"Look at all these fine young people," Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) said with a smile, as he glanced around a reception during the convention of the College Republicans. "You don't see any hippies here! The future of America depends on people like this"--and Thurmond, looking satisfied that America was in good, clean hands, moved off to shake some of them.
Thurmond was just one of the Republican luminaries, including Vice President George Bush, Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, Rep. Jack Kemp (N.Y.), presidential counselor Edwin Meese and former national security adviser Richard V. Allen, who dropped in on the 90th Anniversary Convention of the College Republicans, held Thursday night through yesterday at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel. Its brochure billing called it "The Ultimate Political Experience" and it brought together more than 300 College Republicans from chapters on campuses around the country.
Chris McLeod, a sophomore at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., stood in the crush of people who had backed Meese against the bar as soon as he stepped off the escalator. McLeod kept her hand ready for shaking and her smile in the on-deck circle; she flashed it every time Meese swung her way, trying to catch his attention. She waited patiently for him to shake hands around to her.
McLeod, in blue blazer, red skirt, blue Topsiders, sailboat pin and gold earrings, with green backpack slung over her shoulder, purse on her arm, sunglasses in hand, had come to the convention's opening reception straight from her summer job, an internship with a Republican campaign committee. She is spending her first summer in Washington and she said she saw the convention as a chance "to make contacts" with fellow CRs.
Juggling her belongings to make room for a drink, she joined a group of young men to talk about college, conventioneering, being a debutante (which she is) and Ronald Reagan's New Federalism.
She was quick to volunteer that she goes to a "woman's college," not to a girls' school, quick to point out that Wheaton is "very career-oriented, not just a bunch of debutantes studying home ec," and said she hoped this was her "first of many summers in Washington."
There was about the group a certain self-confident ease as they gathered to schmooze, party, argue, play tennis and hear from the all-star Republican lineup. That ease might come out of being ideologically in tune with national policy-makers, from knowing that your views are known back on campus and from being told by the leaders of the Republican Party that you are its bright, marvelous, eagerly awaited future.
Bush dipped in to the gathering Friday morning to deliver a breezy speech in which he told the CRs that "with your help, this economy will flourish. . . . With your help, the United States again will carry the torch of freedom proudly as we lead the people of the world who are free and offer inspiration to those who want to be free."
Bush's speech began three days of daytime seminars (including one on the "Citizen's Right to Keep and Bear Arms" and one warning of the hazards of "Marxism in the Classroom"), afternoon tennis tournaments and pool parties, and evening banquets with, among others, Republican National Chairman Richard Richards, who was named the CRs' Man of the Year. The convention lived up to its brochure billing in that it was mostly politicking. There were no resolutions to debate or pass, just seminars to attend.
Scott Scarborough, an intern on Capitol Hill this summer and a sophomore at the University of Texas, said he was "tired of people saying College Republicans aren't compassionate people. Compassion doesn't come from a federal computer." Scarborough went on to laud Reagan's New Federalism, which he said restores compassion to government by taking progams away from incompassionate federal computers and turning them over to localities, "close to the people," to administer.
Christine Wilson of New York City and Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y., said, "We've had creeping socialism ever since FDR. That's what I like about Reagan." Turning to consult with her friends, she offered that they were all "for guilty but insane" verdicts in trials.
Lenny Gutman, an orthodox rabbinical student at Yeshiva University in New York, was talking about minds, his and the Republican: "I have a mind of my own; I think people should have minds of their own. But I think you'll find that all Republicans agree on the fundamentals: a free market and a strong defense."
Spotting a reporter moving nearby, Ron Dudley, a student at Southeast Missouri State University from Chicago, called across the room, "Hey, you want a quote? God, guts, and guns! That's what I'm all about!"
Dudley, who refused to wear his name tag, whose hair was uncombed and whose wool jacket was a little out of place in the 90-degree heat, found himself a little out of place among his fellow Republicans. "I tell you what," he said over the heads of the president and former vice president of the Nebraska CRs as they came up and tried to introduce themselves to him. "When I see checked pants, orange socks and Topsiders I want to vomit.
"But I'm as conservative as the day is long. Let me put it this way," he said, offering a philosophical synopsis of his views: "What else does this country need but an organized defense?" As Dudley launched into an explanation of how he doesn't care what anyone does in bed or what they smoke, of how privately owned streets would work, of how libertarianism is the wave of the future, the Nebraska CRs drifted away, unacknowledged.