A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of traveling with the Penn State College Republicans to National Harbor, Maryland to attend this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference. I had an absolutely wonderful time. As much as I love Penn State, it was nice to be engulfed in conservatism for a change. I encourage anyone who is considering attending next year to go; this conference is something all conservatives should be a part of at least once in their lifetimes. Here’s my take on this year’s conference:

Best Speaker: Ted Cruz

Like usual, the Senator from Texas spoke without notes, pacing steadily across the stage. He kicked off CPAC on Thursday morning, and set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Cruz spoke about how Republican candidates need to stand for principle in order to win elections. He also gave 10 solid points on how to remedy our current political and economic climate.

Honorable Mention: Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Wayne LaPierre


Best Panel: Rick Perry on Criminal Justice Reform

The Texas Governor spoke about his success in reforming the formerly strained prison system in Texas, as well as his beliefs regarding prison overpopulation and high incarceration rates. Perry spoke out against mandatory minimum sentencing and in favor of moving toward a more rehabilitative system. He pointed out the fact that his administration was able to close down a prison thanks to his reforms and save millions in tax dollars.


Best Day out of the 3: the First Day

The atmosphere at the convention center was electrifying, thanks in part to Senator Cruz. This being my first CPAC, I suppose I was just getting used to it. The first day also showcased an interesting lineup of speakers.


Coolest Moment: Photo with Mike Huckabee

The former governor, being swarmed by the media after his speech, took a minute of his time just to take a photo with my friends and me.


My Big Loser: Marco Rubio

I like the Senator from Florida, but I was not very impressed with his speech. His conclusion was strong, as he used a emotional personal example regarding his American success story, and his topic was good, but I was just expecting so much more from him personally. That’s all.


My Big Winner: Rick Santorum

I went into the convention not having much of an opinion of Santorum. I was fairly indifferent, until my club mates and I met the former Senator. He graduated from Penn State and was the Chairman of the College Republicans, and we had an extensive conversation with him regarding current events at Penn State, from our new President to the new football coach. More importantly, his speech was one of the best all weekend. He discussed how conservatives have to retain their key values, but change their message to appeal to the majority of Americans. His central theme was how conservatism is right for America and for those who are suffering economically, and yet Americans don’t realize this because of our poor message.

Terence Ford | Pennsylvania State University | @tford616