Hope is probably one of the last words that comes to your mind when you think of the future of the United States. It might seem as though the hope for a brighter future in this country where we can still exercise our rights is increasingly diminishing. I, too, had come to that dismal mentality, until I attended the NRA’s Youth Education Summit (Y.E.S.).
Y.E.S. is not only a scholarship program, but also a thrilling, completely paid-for seven-day adventure to Washington, D.C., for civic-minded high school juniors and seniors to learn about how they can become leaders in their communities and to see how our government runs so that they can better understand how to become more effective in protecting our freedoms. This year 46 students from all across the country were selected based on their extensive applications to attend Y.E.S. from more than 300 applicants. I was one of those fortunate 46.
During Y.E.S., we did everything from touring Marine Base Quantico, shooting at the NRA Range, watching a movie on the sacrifice of journalism, and everything in between. Every single activity, of which I will write about only a few, although extremely entertaining, was, more importantly, instilling in us the potential to become that hope. It was by far one of the most amazing and educational weeks of my life!
My personal first big moment of the week was when we had a Q&A time with NRA President Allan Cors. I asked him, "What is the single most important thing that I can do to ensure that our Second Amendment rights endure?" His response was to know your subject matter, not just for the Second Amendment, but for all the Amendments, so you can explain and teach fully to others about them and their critical importance. Although the response at first seemed simple to me, I realized more and more throughout the week and especially after the trip, how important this is. I have noticed that most teenagers do not even know or really care about our freedoms. They have become mindless robots subject to the anti-freedom philosophies of the mainstream media and their teachers in school. A phenomenal and integral part of Y.E.S. is that every person there was and is continuously becoming the total opposite of the average teenager in this regard. When we participated in hard-core debates and interactional seminars about current issues in our country, I was able to witness how knowledgeable and eloquent my Y.E.S. companions were. Their profound speaking abilities, which I believe exceeds those of multiple presidential candidates, became so inspiring to me to better myself in that area.
When anyone sees, as we did, the tombstones of veterans as far as the eye can see at Arlington National Cemetery, the solemnity at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, thousands of names on the Vietnam Memorial, the deaths of soldiers from each state represented at the WWII Memorial, the anguish shown on statues at the Korean War Memorial, and the realistic displays at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, sacrifice is the only word that could even come close to describing them. We also saw documents, such as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, at the National Archives that have written within them the freedoms that so many of our courageous veterans have died for. How anyone could see just one of these and not be inspired to be a more freedom-driven patriot is beyond me.
We also toured the Supreme Court and the Capitol, consisting of the Senate and House of Representatives, where we saw the exact locations where our freedoms can be strengthened or stripped away. To realize the reality of the latter encouraged me once again to become involved in every way I can to make certain that that does not happen.
Hope is clearly what the Youth Education Summit is restoring by helping to fund the college education of freedom-driven students and by teaching and giving them the tools necessary to better this country. Since participating in Y.E.S., I was voted into my local Friends of NRA committee, spoke at their banquet about Y.E.S., am trying to implement Eddie Eagle into my local elementary school, and am working on multiple other projects and articles. I would not have been able to do any of this if it had not been for Y.E.S. It inspired me to unceasingly follow the advice of Winston Churchill. “Never flinch. Never weary. Never despair."