin Liebman and is credited for the rise of direct-mail fundraising in the United States.
He became lead fundraiser for the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC),
began the Conservative Digest and in 1980, wrote The New Right: We’re Ready to Lead.
Letter from Richard Viguerie to a supporter, 1962, YAF Archive, Washington, D.C.
Title taken from M. Stanton Evans, Revolt on the Campus.
become liberals, socialists and, perhaps, even Communists tomorrow.”31
His strong rhetoric fed
members and supporters’ fears. Viguerie appealed to both, cultivating new members and money.
He brought the dark cloud of Communism into his readers’ backyards to emphasize the dire need
for a young conservative movement. A fight for the soul of America’s youth had begun. A fight
for the next generation had begun. YAF started this struggle for the Sixties on college campuses
across the country.
In fact, YAFers thought they would combat the growth of liberalism among young
people and win the battle of this decade. In Revolt on the Campus, an early history of YAF
published in 1962, M. Stanton Evans wrote that, “Historians may well record the decade of the
1960’s as the era in which conservatism, as a viable political force, finally came into its own.”32
Though incorrect about historical memory, his major point turned out to be more accurate than
many historians have realized. The force of conservatism and the New Right did emerge but
went unnoticed until it emerged as a full-blown movement in the 1970’s.
Influential YAFers like Evans and Lee Edwards worked hard to appropriate “rebellion”
away from their liberal counterparts and apply it to young conservatives. They fought what they
viewed to be liberal college administrations across the country condemning conservative
thought. As addressed before, even professors with conservative beliefs did not directly claim
them, which made it more difficult for students to be conservative on campus. The “New
Conformity,” Stanton argued, was not the idea of conformity seen in the 1950’s, but the
conformity to, and dominance of, liberal thought on college campuses. “A survey in the Harvard
Crimson,” he wrote, “reveals that ‘lectures and assigned readings’ had influenced a huge
segment of the undergraduate body to become more Liberal-i.e., more favorably disposed toward
Richard Viguerie, as quoted in Andrew, 171.
government manipulation of individual lives.”33
In his opinion, liberal college administrations
allowed no room for dissent. YAFers wanted to expand the scope of ideas students heard in their
classrooms as well as from politicians. While the media, parents, and school administrations,
labeled their peers in SDS “rebels,” YAFers felt that they embraced the true meaning of
Stanton, in fact, wrote his book to assert that “Liberalism is the orthodoxy on American
campuses, and that, in many recorded instances, it has sought to repress conservative dissent;
that it violates its own high-sounding conception of ‘academic freedom.’ ”34
In his view, Young
conservatives, not young liberals, fought against the mainstream status quo. Many young liberals
starkly disagreed with the liberal administrations in charge of the federal government and on
college campuses, which spurred them to activism, but YAFers did not see their liberal activism
as rebellion. YAFers desired to radically change the entire system, whereas they felt young
liberals wanted to selectively change the system. From the young conservative perspective,
academic freedom did not exist. They felt they had to fight to have their opinions heard in the
classroom. YAFers hungered to expose this hypocrisy, but they needed members and money to
accomplish this goal.
Young conservatives entering college, reading Goldwater, Rand and Buckley, had ideas
they wanted to express and discuss, but they found themselves marginalized. YAF provided
young conservatives the tools to combat this marginality in their education. Not only did YAF
offer a community; it provided organized access to a growing base of like-minded young people
and activism aimed at opposing liberal bias. Their activism on campus offered an excellent way
to appeal for money from older supporters. In January of 1965, Robert Bauman35
National Chair, used what he saw as an example of liberal authority at Ohio University as an
incentive to help the national arm of YAF counter this bias in classrooms across the country in a
fundraising campaign. His fundraising letter opened with these words:
In a final exam in freshman English Composition at Ohio University, the English
Department offered a choice between two essay topics: 1. Why Goldwater can’t win the
Republican nomination. 2. How a climate of hate developed in this country. This kind of
left-wing propaganda can best be met with active, articulate and informed conservative
students – the kind of students who are members of YAF.36
Bauman capitalized on parents’ fears that college could turn their children away from the
traditional values they taught their sons and daughters. YAF presented itself as the only option
for conservative students to thwart a liberal agenda. Instead of disregarding parents’ anxieties
about the “liberal” influence of college on their children, YAF confronted these fears in order to
raise money. Support from both parents and children met the dual goals of adding members and
money to YAF. If one had something to say, and identified as conservative, the Young
Americans for Freedom offered them a home where they no longer felt alienated for their
On the University of California, Berkeley campus, YAFers waged a war against
Berkeley’s reputation as a bastion of liberal activists for the entire decade. In 1969, the Berkeley
YAF chapter published The Phoenix in response to the lack of discourse for young conservatives
in the campus newspaper, the Daily Californian. They argued against student fees going to
Benjamin Weiser and Jackson Diehl, “Rep. Bauman in Court,” Washington Post, October 3,
1980. Robert Bauman went on to be elected a Representative from Maryland to the United States
Congress in the 1970’s. His third term was rocked by scandal when he was accused of soliciting
sex from a teenage boy. The charges were eventually dropped but it cost Bauman his reelection,
his wife, and proved to be a painful and public coming out. In 1986, Bauman published his
autobiography, The Gentleman from Maryland: Conscience of a Gay Conservative.
Letter from Robert Bauman to supporter, 1965, YAF Archive, Washington, D.C.
support the Daily Californian and advocated for the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) to
remain on campus. Circulated with The Phoenix, Berkeley YAF gave its like-minded peers “The
Blue Button” to wear in support of academic freedom and free political discourse. The card
distributed with the blue button told students that it stood for “the freedom of everyone. Not just
[those in] the SDS or BSU (Black Student Union), but every student.”37
Berkeley YAFers asked
those sympathetic to their cause to “wear a blue button and show that you stand against coercion
and for campus freedom!”38
Young conservatives felt ostracized from their fellow students
particularly on the Berkeley campus. Berkeley’s reputation as a liberal enclave grew rapidly
throughout the Sixties and YAFers did not see room for real debate despite their many efforts.
Beyond the classroom, conservatives barely had any voice in the National Student
Association (NSA), a coalition of university and college governments, widely dispersed across
American campuses. The NSA, dominated by SLATE, the University of California, Berkeley
student organization, SDS, The Progressive Student League, Americans for Democratic Action,
and the Young Socialist Alliance, failed to create an equal space for the Young Americans for
Freedom in its organization.39
Regardless of their attempts to make the NSA more “balanced,” as
historian John Andrew asserts, “opposing arguments received short shrift, and the available
literature reinforced liberal positions on such issues as federal aid to education, disarmament,
pacifism, and international relations.”40
YAF leaders like Carol Dawson believed, “that [YAF
could not] ignore the potentialities in NSA, and [that they] should always try to make [their]
The Phoenix, Berkeley YAF Publication,1969, Bancroft Library, University of California,
viewpoint well presented there.”41
Regardless of their effort, YAFers never achieved an equal
voice in the NSA.
Thus began a decade’s crusade to reduce the NSA’s importance and power on college
campuses across the United States. In their national magazine, The New Guard, YAF published
multiple articles about the dangers posed by the NSA, culminating in Tom Huston’s42
National Chair) campaign to remove it altogether in 1965. In an article, published in The New
Guard in 1964, “You, Too, Can STOP NSA!,” Huston laid out easy steps for YAFers to expel
the NSA from their campuses. Aside from studying their enemy by reading past New Guard
articles on the NSA, the next step Huston suggested involved “A United Front” with other
campus groups because he said, “NSA is great at brainwashing student government leaders and
convincing them, that with NSA’s help, their administration will be the greatest thing to happen
on the campus since Kinsey legitimatized sex.”43
In a witty and irreverent way, Huston outlined
the process, which led to the elimination of the NSA on over 50 campuses between 1962 and
The hypocrisy that YAFers identified on their campus epitomized a larger trend – the fact
that the image of students as “radical activists,” on American campuses, constituted the norm.
Throughout the Sixties, YAF attracted young conservatives by appropriating language associated
with the concept of a “rebel.” Not only did they see themselves as individually opposing the
trend of an established liberal youth, but they also presented their history to the world in the
terms of a revolt. Their seductive use of language appealed to young conservatives’ alienation,
Carol Dawson, as quoted in Andrew, 92.
Andrew, 217. Tom Charles Huston was National Chair from 1965 to 1967. After YAF, he
served as deputy to Patrick Buchanan in the Nixon Administration.
Tom Huston, “You, Too, Can STOP NSA!,” The New Guard, September 1964, 11-12. (YAF
Archive, Washington, D.C.)
but also their desire to make a statement. Though they advocated a different set of values, young
conservatives wanted to be counted just as much as other young people in their generation.
However, YAFers did not see the merit of their peer’s “rebellion” but saw their rebellion as
imperative for the future of the United States.
In a pamphlet written by YAF leaders Lee and Anne Edwards in 1968, they introduced
the history of YAF up until that year, under the title, Rebels with a Cause. They said it told, “the
dynamic story of Young Americans for Freedom….rebels helping to bring about a better
understanding of the American way of life.”45
Edwards argued that even the way in which the
Young Americans for Freedom built the conservative youth movement had a revolutionary
character. Despite only 100 members at its founding, YAF did not grow slowly, following
modest steps of first building up a mailing list and waiting for members to join. Instead, Edwards
argued that from the very beginning, “YAF [was an] audacious, chance-taking organization.”46
managed to expand its membership rapidly regardless of the predominant stereotype of
American youth. The use of rebellious imagery helped YAF engage the “thousands of youth”
Edwards repeatedly mentioned and, in his view, this became a large part of its mass appeal to
both Traditionalist and Libertarian conservatives in college. YAF’s principles and lone standing
as the home for young conservatives proved to keep membership high in the Young Americans
for Freedom. By the time Edwards wrote his history of YAF, an aggressive marketing campaign
of annual conferences, summer workshops, a monthly magazine, pamphlets, films, radio spots
and book clubs, had widened YAF’s outreach beyond the campus.
The Young Americans for Freedom and You47
: Recruitment Methods
Immediately after its founding, the Young Americans for Freedom accomplished two
things that exemplified Edwards’ claim of audacity. They hosted a public rally in New York
City’s Manhattan Center and completed the first issue of their magazine The New Guard in time
for the event. They marketed the evening as YAF’s first Annual Awards Rally and honored
William F. Buckley Jr. and many other well-known conservatives.48
YAF took a daring risk; the
Manhattan Center seated 3,000 people, and before the Sharon Conference, young conservatives
doubted the existence of other young people like them in the United States. YAFer’s had no idea
if they would be able to fill the venue, but the future of the organization rested in the success of
Over 6,000 people attended the rally and only half could enter the Manhattan Center. “It
a was grand evening,” professed Edwards in Rebels with a Cause, “perhaps the grandest of all
because none of us knew our potential and power.”49
The event even made the front page of the
New York Times, under the title, “3,200 at Rally Here Acclaim Goldwater.” The author, surprised
by the age of the audience, wrote, “knots of other spectators, most of them apparently students,
thrust up signs telling their schools or affiliations”50
when Barry Goldwater, the keynote speaker,
appeared on stage. From a strategic standpoint, their gamble succeeded in gaining the media
attention they needed to aid in recruitment and retention. Their success also helped in
fundraising. Most importantly, it gave YAF leaders confidence in their strength to build a
Title taken from: The Young Americans for Freedom and You, YAF Recruitment Pamphlet
(n.d.), Shields Special Collection, Shields Library, University of California, Davis.
Robert Conley, “3,200 at Rally Here Acclaim Goldwater,”New York Times, March 4, 1961.
The second annual rally packed Madison Square Garden. Considered a mammoth venue
in its day, it was six times as large as the Manhattan Center with 18,000 seats. Conservative
celebrities once again attended, including President Herbert Hoover, but this time the rally also
honored Moise Tshombe, President of the Katanga Province in the Congo. Presented as a
“Conservative Rally for World Liberation from Communism,”51
the awards rally proved to be an
excellent marketing tool because it attracted young conservatives from across the country, not
just those already involved in YAF. Once there, those young conservatives saw the power and
prestige of the Young Americans for Freedom. They had direct access to influential individuals
who made time to attend YAF’s events – a stunning an accomplishment in itself. Beyond that, by
the second year, YAF had injected one of its main principles into the awards rally, anti-
The concept of pairing a light hearted awards presentation with the serious goal of
thwarting Communism around the world, appealed to multiple sides of the budding activists who
attended. As young people, they wanted entertainment, but as politicos, they wanted more
meaning in their activities. The rally provided both. The famous speakers helped to attract those
18,000 people, but the message of the rally sparked a desire to have an impact in the world,
highlighted in the award given to an international figure, Moise Tshombe.52
YAFers wanted to
influence domestic politics as well as foreign policy. After that spark ignited, YAF stepped in to
help those young students effect real change.
Alan Ryskind, “LBJ’s Foreign Policy,”The New Guard, March 1965, 8-10. (YAF Archive) For
the first half of the decade, YAFers focused on Moise Tshombe’s struggle to remain in power in
the Congo because they felt Africa was a critical place in the Cold War. YAF liked Tshombe
because he embraced western ideals and was stanchly Anti- Communist. Tshombe’s return to
power from exile in 1965 YAFers cited as one of LBJ’s first victories against Communism
Passed out at each rally, The New Guard persuaded participants that the Young
Americans for Freedom needed them to join their ranks so that together they could effect change.
The New Guard, much like the second awards rally, combined serious goals with witty writing
and carefree articles ranging from “The Funny Side of Mao”53
to “James Bond – Conservative
The New Guard, the first magazine targeted at conservative youth, cost 3 dollars a
year, and framed a national message for an organization that was based primarily in individual
campus chapters. In the pages of the first issue, the newly installed editors wrote the following:
Twenty years ago The New Guard would have remained a dream for the educators had
done their job well. Liberalism was the banner on nearly every campus….Ten years ago
the first open rebellion appeared. How long do we have to wait? asked the more impatient
ones. How much more do we have to give? demanded the more philosophical….and only
last September, 1960, Young Americans for Freedom was born.55
YAFers saw themselves as an intrinsic part of the Conservative Movement and worked to insert
the Young Americans for Freedom into that legacy. YAF used The New Guard to clearly define
their goals for their membership, which made it one of YAF’s best ways to spread its definition
of conservatism defined in the Sharon Statement and attract more young people to its
Not only did The New Guard spread YAF’s brand of conservatism, student authors used
it to specifically target different groups within the Young Americans for Freedom, including
Traditionalists and Libertarians, and especially women. Despite the fact that men dominated the
makeup of the national advisory board, women felt welcomed and included as full-fledged
members of the Young Americans for Freedom. However, they had to contend with issues of
propriety and single women participating in national and local politics. Active New Guard
Henry P. Durkin,“The Funny Side of Mao,” The New Guard, April 1967, 19. (YAF Archive)
T.K. Meier, “James Bond- Conservative Agent?,” The New Guard, March 1965, 19. (YAF
Archive, Washington, D.C.)
The New Guard, March 1961, 3. (YAF Archive, Washington, D.C.)
author, Marilyn Manion56
, addressed this issue in her article, “Politics and the Single Girl,”
cleverly modeled off the 1962 groundbreaking book Sex and the Single Girl, by Helen Gurley
Brown. Manion advocated women’s involvement in politics but nuanced her argument by solely
focusing on a particular group of women. Since women in YAF embraced 1950’s sexual mores
and ideals, it made their political involvement less alarming. While women in SDS wanted equal
representation in leadership, Manion argued that, “if a woman is smart, she can go right ahead
and run things as long as she let the men think they are running them” asserting that this was
“one of the first things [women] should learn.”57
Her argument underlined what would later
become one popular critique of the women’s movement from a conservative perspective, which
advocated that women already held the power in their relationships with men.
Manion also promoted the image of young women as activists. Assuaging fears that
young conservative women might have about diving into this “dirty” world, Manion wrote, “But
even the most diehard anti-women factions get slightly maudlin when a young, single girl enters
the picture. We look so harmless.”58
She urged them to use their femininity to disarm critics
because “nobody [expected them] to be interested in anything as dry as politics.”59
in her view, this only worked if you had a certain look, the look of a clean-cut, fresh-faced
American girl. She wrote about the ideal image of a conservative young woman, the image of
women YAF promoted.
Manion’s ideal image appeared in her articles as well as in The New Guard’s spotlight
section on young, female YAFers, titled “Miss YAF,” which started in 1967. The farther away
Andrew, 122. Manion served as the sole woman on the National Board of Directors under
National Chair Robert Bauman in 1964.
Marilyn Manion, “Politics And the Single Girl,” The New Guard, May 1964, 8-9. (YAF
Archive, Washington, D.C.)
society moved from the image of women as homemakers, the more YAF tried to bring this
image back. Lauren Christie Lightbourn, an undergraduate from California, epitomized
conservatives’ ideal female in her “Miss YAF” article t in 1968. The article opened with
Lightbourn’s musings on politics, about which she said, “I think conservatism affords the best
outlet for individual expression and development…and besides, most leftists are really
The article also listed her hobbies and activities in YAF, which included helping to
found her campus chapter. The article ended with an anecdote that exemplified Manion’s earlier
assertion that young females seemed harmless to the outside observer. Lightbourn told the story
of winning the title of “Miss Simi Valley” and welcoming Governor Jerry Brown to the Valley.
“Because of [my] long blonde hair,” she said, “no one noticed the “Reagan for Governor”
buttons holding up [my] “Miss Simi Valley” ribbon.”61
Nobody expected her to be political
because she looked a certain way, exactly what Manion promoted in her article.
The ideal of Miss YAF offered a dual appeal to both young men and women. She
cultivated the image of a homemaker, like Lightbourn, pictured with a jar of Knotts Berry Farm
Jam, fully clothed and still traditionally appealing and attractive.62
Miss YAF showed young men
that YAF attracted this type of woman and it told young women that they could be this type of
woman in YAF and maybe eventually have their own “Miss YAF” article in The New Guard.
Aside from highlighting a particular kind of attractiveness, the spotlight also told women that
they too could become leaders in the organization contrary to the popular belief that young,
white men dominated YAF. Though an outside viewer might see “Miss YAF” as an idealized
See Figure 2 in Appendix for “Miss YAF” photo spread. “January 1968: Miss YAF,” The New
Guard, January 1968, 23. (YAF Archive, Washington, D.C.)
January 1968: Miss YAF.
woman of the Fifties, insiders knew that this spotlight also celebrated the active conservative
women involved in the organization.
Miss YAF also added a touch of glamour to the image of a conservative woman, at a time
when the idea of “glamour,” synonymous with Jackie Kennedy, belonged to the women of the
“New Frontier.” Earlier in the decade, while Jackie Kennedy still resided in the White House,
The New Guard warned against the pervasiveness of liberal bias, even in fashion magazines. The
author forewarned that though fashion magazines did try to educate its readers in topics ranging
from poetry to science, “the emphasis is on Youth, and as is to be expected,” she wrote, “the
Liberal line and its accretive image wind its way through the layout.”63
Magazines did this by
praising Jackie Kennedy as a real role model for young women “at last” and described the latest
fashions as “frontier” clothes, evoking JFK’s New Frontier and implying that only liberals were
in vogue. Young conservative women did not see Jackie Kennedy as representative of them or
their values and turned to YAF, not only for the politics, but also to find conservative role
models like the female authors writing for The New Guard.
The New Guard, written by young people, for young people, caught the young
conservative eye. Bright covers with catchy titles, as well as both serious and humorous articles,
appealed to different types of young conservatives and helped recruit them to the Young
Americans for Freedom. Besides encouraging young women to enter the realm of politics, and
offering them an alternative to the liberal bias found in other magazines, The New Guard
recommended specific literature for young conservatives to read. It also featured films and other
Elizabeth Foster, “What the Well-dressed Girl Should Think,” The New Guard, January 1962,
42-43. (YAF Archive, Washington, D.C.)
magazines that espoused the conservative message of YAF, including the National Review,
marketed as a “good way to prepare yourself for college.”64
The New Guard became one of YAF’s most compelling marketing tools. YAF expanded
beyond rallies and magazines by the mid-Sixties and sponsored summer leadership institutes that
focused on Communism, held annual conventions, and published short pamphlets about
prevailing topics in the media. Although the pamphlets varied from the history of the Young
Americans for Freedom to their alternative to the draft, the Sharon Statement appeared on the
back of every single one. Every New Guard, and every conference, regardless of their topics,
emphasized YAF’s roots in the Sharon Statement because its founding principles gave meaning
to all other appeals.
Rebels With a Cause65
: Their Vision and Agenda
By 1964, YAF flourished as an active political organization. Aggressive recruitment
methods and savvy fundraising made YAF a successful conservative youth movement. Yet no
single factor contributed to YAF’ rise like the 1964 Goldwater Campaign for President.
Goldwater’s massive recruitment power transcended all other appeals the organization had
offered young conservatives up until that point. His campaign was the primary reason YAF’s
membership grew by 5,400 students by the end of 1964. More importantly, his candidacy
validated everything YAFers had strived to achieve for the past four years. Goldwater’s
overarching presence in the organization attracted young conservatives from the beginning. He
inspired them to enter politics, to become activists and to take pride in their beliefs. Present at
See Figure 3 in the Appendix for this ad in The New Guard. The New Guard, September 1967.
(YAF Archive, Washington, D.C.)
Title taken from Lee and Anne Edwards, Rebels With a Cause.
every rally, convention, and splashed across the pages of The New Guard, Barry Goldwater
helped make YAF. But YAF also helped make him.
YAFers felt ready for the world of electoral politics in 1963 and focused all of their
energy on the 1964 election. YAF had made great strides in proving to America that young
conservatives not only existed, but were also a political force. The true test of the organization’s
influence came in the 1964 Presidential race. First, young conservatives had to convince their
ideal candidate, Barry Goldwater, to run. On the cover of the June 1963 issue of The New Guard,
five months before President Kennedy’s assassination, appeared an electoral map depicting
Barry Goldwater defeating the young President with 287 electoral votes to 251 votes.66
focused on the power of Goldwater and their chance to make him the GOP’s candidate. Even the
U.S. News and World Report concluded that, “the Republican race for the Presidential
nomination in 1964 [was] wide open.”67
If Goldwater entered the race, conservatives were
poised to take center stage in the national political debate.
Thus began a campaign on the part of the Young Americans for Freedom to “draft”
Senator Goldwater. He had captured their hearts and inspired them to act. Much like the Vietnam
War galvanized the young Left, Goldwater’s campaign inspired young conservatives across the
United States to fight for something larger than themselves. Robert Bauman, YAF’s National
Chair, urged YAFers to convince Senator Barry Goldwater that “the people of America want[ed]
him to run for President in 1964,”68
and told them to join the “Draft Goldwater Committee.” He
also asked them to physically demonstrate their support by attending the “Draft Goldwater
See Figure 4 in the Appendix for cover. The New Guard, June 1963. (YAF Archive,
The New Guard, June 1963, 6. (YAF Archive, Washington, D.C.)
Letter from Robert Bauman to readers, The New Guard, June 1963. (YAF Archive,
Rally” on July 4, 1963 in Washington, D.C. There they would boldly pronounce that running
Goldwater against the popular Kennedy would not be political suicide, but a political upset.
Goldwater could not ignore his young constituents, but instead amplified their voices by
heeding their call. Goldwater’s nomination to the Republican ticket and win of the Presidency
would mean that conservatives had arrived within their party and on the national stage. YAFers
idolized Goldwater and supported him in all his endeavors: he had become larger than life. His
win would mean the final triumph of conservative beliefs. YAF’s struggle to participate in the
national dialogue would be worth every cost because they finally had a leader who spoke for
them. Senate and Congressional victories up until this time kept conservative hope afloat, but
winning the White House meant that they could no longer be ignored. Conservatives desperately
wanted that validation.
Before they could take on the country, YAF had to win over the Republican Party. The
New Guard endorsed Goldwater in 1963 and YAF launched an aggressive plan to ensure that he
won the GOP’s nomination. Washington D.C. became the center of their focus. YAF moved its
national headquarters from California to D.C. and began sending the Washington Report, a
monthly update on national politics, to The New Guard’s readership. YAF also created a
campaign service, opened a hot line to collaborate political action, and organized fundraisers for
The Goldwater campaign took precedence over all other activism. YAF’s central
belief throughout 1964, as John Andrew explains, “was that Barry Goldwater could do more for
conservatism than any other potential Republican candidate.”70
No one else in the Republican
Party made young conservatives excited about politics. YAF offered Goldwater an untapped
resource of campaigners, and his star power helped the organization expand beyond college
campuses to reach even more young people passionate about conservative values. Their
symbiotic relationship convinced both that together, they could win the White House.
Goldwater captured the Republican Party’s nomination. YAF and conservatives had
gained the stamp of approval from their Republican peers. In four short years, conservatives had
moved from the fringe to become a viable force in the GOP. Founded in the wake of Goldwater’s
lost bid for the Vice Presidency, YAF helped make this win possible. Professional political
operatives noticed young conservatives for the first time. “These young people,” Goldwater
proclaimed, “are interested in conservatism and I felt that if I didn’t make myself available they
might become discouraged.”71
Goldwater knew young conservatives formed his base and that he
owed the GOP nomination for President to their efforts. They made his national campaign
possible and they had no doubt he would win.
Goldwater did not win. In fact, he did not come close to winning the election. Johnson
crushed him in an electoral landslide. Five days after the election, the New York Times, published
a scathing analysis of Goldwater’s campaign, remarking that, “Senator Barry Goldwater lost the
1964 election in the vain hope that a huge conservative vote awaited his call.”72
The New York
Times failed to see the historical ramifications of the Goldwater campaign. Yes, conservatives
lost this election, but they established a powerful influence in the Republican Party. YAF helped
keep conservatism growing in the United States. Much like Goldwater’s defeat for the Vice
Presidential nomination, which founded their movement, they transformed their disappointment
into political capital. In the December 1964 issue of The New Guard, editors announced a boost
in YAF’s membership and told its readers that:
Barry Goldwater, as quoted in Andrew, 179.
“Senator Helped to Deepen Split,” New York Times, 1964.
In the two days after the election five chapters were formed by long distance telephone
calls to the office. Two generous people walked in off the street and contributed
substantial amounts of cash, a never-before event in our lives. Young people telephoned,
came in, and sent letters – all with a single purpose: to make sure that the wave of
conservatism does not falter.73
YAF fought harder than ever to ensure that the next time a conservative candidate ran for
President, they would win. While they waited, YAFers turned back to their larger agenda of
attacking Communism and promoting the vision in the Sharon Statement.
Immediately, YAF plunged back into a national campaign the next year; this time,
against the spread of Communism. While other young activists took on the fight for civil rights,
YAFers did not incorporate this into their agenda. Though most supported civil and voting rights
for African Americans, Communism felt too overwhelming to ignore or divide YAF’s efforts. In
1965, The Firestone Tire Company announced plans to build a synthetic rubber plant in Soviet-
occupied Romania. Their announcement came on the heels of the Goodyear Rubber and Tire
Company’s refusal to grant the Johnson Administration’s request to help Romania make natural
The Johnson Administration sanctioned this deal with the Soviet-occupied country
despite documented Romanian trade with China. YAFers felt that they could not trust their
government to fight the Red Menace, so they took up the battle themselves. Within weeks, YAF
chapters organized picket lines, a letter-writing campaign, demonstrations and, most importantly,
a boycott of the Firestone Company.75
Senator William Fullbright, then chairman of the Senate
“Growth in Chapters Marks Post-Election Period; YAF-Sponsored Publications Proliferate in
all Regions,” The New Guard, December 1964, 20-21. (YAF Archive, Washington, D.C.)
Foreign Relations Committee, unhappy with YAF’s efforts, told the New York Times that YAF
conducted a “nuisance boycott campaign” against the rubber company.76
Despite poor press from Senator Fullbright, the campaign against Firestone succeeded.
The culmination of their efforts came when YAF threatened to picket the Indianapolis 500, an
event vital for Firestone business. Their increased manpower left over from Goldwater’s
campaign substantiated their threats. When YAF warned that they would handout 500,000
leaflets at the Indianapolis 500, a feat never before accomplished by a group of young people,
Firestone took it seriously. Firestone suddenly halted their plans for the synthetic rubber plant in
Romania after the YAF announcement of the plan. Lee Edwards, in Rebels With Cause, said
“YAF’s campaign was cited as the major reason for the cancellation in news stories and
editorials from coast to coast.”77
YAF leaders used the Goldwater loss to spur their members to
greater and more aggressive action. Conservative thought had made inroads in the past four
years, but they still did not control the political agenda on the national stage. Grassroots
organizing, like they used in the Firestone boycott, allowed young conservatives a way to
circumvent the power of the Johnson Administration.
The Firestone boycott tied into the larger frame of anti-Communism and YAF’s vision
for American foreign policy. The May 1965 issue of The New Guard reported that Romania had
provided 500 military trucks to China, which in turn supplied that equipment to North Vietnam.78
The rubber plant in Romania, in this context, meant much more than aiding a Soviet-occupied
country. It meant aiding an American enemy. While the Vietnam War galvanized masses of
John W. Finney, “U.S. Condemns Boycotts to End Trade with Reds; Right-Wing Campaigns
Here Denounced as Contrary to Foreign Policy Goals,” New York Times, October 12, 1965, 4.
“YAF Chapters Support Goodyear, Picket Firestone,” The New Guard, May 1965, 21. (YAF
Archive, Washington, D.C.)
young people on the Left to become activists, it also energized the Right. For many leftist
organizations, like SDS, anti-war demonstrations consumed their efforts. For YAFers, the war fit
into a larger vision of destroying Communism throughout the world.
The United States needed to tackle the spread of Communism through a fierce foreign
defense. “In the Communist plan for domination of all of Asia, Viet Nam occupies a strategic
position,” argued YAF in their pamphlet, Victory in Viet Nam: The American Imperative. “It is
rich in natural resources….grows an abundance of rice.…and stands at the gateway to the rice-
rich nations of Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and East Pakistan.”79
If Vietnam fell to the
Communist North Vietnamese, YAFers told their members, so would the rest of Southeast Asia.
Young conservatives saw Ho Chi Minh as a danger, not only to Vietnamese freedom, but also to
freedom in their own lives. The Vietnam War, in YAF’s opinion, played a critical role in
preserving the future of democracy at home and abroad.
YAF channeled their fear of Communism into productive advocacy and volunteerism for
Vietnam. By 1966, YAF chapters throughout the nation collected supplies and food for war
refugees, sponsored “bleed-ins” (blood donations) and started letter writing campaigns to support
U.S. soldiers in Vietnam.80
YAF headquarters also announced national “Debate-Ins” on the war
held on college campuses to promote a more inclusive discourse.81
YAFers held steadfast to their
support of Vietnam despite a growing climate of civil unrest towards the war and its ultimate
unpopularity by 1968. By this time, YAF could offer its young conservative members a
community of like-minded individuals who supported the same foreign policy goals and a refuge
as Anti-Vietnam activism devoured the Left.
Victory in Viet Nam: The American Imperative, YAF Pamphlet (n.d.), Shields Special
Collection, Shields Library, University of California, Davis.
However, the Young Americans for Freedom did not just feed their members favorable
rhetoric about the war. They attempted to include the South Vietnamese voice to reinforce their
platform on the necessity of American soldiers in Vietnam. In the summer of 1968, The New
Guard’s Charles W. Wiley, an undergraduate at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service,
interviewed General Nguyen Cao Ky, South Vietnam’s Vice President. “There has been very
little sign that any of the people support the Communists,” Ky told Wiley. “You can imagine our
problem if [even] one percent of the two-and-a-half million Saigonese supported the
Communists. We would have had big trouble.”82
YAF offered its membership direct access to a
major figure in the Vietnamese government so they could use this interview to strengthen their
argument in favor of American foreign policy in Vietnam. Victory in Vietnam was critical in the
prevention of the spread of Communism, a goal that the Sharon Statement articulated as one of
YAF’s main objectives. By 1968, even the success of the young conservative movement could
not combat the overwhelming power of Anti-Vietnam turmoil.
YAFers could not successfully keep Vietnam unrest from spilling into their organization,
especially because of the draft. It divided American households. It widened the generation gap. It
disrupted American college campus life. In the Young Americans for Freedom, the draft became
the final breach between Libertarians and Traditionalists, even though they had remained united
for almost a decade. While neither side supported mandatory subscription, Traditionalists saw
draft dodging as un-American and immoral. Those who escaped the draft offended their
patriotism. Libertarians, on the other hand, felt that the draft squashed their personal liberty and
therefore supported those who dodged the draft. These two diametrically opposing views marked
the beginning of end for Libertarian membership in YAF.
Charles W. Wiley, “Interview: Nguyen Cao Ky,” The New Guard, Summer 1968, 21. (YAF
Archive, Washington, D.C.)
Nevertheless, YAF finessed their divisions for some time, by advocating for a voluntary
army. In, The Draft: There is an Alternative, a pamphlet distributed on college campuses, YAF
strongly evoked American revolutionary history by emphasizing that the United States “had a
long tradition of opposition to forced labor; and that our country was founded by men who fled
Appealing to a bi-partisan audience, the pamphlet quoted leaders from
both political parties who did not support the draft and ended by encouraging its readers to
educate themselves and “assess its effects on [their] generation and participate in political action
that [would] bring about its replacement by a volunteer military!”84
Though activists achieved
the goal of a voluntary enlistment in 1973, YAF’s alternative position would only unite
Libertarians and Traditionalists until 1969.
At the 1969 National Convention in St. Louis, the Sixties itself became the final division
that split Libertarians and Traditionalists in YAF. The organization had reached a crossroads.
Ideological differences ripped the two strands too far apart to bridge. Much like its liberal
counterpart SDS, whose members fractured over women’s equality in the organization at their
1969 National Convention, YAF would leave its convention a different organization. SDS
eventually disbanded. In spite of an aggressive and innovative effort to organize a young
conservative movement, the Sixties became too much of an overwhelming force to hold the
organization together by the end of the decade. Libertarians embraced flag burning and
advocated a militant resistance to the draft. Moreover, they welcomed the wave of counterculture
influencing young Americans by 1969 and adopted drug use as a way to find individual freedom.
Many Libertarians even held dual membership in SDS and YAF. Traditionalists no longer
The Draft: There is an Alternative, YAF pamphlet (n.d.), Shields Special Collection, Shields
Library, University of California, Davis.
needed Libertarian numbers for their conservative movement and felt that Libertarians had
moved too far away from the spirit of conservatism. After an attempted bid for power by the
Libertarians at the convention, Traditionalists started to systematically purge Libertarians from
YAF survived the Sixties, despite its dramatic end to the decade. In nine short years, the
Young Americans for Freedom built a conservative youth movement, the only one of its kind in
existence. YAF burst onto the scene with a dramatic demonstration that young conservatives had
the power to become a political force at their first annual awards rally in 1961. YAF coupled an
audacious recruitment strategy with tangible activism on college campuses and in national
policy. Young conservatives found acceptance, community and support to enter the national
stage of politics at a time when they felt ignored. The organization grew rapidly and by the end
of Sixties, had 25,000 members on over 700 college campuses across the country.85
YAF’s original appeal felt personal. Young conservatives did not have a piece of the
American political narrative to call their own. Their desire to create a movement that could have
an impact compelled many original members to join YAF. The Sharon Statement formed the
ideological foundation for the organization and in the Statement, YAF articulated a clear vision
for the decade. Once created, YAF attracted conservatives from across the country by helping
them fight liberal bias in the environment closest to them- the college campus. By 1964, YAF
had an expansive network including a monthly magazine, institutes, conventions and connections
to famous conservatives like Barry Goldwater. More than anything, Goldwater helped YAF
transform into a national political force and YAF helped him win the GOP’s nomination for
Niels Bjerre-Poulsen, Right Face: Organizing the American Conservative Movement 1945-65,
(Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2002), 181.
President. Though they both lost this election, it did not paralyze the conservative movement,
instead, proved its necessity. Young conservatives still had work to do and an agenda to achieve.
They used their boost in membership after 1964 to successfully combat the growth of global and
domestic Communism. But the Sixties proved a powerful and consuming foe.
Young conservatives did not win the battle of the Sixties, but neither did the Left.
Nonetheless, the New Left and young liberals won the battle for historical memory. Though
ignored by the press in their own time and history books today, the story of the Young
Americans for Freedom is indispensible to a larger political narrative. Conservatives eventually
did win and YAF made it possible. Nixon won the White House in 1968 and brought
conservatives one-step closer to their ultimate goal realized by 1980 with the election of a truly
conservative candidate, Ronald Reagan. His election to the Presidency would not have happened
without YAF’s efforts in the 1960’s and the foundation they built for the New Right. Many
young YAFers in the Sixties went on to become conservative elected officials in the Seventies.
The Young Americans for Freedom could not have taken shape in any other decade. The
Sixties electrified the country. While the sexual revolution took hold and anti-Vietnam protest
dominated the national imagination, conservatives saw their entire set of values disappearing.
Young conservatives created YAF not in response to young liberals’ activism but in response to
the Sixties. The world exploded and young conservatives needed a way to push back in order to
hold onto their vision for the future. The Young Americans for Freedom empowered young
conservatives in their push back against the rapid change of the decade and gave them the
collective strength to change the American political discourse forever.
Figure 1: Full Version of Sharon Statement
Adopted in conference at Sharon, Connecticut, on 11 September 1960.
In this time of moral and political crises, it is the responsibility of the youth of America to affirm
certain eternal truths. We, as young conservatives, believe:
That foremost among the transcendent values is the individual's use of his God-given free will,
whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force;
That liberty is indivisible, and that political freedom cannot long exist without economic
That the purpose of government is to protect those freedoms through the preservation of internal
order, the provision of national defense, and the administration of justice;
That when government ventures beyond these rightful functions, it accumulates power, which
tends to diminish order and liberty;
That the Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering
government to fulfill its proper role, while restraining it from the concentration and abuse of
That the genius of the Constitution- the division of powers- is summed up in the clause that
reserves primacy to the several states, or to the people, in those spheres not specifically delegated
to the Federal government;
That the market economy, allocating resources by the free play of supply and demand, is the
single economic system compatible with the requirements of personal freedom and constitutional
government, and that it is at the same time the most productive supplier of human needs;
That when government interferes with the work of the market economy, it tends to reduce the
moral and physical strength of the nation; that when it takes from one man to bestow on another,
it diminishes the incentive of the first, the integrity of the second, and the moral autonomy of
That we will be free only so long as the national sovereignty of the United States is secure; that
history shows periods of freedom are rare, and can exist only when free citizens concertedly
defend their rights against all enemies;
That the forces of international Communism are, at present, the greatest single threat to these
That the United States should stress victory over, rather than coexistence with, this menace; and
That American foreign policy must be judged by this criterion: does it serve the just interests of
the United States?
Figure 2: Example of “Miss YAF” Feature from 1968. The “Miss YAF” feature first appeared in
The New Guard in 1967.
Figure 3: Example of an ad targeted at young conservatives in The New Guard from 1967.
Figure 4: The New Guard Cover from June 1963. (Asterix under Kennedy denotes 270 votes
needed to win election)
Primary Sources: Books
Evans, M. Stanton. Revolt on the Campus. Chicago: H. Regnery, 1961.
Goldwater, Barry M. The Conscience of a Conservative. Shepherdsville, Ky.: Victor Publishing
Company Inc., 1960.
Primary Sources: Letters
Letter from Douglas Caddy to Robert Croll. August 16, 1960. YAF Archives, Washington, D.C.
Letter from Richard Viguerie to a supporter, September, 1962. YAF Archive, Washington, D.C.
Letter from Robert Bauman to readers. The New Guard. June 1963. YAF Archive, Washington,
Letter from Robert Bauman to supporter. January 19, 1965. YAF Archive, Washington, D.C.
Primary Sources: Newspapers
Conley, Robert. “3,200 at Rally Here Acclaim Goldwater.” New York Times. March 4, 1961.
Finney, John. “U.S. Condemns Boycotts to End Trade with Reds; Right-Wing Campaigns Here
Denounced as Contrary to Foreign Policy Goals.” New York Times. October 12, 1965.
New York Times. “Senator Helped to Deepen Split.” 1964.
Pace, Eric. “Marvin Liebman, 73, Dies; Conservative for Gay Rights.” New York Times. April 3,
Weiser, Benjamin and Jackson Diehl. “Rep. Bauman in Court.” Washington Post. October 3,
Primary Sources: The New Guard Magazine
Durkin, Henry. “The Funny Side of Mao.” The New Guard. April 1967.YAF Archive,
Foster, Elizabeth. “What the Well-dressed Girl Should Think.” The New Guard. January 1962.
YAF Archive, Washington, D.C.
Huston, Tom. “You, Too, Can STOP NSA!.” The New Guard. September 1964. 11-12. YAF
Archive, Washington, D.C
Krik, Russel. “Professing the Forbidden Faith.” The New Guard. April 1961. YAF
Archive, Washington, D.C.
Manion, Marilyn. “Politics And the Single Girl.” The New Guard. May 1964. YAF Archive,
Meier, TK. “James Bond- Conservative Agent?.” The New Guard. March 1965. YAF Archive,
Ryskind, Alan. “LBJ’s Foreign Policy.” The New Guard. March 1965. YAF Archive,
The New Guard, “Growth in Chapters Marks Post-Election Period; YAF-Sponsored Publications
Proliferate in all Regions.” December 1964. YAF Archive, Washington, D.C.
The New Guard. March 1961, 3. YAF Archive, Washington, D.C.
The New Guard. “January 1968: Miss YAF.” January 1968, 23.YAF Archive, Washington, D.C.
The New Guard. June 1963. YAF Archive, Washington, D.C.
The New Guard. September 1967. YAF Archive, Washington, D.C.
The New Guard.“YAF Chapters Support Goodyear, Picket Firestone.” May 1965. YAF Archive,
Wiley, Charles W. “Interview: Nguyen Cao Ky.” The New Guard. Summer 1968. YAF Archive,