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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

Saint Mary's College Republicans attend Conservative Political Action Conference

When the members of Saint Mary's College Republicans attended the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which took place from Feb. 25 to 28 in Washington D.C., they thought they would be listening to the news — not making it.

College Republicans president and senior Nicole O'Toole said she and vice president Shannon Golden were leaving New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's speech when Fox News reporter Griff Jenkins approached them.

"He asked if he could interview Shannon and me for Greta Van Susteren's 'On the Record' show that evening," O'Toole said. "I discussed Chris Christie's speech and how I admire his passion and energy. The 2016 candidate should emulate a lot of his personal qualities."

Golden said her stance surprised Jenkins because she is from New Jersey but does not back Chris Christie. She said her time on Fox News, along with her overall experience at CPAC, increased her enthusiasm about the College Republicans organization.

"This gave us the passion to get back to campus and spread the conservative view to other girls at Saint Mary's," Golden said. "One of the most valuable things that we took away from CPAC was that we are the future, and this next election is about us and our future."

O'Toole said this year's CPAC served as a learning opportunity for the College Republicans organization.

"I explored more deeply some issues I have been flip-flopping on and was inspired by some of our country's smartest and brightest leaders," O'Toole said. "We will definitely take back all of the incredible networking we were able to do, and we hope to send a conservative speaker to campus this spring."

According to O'Toole, one of the most interesting parts of CPAC was the differing viewpoints of the speakers.

"It was a nice reminder of the many different views of the Republican party," O'Toole said. "... I believe you can only truly be sure of your beliefs if you have really investigated the other side."

O'Toole said one speech in particular made a lasting impression on her: a luncheon with the Clare Luce Booth Policy Institute, which honored communications consultant KT McFarland as its "Woman of the Year."

"[McFarland's] best advice for young conservative women was to always be prepared and confident," O'Toole said. "Men ask for more and do not feel rude about doing so. Women need the confidence men have in order to be more successful in the world."

Golden said CPAC speakers such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Phil Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" covered a variety of topics, but Sarah Palin's speech was especially focused on the military.

"It was an extreme change of pace from all the other speakers who talked about what they would bring to the table if they run in 2016," Golden said. "She talked about improving soldiers' benefits and the support for when they return from war."

O'Toole said Palin's speech distinguished itself from the others as she discussed her son Track Palin's military service.

"Sarah Palin's speech really stuck out because she's very colorful," O'Toole said. "She emphasized the need to legitimize military degrees so that veterans are able to get better jobs that they are more than qualified enough to do."

Golden said Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who focused on liberty and economic freedom, was a crowd favorite.

"People were chanting 'President Paul' and going crazy," Golden said. "He seemed to get the best response from the crowd, especially from the millennials."

Golden said some of the most memorable parts of the conference were the opportunities to network and her time on Fox News.

"It was great being with like-minded peers from all over the country and hearing who everyone wants in 2016," Golden said. "There were so many politicians and huge people in the Republican Party. It was such a privilege that SMC College Republicans was able to take part in this year's CPAC."