Senior Joe Wages stepped into the large lecture hall. The buzz of conversation washed over him. Discussing topics of interest, 70 to 80 students milled about getting to know one another. The hall echoed with the untapped potential of the future generation as Wages and his fellow senior Will Russell sat down at a table and began conversing with a student from Chicago. Excitement thrummed and the hubbub died down as the Young America's Foundation, or YAF, conference began.
Wages and Russell flew to Washington D.C. to attend a two-day conference held Sept. 17-19 by the YAF titled, “High School Free Enterprise Leadership Conference: How to Confront Socialism.”
“It was a two-day conference. We heard from a variety of different speakers focusing mainly on the benefits of free-market capitalism and the disadvantages and why socialism doesn’t work,” said Wages. “We heard from economics professor Brian Brenberg of the King’s College in New York, Steve Forbes, the chief of the Forbes magazine, and other economics professors. We heard from people that escaped from communist China and socialist Venezuela and their stories of what it was like under those conditions.”
The acquisition of such an interesting and prized opportunity was through alumni Mrs. Jamie Hahn. Mrs. Hahn works for the Young America's Foundation in Washington D.C. and reached out to TKA teacher Mrs. Johnson to inform her of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: an all-expense-paid trip to the nation's capital to listen to some of the top economic professors in the country speak on relevant social issues.
When attending the YAF “High School Free Enterprise Leadership Conference: How to
Confront Socialism” seniors Will Russell (left) and Joe Wages (right) meet Steve Forbes
(center), CEO of Forbes Media.
Passionate about the topic of the conference, Wages was attentive and learned many new ways of discussing the topic of the different political ideologies, capitalism vs. socialism.
The conference included speakers who illustrated their first-hand experiences living in communist or socialist societies. Attendants of the conference heard details of damaging policies tied to these ideologies.
“There was a lady from China. Her grandfather was a wealthy man and during the Communist Revolution all of his land was taken, and he died a poor man,” said Wages. “During the Great Leap Forward, her entire family was starving. Because [her father] didn’t subscribe to the communist ideologies, he was put into a labor camp, tortured and beaten by the Communist government.”
Because of his affiliation with the organization, Russell organized participation in a 9/11 memorial project advertised by the YAF. Russell, along with other seniors and the JROTC battalion, placed 2,977 U.S. flags across the campus lawn, each flag representing a victim of the 9/11 attacks.