by Lincoln Institute | June 17, 2021

With over 200 subscribing radio stations in 45 states, American Radio Journal is truly a national program, and we try to address issues of national importance, but today I want to focus our attention on one event in one state that should become a model for gatherings of conservative political activists in every state. It’s called the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, and it’s a two-day affair run by the creator of American Radio Journal. Lowman Henry.

The rescheduled annual event was held last weekend outside Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania state capital. The attendance was over 700, most of them ordinary citizens moved to become political activists by their concern for the future of their state and nation. Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform and one of the most experienced and successful of national conservative leaders, has repeatedly cited the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference as the best single-state-focused conservative gathering in the country. If you are a concerned citizen in another state, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the Pennsylvania model so that you can enjoy a similarly successful event in your state.

The first place to go to learn more about the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference is the event website, PA Leadership Conference dot org. The basic idea leverages the self-interest of politicians, organization heads and corporate sponsors – and the effect of all three segments achieving their goals makes it effective and sustainable from year to year. There’s nothing unique to Pennsylvania in that structure, so it can be duplicated easily elsewhere. Let’s take a look at each element.

The affinity of politicians for a microphone and a stage in front of a friendly audience is universal. Inviting office-holders and office-seekers with viable conservative platforms is close to a no-brainer, except that some effort should be applied to be sure that a full issue spectrum is covered: pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-law, pro-low taxes, pro-business, pro-military, pro-religious freedom, for example. Those are seven distinct issues, and it should be easily to identify officeholders and office-seekers who can speak to them. It helps to pre-screen them carefully to avoid impossibly long shots or intemperate demagogues.

Every state has one or more Chambers of Commerce, and they always have a legislative agenda, so identifying and inviting one of their spokespeople should be a snap. The NRA has a state chapter, and if their spokesperson is a good one, there’s almost always a current state-level issue involving responsible gun rights, so that one should be easy too. As wokeism continues to spread and to threaten our schools and colleges, identifying the best speaker in favor of truth-based education will almost assuredly produce a lively session. National organizations such as the Family Research Council and the Heritage Foundation have speakers’ bureaus with knowledgeable experts on many fields, and in most cases they are available without speakers’ fees.

In your own state, there are probably chapters of national grassroots conservative organizations like the Faith and Freedom Coalition or Americans for Prosperity who will jump at the opportunity to speak in front of a room full of patriots.

Assembling an agenda with most or all of these groups in your state is not an easy task, but it is certainly a manageable one, but that’s still not the full recipe for success. There needs to be a little icing on the cake, in the form of a well-known speaker with a national following. Speakers Bureaus exist to help you find these speakers, often at fees in the range of 25 to 50 thousand dollars, but for a first-time event, don’t forget that Members of Congress or the US Senate cannot accept speaking fees. If your state is seen as a swing state or especially significant in national elections, you should take a look at potential Presidential or Vice-Presidential candidates. There are plenty of them to go around these days, so chose wisely and you’ll find you have a headliner who will put your event in the news, possibly at the national level. There’s nothing better than positive free publicity generated by positive free speakers!

So, use the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference agenda as a kind of template for your own leadership conference in your state. Start with a one-day event on a Saturday, and after a couple of years, grow it into a two-day affair, typically by adding a Friday. As your event takes off, so will your impact on your state’s political and policy agenda. With a little imagination and a lot of planning, you can do what every true patriot yearns for: to make a difference in your state.