The 10 Best Moments from the Smart Girl Summit 2014

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Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending the Smart Girl Summit in Atlanta as a writer, thanks to an invitation from the amazing Lisa De Pasquale. When I saw the roster and agenda, I knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity. After this conference, I'm more excited about the future of the right, particularly about the women in the fight against the oppressive agenda of the progressives in this country. Kudos to Stacy Mott, Teri Christoph, and everybody involved in putting the summit together. Here are the ten best moments of the event. I hope you'll read these quotes and come away as inspired as I was.

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10. K. Carl Smith On Frederick Douglass Republicans

K. Carl Smith of the Frederick Douglass Republicans spoke in the morning about his organization. He buttered up the ladies in the room with an introduction of:

"When I get a chance to speak to women, I go speak. I understand why, at the Resurrection, the angel appeared to women, because they have this natural networking ability. And I believe women are going to save this country."

Smith shared his organization's intriguing strategy for engaging minorities by relating Frederick Douglass' message of freedom with the modern emphasis on liberty:

"We’re in a fight for our lives. And the conservative movement needs to find a way to engage family members, friends, and fellow citizens, and to change hearts and minds. Most Americans agree with us, so why do we have such a problem attracting minorities? We have the best message, but we're losing the propaganda battle. We need to engage."

"We need to make Frederick Douglass a part of the conservative movement. The political insights of Frederick Douglass are more important than the insights of the Founding Fathers. The Founding Fathers gave us the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but the left plays on the fact that the Founding Fathers held slaves. On the other hand, Frederick Douglass was a slave, and in his speeches he confirmed the Founding Fathers. The left doesn’t have an answer to that."

"The greatest unused advantage on the right are white conservatives because nobody has taught them to engage. We don’t have a message problem, we have a messaging problem. Don’t believe that because you are a white conservative you can’t engage. When you say you're a Frederick Douglass Republican, you can engage."

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9. Col. (Retired) Martha McSally On Making A Difference

Retired Air Force Colonel Martha McSally, a candidate for the House of Representatives in Arizona's 2nd congressional district, led off the day with a stirring rendition of the National Anthem. She then went on to tell the stories of how she became the Air Force's first female fighter pilot and how she led the fight to strike down the regulation that American servicewomen don Muslim garb in public in Saudi Arabia. She encouraged the crowd to get involved, telling them how one person can make a difference:

"People feel like, 'I can’t make a difference.' I made a difference. I stood my ground. I persevered on my own, no matter what the cost. I’m here to tell you that one person can make a difference. We’ve got some real challenges in our country. We’re not going to be able to fix them as bystanders. I’m an athlete, not a cheerleader, and I’m going to do something about it."

"Our country is failing us. Our president is failing to lead. Our allies do not know if we’re there for them, and our enemies no longer fear us. You don’t lead by leading from behind.

"One of the best things we can do in 2014 is know that congress provides oversight to the president. We need to elect legislators who understand that. We need to make sure that people across this country understand this issue."

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8. Heather Browning On Grassroots Activism

Heather Browning of Americans for Prosperity shared some valuable insights on grassroots activism:

"Everybody here has a reason why they fight. You have to be able to articulate why you fight. I fight because I have a 13 year old brother and I cannot bear the thought that he might graduate from college and deal with the same struggles I did when I graduated in 2008. We need to tell our own stories, relate them to universal concepts, and tell how others can join the fight with us."

"How can you get involved immediately? Register to vote, then go out and vote. Educate others on issues, so that they vote as well. Become a grassroots activist, and if you are already, bring a friend. Knocking on doors increased get out the vote efforts by 7.2%. That percentage could have changed the occupant of the White House in 2012. If we are going to talk about how government is not the answer, we need to be the answer."

"We need to live out our convictions. We need to show people that conservatives do care about people."

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7. Nikki Turpeaux On "The Good Guys"

Gun rights activist and business owner Nikki Turpeaux gave a terrific presentation on the need for self-defense and protection and for standing up for 2nd Amendment rights, naturally. My favorite 2nd Amendment related quote was, "Guns are a tool. We heard a lot about 'assault rifles' after Sandy Hook. I use a fork as a tool, but if I use it to hurt you it’s an assault fork. A chair can become an assault chair." But her most powerful moment came when she talked about the concept of "the Good Guys" and that Americans who believe in freedom are the Good Guys:

"We need to believe in the Good Guys. We need to believe in the sound minded, responsible people who still have patriotism. We’re still the greatest nation in the world, and I’d rather be here than anywhere else. You can talk about the administration, about the problems here, but don’t talk about my America. There are people who believe in America, and we need more. You don’t have to join the NRA, but you need to pay attention. You need to speak up. You can either do nothing or do something."

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6. Bill Norton On The Message Of Freedom

Bill Norton of the Tea Party Patriots gave an impassioned, eloquent speech in which he talked about some of the misconceptions of the Tea Party and how his organization and others can combat those negative impressions with a positive message of freedom:

"People always ask if we are a fringe organization... Our new slogan is 'Pursue your American dream.' We’ve learned that conservatives, liberals, libertarians - everybody - wants to work hard and keep more of what they earn. We are for freedom. We are for personal freedom and our rights being protected. We are for economic freedom, being able to keep more of our hard earned money. We are for a debt free future."

"Conservatives are far more compassionate than liberals, but it doesn’t always come across in our messaging. We don’t want the poor to become poorer, we want to help them become richer."

"When we’re speaking the language of liberty, we need to immerse ourselves in that language and those principles. We need to speak the language of liberty, not captivity – forward thinking, positive, optimistic. Often in arguments we speak the language of captivity in reference to our opponents. We are for freedom, so we need to keep speaking the language of freedom."

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5. Anita MonCrief On Voter Education

Anita MonCrief of True The Vote -- and formerly of ACORN -- gave one of the most informative and enlightening presentations of the day regarding voter registration and voter education:

"The way laws are written today weakens our electoral system, and that’s a problem. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, also called 'Motor Voter,' has a provision (Section 8) that allows private citizens to investigate voter rolls to look for fraud and inconsistencies. Conservatives should take advantage of this provision."

"From 2004 to 2008 the progressive movement registered 7 million voters, and those were largely unmatched. We need to start registering voters on our side – people who are in favor of liberty and freedom. When we don’t reach out to people, we give the Left opportunities to reach out to them. Politics is about value, not left or right. What matters is voter education. When you talk to people and educate them, they think about what you said. They become educated, powerful voters. Even if they don’t switch, if they’re voting with their heart – that’s powerful."

"What we need is integrated voter engagement. Knock on doors, and talk to people. Why do you think people signed up with ACORN? Because those are the people who engaged with them. It’s not about elections as much as it is about building a base. We've moved past the rally phase, which means we're going to fight or we're going to fail."

Last, but not least, MonCrief got in what was probably my favorite line of the entire day: "I like when people discount the conservative movement, because that means they won’t see us coming."  

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4. The "Conservatives In The Hot Seat" Panel: Engaging Pop Culture

The Smart Girl Summit featured an exciting panel discussion on the topic of engaging pop culture. Kira Davis, Lisa De Pasquale, Tami Nantz, and Caleb Howe talked about the need for the right to understand pop culture and use it as a springboard to advance its message. Here are some of the highlights from the panel:

Kira Davis:

"I’m glad conservatives are finally beginning to talk about pop culture, because it’s important. In 2008, we missed the pop culture appeal of some politicians. We talk about policy, but we don’t talk about how much we get our ideas about politics from TV and film."

"Ideas stick in the mind better when they are presented as entertainment. It behooves us to acknowledge that’s important."

"Freedom doesn’t sell itself because people will vote for bondage every time. We need to figure out how to take advantage of entertainment to sell freedom in a way that makes it attractive to people. That’s why pop culture is extremely important – equally to, if not more important than, policy."

"You don’t have to divorce yourself from culture. Find something you enjoy and ask questions. At least be prepared for the discussion even if you don’t want to immerse yourself in the culture."

"Liberals are telling conservative stories better than we are right now."

"We make fun of the counterculture attitude among young people, but we can take advantage of it."

"You don’t need to be heavy handed with your message. All you need to talk about is freedom versus bondage."

Lisa De Pasquale:

"We want to sell freedom as something that’s good for you. They’re selling candy, while we’re selling broccoli."

"We’re not reaching the people in the middle with our own alternatives to the pop culture that’s already there."

"We shouldn’t dismiss a show because it goes against our values, but we need to be ready to demonstrate the lesson that’s in those shows."

On Finding Mr. Righteous: "I didn’t write a political book because I knew the people I wanted to reach wouldn’t read it."

"I don’t think we should apologize for wanting to engage in pop culture. I think that we should want to be there to continue the conversation."

"There’s a time for being serious, but I have no problem with seeing a presidential candidate on late night shows having fun. We need someone who’s comfortable in the pop culture arena but can also be serious. Conservatives who are serious all the time come across as not caring about real people’s lives."

Tami Nantz:

"Open conversations begin in the home. If we’re not actively engaging pop culture in our home, that’s a problem."

"A lot of our young people are leaning libertarian, and we need to reach them too."

On her own family's engagement of pop culture: "We work really hard at home to raise a kid who is well-rounded and able to have those discussions."

Caleb Howe:

"Pop culture can mean a lot of things."

"There’s a difference between knowing what people are talking about and participating in what people are talking about."

"People have given up the freedom to live their lives in order to be free from hardship. We’re selling active freedom rather than passive freedom."

Image courtesy of Stacy Rush.

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3. Erick Erickson On Sucking It Up And Voting Republican In 2014

One treat for me was getting to hear Erick Erickson and meet him in person. We've gotten to know each other through social media, and I enjoy hearing his radio show every afternoon here in Atlanta. Erickson offered some tough love to voters on the right with his typical wit and boldness:

"Do we really want to reward the behavior of the Republicans in Washington? We’re not rewarding them; we’re taking back the Senate. The reason we need to take the Senate in 2014 is because more Republicans are up for reelection in 2016.... Let’s be honest, there are some sorry Senate candidates in 2014.... Around the country, the Republicans have crappy candidates, but do you want the Democrats to keep the Senate?"

"2014 is a mixed bag. Do we want the flaming bag of poo on our porch or do we want what we get when we step in it? I'd rather have it on my porch than on the bottom of my feet. If we don’t get the Senate in 2014, the odds of Republicans getting it in 2016 are precisely zero. I’m not excited about the Republicans in the Senate, but I’m fearful of the Democrats in the Senate. I’m fearful of the Republicans not having the Senate. Foreign policy matters, national security matters."

"We need to fight to get the Republicans the Senate in 2014 whether we like the candidates or not. We’ve got to choose wisely. Sometimes we have to hold our nose, but we have to choose. We just can’t have two more years of an unchecked executive. If we don’t take back the Senate in 2014, we’re going to have a difficult 2016."

It's hard to argue with those thoughts.

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2. Karen Handel On What Smart Girls (And Guys) Know

I was excited to get to see Karen Handel speak again. I supported her in the Georgia governor's race in 2010 and in this year's Georgia senate race, and though she did not win either, I believe her to be a rising star on the right. (I also had the chance to have a terrific conversation with her as well.) She gave a speech aimed at getting women involved in conservative politics, but later on she acknowledged us guys who were there to support Smart Girls as well:

"Every smart girl knows that women are the key to winning. It’s not just about fighting the liberal agenda – it’s about winning. If we don’t win we don’t get a chance to advance the conservative agenda. In 2012 Obama lost to men by 8% but won the female vote by 12% Game, set, match. In 22 of 23 senate races, the gender gap was 5 to 13 percentage points. Research shows if a candidate cannot get 46% of the female vote, he or she cannot win."

"Every smart girl knows that the first step to fixing your problem is admitting you have a problem. We have a problem!  Our party needs to be more appealing to women or we’ll have a hard time growing. We need to stop being wusses and go on the offensive!"

"We’re fighting a real war for the heart and soul of this country, and we need soldiers to carry out the mission. Make it your mission to get more people engaged in November. We’ve got work to do and a tremendous opportunity."

"We cannot be the party of old white guys anymore. We need army of women to speak out on the issues we face every day. We don’t want hyperbole, we don’t want shrillness, we want someone to talk about what matters. We have to get in the field, get in the game, and get our nose busted once in a while. We’ll be stronger and more able to fight on our own."

"Smart girls (and guys) know what’s at stake. We’ve got to get past the whimpering and the handwringing and get in the game. We’re going to make our voices heard! It’s time to roar!"

I wish I had a time machine, because if Handel could have given that speech during the campaign, she would have won the Republican nomination for the Senate hands down.

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1. Herman Cain On How To Counter The Left's Agenda With The Truth

Herman Cain appeared in the ballroom as the keynote speaker for the day, and his speech fired up the crowd like no one before him. Cain spoke about the agenda of the left to destroy America as we know it and as our Founding Fathers envisioned it. The tactics the left uses, according to Cain, are "demonization, polarization, organization, and deception." And, he said, we have one strategy to counter that agenda: the truth. He offered sage advice on how to use the truth to counter the left:

"Stay informed. Stupid people are ruining America, and it’s getting worse. Someone once said, 'You can’t fix stupid.' But you can fix ignorance. If people don’t know the truth and the facts, they will be confused or they will stay home or they will vote the wrong way. You have to stay informed so you can get the truth out."

"Stay involved. You can’t be involved in all the races, but you can be involved in the ones in your district and your state. And be a pain in the ass to the newspaper editors and media who tell lies about the candidate you support. We have an advantage that we did have before – the internet. But you have to be careful to determine which ones tell the truth. Make a list of the ones you trust, and start with HermanCain.com."

"Stay inspired. The liberals want us to feel like we can’t change things. I remind people that this country has been through much worse than this, but because of We the People, we’ve been able to overcome. Don’t forget that a slingshot and one smooth stone allowed David to take down Goliath. We can take down the Goliath of this administration. I believe in the American dream because my parents believed in the American dream. I’m inspired because my parents stayed inspired."

And we're inspired too, thanks to Herman Cain.