How young people started caring about politics


It’s not easy to get high schoolers and college students to read the news and engage in political discussions. But when Charlie Kirk graduated from a high school in the Chicagoland area, he had a vision. “I saw potential for a grassroots student-run conservative organization, and once I began to see the enthusiasm surrounding our message, it only accelerated me to further action.”

So Kirk founded Turning Point USA (TPUSA for short) in June of 2012, in an effort to make current issues relevant to young people. Kirk and his friends got right to work. They reached out to student leaders at various colleges across the country, encouraging them to start their own TPUSA chapters. This would allow for the support of the full organization to stretch across the nation while retaining the personal relationships that were crucial to the organization’s success.

Instead of publishing academic treatises on the benefits of economic growth, TPUSA tried “memes” on Facebook and Twitter. To get people to share messages and discuss political controversies, the group relied on humor, catchy images, and personal involvement.

It worked surprisingly well. In just over two years, TPUSA has begun chapters, founded alliances with existing groups, or extended its activist network to over 700 campuses. The Facebook page took off as well, now reaching 27 million people a week. The most recent posts generated a few hundred likes, shares, or comments.

Turning Point USA has involved young people in their initiatives in unique and creative ways. The organization allowed student columnists to contribute to the website – giving young leaders a place to be published and share their ideas. The group also created discussion groups on Facebook (with members of both political sides) to engage in the topics of the day.

Kirk described one of this year’s biggest successes, CPAC 2014. “We sponsored 30 student ambassadors to attend CPAC free of charge in exchange for working at our booth and recruiting new students to our organization,” he said. “At the time, it was a significant undertaking, and it really showed the power and potential of our message and organization.”

Kirk has been a tireless advocate for the organization, traveling around the country for the last two years speaking to every group he can. “I think we are building the infrastructure that the conservative movement so desperately needs on college campuses and high schools,” he said.

The media has noticed too – Kirk has been featured on FOX or other national TV programs more than 85 times.

“I have seen countless students raise their level of activism and get involved in the movement,” said Kirk. TPUSA sends materials to its chapters, usually free of charge, to help them advocate for what they believe in. “I love every minute of it and to see the growth firsthand has been a true blessing,” said Kirk.

First published at Opportunity Lives.