Imagine a weekend where hundreds of fellow conservative students, reporters, activists, and politicians meet to discuss strategy, policy, and proclaim their love for America. I’m not talking about heaven, but I AM talking about CPAC 2014. From March 6 through 8, I had the distinct pleasure of attending CPAC for the first time as a reporter and blogger.

CPAC is a conservative activist’s dream. Anyone could hear incredible panels discuss issues such as the entertainment industry, criminal justice, and voting demographics. Hundreds of vendors were having contests and giving away free t-shirts, koozie’s, and posters, as well as many amazing conservative musicians took the stage. Most important of all, it was inspiring. There were so many key players and candidates for the conservative movement giving speeches, book signings, and shaking hands with attendees (I personally met Gov. Mike Huckabee and Director Dinesh D’Souza).

It was overwhelming having this many amazing people all joined together for one cause. Everyone was outstanding. However, three groups stood out and made a statement for the conference and, ultimately, the party. Women, youth, and libertarians showed up and made a major impact.

Many liberals, and some conservatives, like to label the republicans as a political party of old white men in suits. The women took that stereotype and punched a hole in it with their heels. Some of the strongest messages came from the Women’s panel, Ms. America 2003 Erica Harold, and of course superstar Sarah Palin. The Women’s panel consisted of Tammy Bruce (Washington Times), Crystal Wright (conservativeblackchick.com), Kate Obenshain (author Divider in Chief), Marilinda Garcia (local Rep. New Hampshire), and Sabrina Schaeffer (Independent Women’s Forum). They made a splash. Crystal Wright made and amazing statement for all women, “Conservatism is great for women! We believe in these values because they lead to more determination! We are the movement for women, if we could just pitch it a little better!” Right after Ms. America Erica Harold came on stage, receiving thunderous applause. Erica proudly talked about the defense of religious freedom proclaiming,”It (the government) must not prevent messages of light to be brought into places of darkness.” Her amazing faith was greeted with amazing warmth and cheers from the audience. A conservative conference wouldn’t be the same without political dynamo Sarah Palin making a humorous and inspiring speech. Sarah Palin is a political catalyst to that takes a crowd from sitting to standing ready to go to action for Republican victory. Her political humor and whit extended from hilarious one liners about the NSA, to Russia, with the peak being a republican rendition of Green Eggs and Ham. All of these women made a statement that was impossible to ignore.

The youth also were impossible to ignore. CPAC was filled with high- school and College students, and young professionals as far as the eye could see. In fact 46% of the attended were between the ages of 18 and 25! This again shatters that stereotype that the youth generally aren’t interested in politics. I have never met so many like minded intelligent and politically active conservatives in my life. These youth weren’t just found in the audience. Benji Backer a sixteen year old political activist stood up and discussed the Teachers Unions in Wisconsin. Benji made all conservatives when he compared Gov. Scott Walker to Obama, “All we need are leaders who will put this country first, not the special interests!” From the seats to the stage the conservative youth showed up and out.

Finally the conservative party could not ignore the libertarians. For the second year in a row Sen. Rand Paul won the Washington times Straw Poll. Which is hard from surprising. Rand Pal took the CPAC stage and the crowd left their seats standing and cheering for our strongest possible nominee in 2016. Rand Paul clearly showed his strength as a libertarian candidate by saying, “I am not talking about electing republicans, I am talking about electing lovers of liberty!”. Rand Paul showed his extensive love of liberty by quoting the founders and directly from the constitution. Sen. Rand Paul converted many during the weekend. The straw poll itself showed a very interesting social lean towards libertarianism. While the results showed strong conservative beliefs in Economic and Domestic policy, it showed that the majority of attendees are in favor of the legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use. I think this shows that many young republicans are leaning toward the libertarian movement for the attractiveness of its social policy. From the Stand with Rand signs as far as the eye could see, to the social issues presented in the straw poll the Libertarians showed their validity as a political power house.

CPAC 2014 was a huge success. It was a clinic and an inspirational workshop for conservatives to know where their party stands and then take that energy and apply it to their local and state campaigns. Which is the most important part. CPAC ames us excited for 2016, but It prepares us for the midterms right around the corner. Our fight as republicans isn’t on election night in two years. It is now. It is now that we secure our ideals and Candidates in the house and senate. I am blessed to have attended CPAC with the College Conservative and I am excited to see what all of us conservatives can accomplish right around the corner.

Thomas Novelly | Hillsdale College | @TomNovelly