In 1960, roughly 100 young people gathered at the home of William F. Buckley in Sharon, Conn., to draft what would come to be called a "seminal document" of the conservative movement more than half a century later by the New York Times. At that meeting, which took place 57 years ago on Sept. 11, the group adopted a declaration of conservative principles known as the "Sharon Statement."
Though it reads less than 400 words, the Sharon Statement earned its place in history as the founding document of Young Americans for Freedom, an organization that played a key role in the Goldwater and Reagan Revolutions and continues to grow today. While speculation over the future of modern conservatism swirls in this new era, the Sharon Statement is well-worth revisiting as a foundational document of the movement that spawned generations of activists, organizations, and national leaders.
"In this time of moral and political crises," the statement begins, "it is the responsibility of the youth of America to affirm certain eternal truths." Even in its concision, the statement sweeps in every principle from free will to the market economy to the division of powers to foreign policy.
As my colleague Philip Wegmann reported, just as recently as last November one university in Alabama halted a student's request to start a Young Americans for Freedom chapter because the Sharon Statement, by which all chapters all required to abide, contains "inflammatory language" about communism.
What does it say on the matter? "That the forces of international Communism are, at present, the greatest single threat to [American] liberties" and "[t]hat the United States should stress victory over, rather than coexistence with, this menace."
Though times have changed, the Sharon Statement has not. As the progressive movement continues to influence politics and culture, perhaps especially among people of the same age as the statement's drafters, it's encouraging to know that many students still return to the well from which so much good sprang nearly six decades ago
Read the rest of the text below:
We, as young conservatives, believe:
That foremost among the transcendent values is the individual's use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force;
That liberty is indivisible, and that political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom;
That the purpose of government is to protect those freedoms through the preservation of internal order, the provision of national defense, and the administration of justice;
That when government ventures beyond these rightful functions, it accumulates power, which tends to diminish order and liberty;
That the Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering government to fulfill its proper role, while restraining it from the concentration and abuse of power;
That the genius of the Constitution—the division of powers—is summed up in the clause that reserves primacy to the several states, or to the people, in those spheres not specifically delegated to the Federal government;
That the market economy, allocating resources by the free play of supply and demand, is the single economic system compatible with the requirements of personal freedom and constitutional government, and that it is at the same time the most productive supplier of human needs;
That when government interferes with the work of the market economy, it tends to reduce the moral and physical strength of the nation; that when it takes from one man to bestow on another, it diminishes the incentive of the first, the integrity of the second, and the moral autonomy of both;
That we will be free only so long as the national sovereignty of the United States is secure; that history shows periods of freedom are rare, and can exist only when free citizens concertedly defend their rights against all enemies;
That the forces of international Communism are, at present, the greatest single threat to these liberties;
That the United States should stress victory over, rather than coexistence with, this menace; and
That American foreign policy must be judged by this criterion: does it serve the just interests of the United States?
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.