“We’re not gonna stop,” said Charlie Kirk. As the founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, Kirk, 21, runs an organization that has been energizing conservative youth and making news across the country.
When Kirk talked to Opportunity Lives last September, he was excited about the future for Turning Point USA (TPUSA). He had a right to be. On Wednesday, TPUSA held an open house at the Arlington International Racecourse, a renowned horse race track in the suburbs of Chicago.
The open house was impressive, in some ways indicative of a new era for the organization. The event was attended by around 200 people, the vast majority of them under 25. No longer just a small group of high school students, TPUSA has been able to accomplish something most political groups still struggle with: convincing young people to care about politics.
The event featured representatives from several major conservative groups and causes. Speakers included State Rep. Avery Bourne, who at 22 years old is the youngest Illinois lawmaker in history; Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, the first female Hispanic Lieutenant Governor in the country; and prominent radio host and former U.S. Representative Joe Walsh.
TPUSA hosted its first annual Young Women’s Leadership Summit, where women traveled in from across the country to share ideas and train in conservative activism. | Photo: Daniel Huizinga
The Open House also closed out TPUSA’s first annual Young Women’s Leadership Summit, where 125 young women from around the country met for a four-day conference to share ideas and train in conservative activism.
“It’s just great to be around so many young women who share your ideals and values,” said Keira Hornyak, a University of Florida student who attended the summit.
Other attendees of the summit discussed their experiences as well. “It’s really important for me to be here. It’s so important for young people to get involved,” said Zoe Klages, who traveled from her high school in Virginia to attend the summit.
Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, the first Latina Lieutenant Governor in the country, addresses the TPUSA conference | Photo: Daniel Huizinga
Gina Jochimsen, who studies at the University of Iowa, added that the speakers and training provided by TPUSA were inspiring and motivating. “It’s really good to learn how to defend your position properly, because you definitely need that on a liberal campus,” she said.
Next month, Turning Point USA will host 50 more students for a Young Latino Leadership Summit. The hope is that students who attend these conferences bring what they’ve learned back to their high schools and universities, fighting the stereotype that all young people are liberals.
Already, TPUSA has affiliated activists at more than 750 schools, as the organization’s focus on social media and eye-catching slogans has caught on quickly. Crystal Clanton, TPUSA’s national field director, said the growth in outreach has been incredible and exciting.
“There’s lots of think tanks out there. We’re going to be a battle tank”
Turning Point USA has made a sizable impact in Washington as well. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, the group selected 75 students to serve as “ambassadors.” Donning bright red polos, they handed out flyers and recruited more than a thousand writers, activists, and alliance partners. TPUSA also hosted a CPAC rally with Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul, where more than 1,100 people attended.
Kirk is an integral part of the organization’s success and name recognition. He appears on Fox News several times a week and was recently featured in National Journal and Bloomberg (which was picked up by Drudge). He’s still only 21 years old. According to Marko Sukovic, a friend of the organization since the beginning, Kirk was always excited about the potential of TPUSA. “There’s lots of think tanks out there. We’re going to be a battle tank,” Kirk reportedly told Sukovic.
Perhaps that is what makes Turning Point USA so special. The achievements are impressive by any standard, but the organization has a distinct energy similar to that of a startup, as if this is only the start of something much bigger. “Look at some of the biggest companies influencing America today. They started in garages,” said Sukovic. “A lot of the kids you see here today – we’re in that garage.”
Daniel Huizinga is a columnist for Opportunity Lives covering business and politics. Follow him on Twitter @HuizingaDaniel.