Generation Z is already making its mark on America. Born after 1996, these young Americans came of age in an era of rapid technological change—smartphones, social media, and our interconnected world.

The oldest are already in the workforce while others are in the process of figuring out their careers. Fortunately, there are good organizations to provide the leadership and training for this next generation.

The Fund for American Studies is one of them. It has influenced the lives of thousands of conservative leaders, journalists (including The Daily Signal’s own Fred Lucas), and others since its founding in 1967.

The organization is currently recruiting for its summer programs, which include international affairs, public policy and economics, journalism and communications, business and government relations, and leadership and the American presidency. Learn more at

Rob Bluey: Today, I’m honored to be joined by Roger Ream, president of The Fund for American Studies. Roger, welcome to The Daily Signal.

Roger Ream: Thank you, Rob. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Bluey: In the interest of full disclosure, I have been a supporter of The Fund for American Studies for many years and serve on the board of visitors for your Program on Journalism and Communications. So I thank you for the work that you’re doing and I look forward to continuing to support you in the years to come.

I want to begin this conversation by asking you to describe what you do at The Fund for American Studies, and how you’re helping to educate the current generation of young Americans?

Ream: Let me begin by saying thank you for that support, which comes in many forms. And you’ve been a great advisor to us on our journalism programs, which we greatly appreciate. And in many other ways.

The Fund for American Studies’ mission is fairly straightforward. We were founded in 1967 with the purpose of trying to develop leaders who could support American values and our free enterprise system.

We recently went through a board-directed strategic planning process. And we only changed one thing about our mission statement, and that was we added the word courageous. We want to develop courageous leaders because today, the campus environment is even much worse, perhaps than when we were founded in the 1960s.

Campuses were pretty tough back then with antiwar demonstrations, shootings on campus, bombings at the University of Wisconsin, and just a tremendous amount of unrest. Which is what inspired our leaders to create The Fund for American Studies.

Today, if you’re a conservative on campus in particular, but for any student there, they are not getting a balanced perspective on American values. It’s not a place where there’s open inquiry taking place, and you can question ideas and come to your own conclusions.

We hope through our programs, which combine the academic components, plus the internship and practical experience, we can offer students an opportunity for a great environment for learning and for developing courageous leaders.

“Today, if you’re a conservative on campus in particular, but for any student there, they are not getting a balanced perspective on American values,” says Roger Ream, president of The Fund for American Studies. (Photo: The Fund for American Studies)

Bluey: I love that change that you made, and think the courageous addition is really important, particularly for our young people today. So many conservatives have lost faith in higher education institutions, oftentimes for good reason, as you just cited. What are you doing to help make up for those failures through your programs?

Ream: We address them in a couple of different ways. On the one hand, we have this program where we bring students off the campus for the summer or a semester. So at least for that one part of their higher education, they can come to an environment that’s different. They get academic a credit for our courses through George Mason University.

I sometimes say, perhaps just as a shorthand, it’s a Hillsdale College experience for those who don’t go to Hillsdale. So they can come study under professors who understand free market economics and our Constitution and limited government, get academic credits for that.

And then also, really we do recruit kids from across the spectrum. So it’s a very vibrant intellectual environment where kids are challenged on whether you’re conservative, liberal, libertarian, you have to defend your ideas.

You have to try to have a civil discussion of ideas. And in some sense, it’s a safe place for vigorous debate and discussion, not a safe place protected from hearing other ideas.

We also are sending some speakers out to campuses. We have two young men who came here from Venezuela who go out to tell their story to college students, warning them of what happened in Venezuela. And it’s a caution that, don’t let that happen here to this rich heritage of freedom and prosperity that we’ve created here. Because Venezuela was once a very rich country.

And others who go out. Anne Bradley, our academic director, travels to campuses and speaks about our free enterprise system and how to create prosperity. We just hired a young man from Color Us United, Christian Watson, who talks about the experience of growing up as a black man who doesn’t want to be treated as a black and therefore given special treatment because of his skin color. He wants to be treated as an individual human being. And now how he’s going to start going to the campus for us.

Bluey: I want to go back to one thing you said, and that is the real diverse nature of the students that you attract to the program. Having served as a mentor to some of those students in years past, I definitely see that as well. And I think that you talked about having that civil conversation and debate, which doesn’t seem to be happening on so many college campuses.

What are some of the ways that you help foster that through your program? And not just in the academic setting, but even the students when they’re living on the campus together in the summer, for instance?

Ream: Well, in recent years, we’ve added to our orientation when the students first arrive at the start of the summer, several lectures that deal with the importance of hearing ideas you might not agree with.

We bring in some speakers, we have Greg Lukianoff, the head of FIRE, talk about the importance of free speech on campus. We have several others talk about the importance of diversity as it relates to intellectual ideas. And just tries to set the right tone for the summer so that when students get into the classroom and hear perspectives from professors and other students that they might not have otherwise heard, they aren’t going to react by closing up and saying, you can’t express those ideas. They are offensive to me, or something.

So we work to create that kind of environment so that when students do get into the dorms at night and have those bull sessions that they likely have after hearing a provocative lecture or from our faculty, they’re prepared to talk about it.

I was just in Arizona with a young woman who had attended last summer, and she gave a little testimonial at an event with our donors. And it was funny because she said, when she first moved into her dorm, one of her roommates said she was a socialist. And she said, oh boy, this is going to be fun. And she realized that what the summer did for her as a conservative, was it taught her how to present her ideas in a way that would be influential to this woman calling herself a socialist. And she said when she got out of the first course with Anne Bradley, a free market economics professor, this socialist said, I really agreed with everything that Anne Bradley said.

So she thought, some kids adopt labels, liberal, progressive, socialism, but they haven’t really thought out their ideas. It’s just the label they’ve learned they should adopt on a college campus to not be acting like they’re somehow odd or abnormal. And so I think when kids are exposed to these ideas effectively with our faculty, they realize that freedom and liberty and free market ideas are really the true way to try to help people and make the world a better place. So it really is a transformative experience for many of the students who come to us, who don’t already hold these free market ideas.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., spoke to interns at the kickoff event for The Fund for American Studies’ 2021 Capitol Hill Lecture Series. (Photo: The Fund for American Studies)

Bluey: Your programs put an emphasis on teaching free market economics. It’s something that also appears to be lacking in higher education today. Why have you decided to make that a priority?

Ream: It was always one of the important things we did in our programs was teaching economics, particularly to journalism students. But in 2013, we formed a merger of sorts by taking over a group called The Foundation for Teaching Economics, which is located in Davis, California. And their specialty is teaching high school kids to understand what they call the economic way of thinking. They run programs of around the country in the summer, one week long for high school students to learn about economic principles and how a free economy works. They also do a lot of great programs for teachers.

And so when we brought them in 2013 and simultaneously moved our programs from Georgetown University where we’d been for 40 years to George Mason, which has one of the best free market economics to departments in the country, it made sense to put that emphasis on economics in all our programs. So we still do focus on issues like the importance of the Constitution, of limited government, of individual liberty, but all the students in the college programs are required to at least take a course in economics as part of the curriculum. And they can take electives in other subjects.

Bluey: So often I hear fellow conservatives bemoaning our failure to effectively persuade young people. What is your general outlook on this generation?

Ream: I do think we fall short when it comes to trying to persuade young people. But I do think the environment right now, that students who come to us are looking for answers. I think many of them have the right instincts and understand.

You no doubt heard the speaker of the House [Nancy Pelosi] saying the Congress has helped reduce the national debt by spending all this money. I mean, it was ludicrous, her statement, on the surface. And I think college students understand that that is nonsense.

I don’t think it’s that hard to be persuasive. Certainly there are people in the conservative movement who are better than others when it comes to being persuasive about ideas, and you have to be thoughtful about the way you present things.

Our faculty tends, in the classroom the first day to say, I’m going to assume that everyone in this room wants to make the world a better place. Wants people to have a higher standard of living, wants to address hunger in the world. And this course is going to be dedicated to trying to figure out how to do that. So let’s together, explore ideas and see if we can come up to some conclusions about how to make the world a better place, because that’s what we all want.

We start with that common assumption, and that’s generally true, I think, of most people. And then as she or he on our faculty works through these ideas, I think it brings students to a conclusion that it’s through markets, through private ownership, private property, that people create wealth.

Roger Ream, president of The Fund for American Studies, says, “Start with basic Judeo-Christian moral principles in building the case for a free society. You begin by talking about the worth of the individual, which is where I say the Judeo-Christian outlook teaches you that all individuals are children of God, and therefore they deserve dignity and respect. They deserve the opportunity in life to use their skills, their talents to get ahead.” (Photo: The Fund for American Studies)

Bluey: Last year, you were honored with the prestigious Bradley Prize. And in your acceptance speech, you spoke about the importance of equipping the next generation with the tools to defend free market capitalism. How can we do that?

Ream: Being the son of a preacher, one thing that’s always been important to me and my outlook on this is you must teach it [and] have a real moral clarity to the way you teach. Start with basic Judeo-Christian moral principles in building the case for a free society. You begin by talking about the worth of the individual, which is where I say the Judeo-Christian outlook teaches you that all individuals are children of God, and therefore they deserve dignity and respect. They deserve the opportunity in life to use their skills, their talents to get ahead.

When you create a society that’s patterned after the Great Society, and cradle to grave, you can be award of the state from the housing provided for you, your food stamps, your welfare. You get to the end of life, what has your life been worth if that’s how you’ve lived your whole life?

Only in a free society where you can succeed or fail, take advantage of opportunities or ignore them when they come upon you, can you really have lived a meaningful life.

The principles we teach in economics and in limited government are the principles that are most consistent with those guiding principles that we learned from our Judeo-Christian heritage, the bedrock foundation upon which our Constitution was framed and our Declaration of Independence proclaimed. That’s where you start in trying to reach students.

Bluey: In light of that, you’re well aware, as I am, that there are some conservatives who have started to question this belief in free markets. And have proposed solutions that would expand the role of government, particularly at the federal level. Should we be worried about this?

Ream: We should definitely be worried about it. There are several ways I think to approach that, but first and foremost, as conservatives, we should understand the grave, grave danger of giving government more power.

First of all, our guys may be in charge today, but their guys will be at some point. And in fact, generally it is their guys who are in charge of these bureaucracies we’ve created that are supposed to carry out these orders.

In the book by Ludwig von Mises, “Bureaucracy,” a very short book of his, you learn that government can’t function properly. It’s not going to achieve the ends you wanted to achieve. The incentive structures are such, there’s this knowledge problem. The lack of profits and losses. Bureaucrats will not respond effectively to what we may want done as conservatives.

I fear giving a government more antitrust power to break up companies, because it’ll be misused in the future. I fear giving government power to impose tariffs on goods that we think are coming in here from the wrong countries or undercutting our industries, because those same powers you give to government will eventually be misused. That’s my great fear, is that government cannot do what we want it to do.

We must keep it small, decentralized, as much power as possible in local and state governments and not brought here to Washington. Because we’ve got this blob of government. It’s spending trillions of dollars. It’s bankrupting our future. It’s misusing its powers. And it’s a big burden on our society and is impacting our standard of living. We’ve seen that with COVID. We’ve seen that in other ways.

Conservatives should continue to stand for our Constitution and the limitations that are found in there when it comes to the federal government.

Bluey: I agree with you on that, for sure. You mentioned the von Mises book. Do students, when they come to your programs, get a reading list? Or are there any particular books that stand out in your mind that are probably not being taught in higher ed today that they might want take a look at?

Ream: We don’t specifically give them a reading list, though each professor has a syllabus with recommended readings.

Last summer, a friend of mine sent his daughter to the program. The father had worked for me in the early 1990s, and his daughter came this summer. Makes me feel old. But he emailed me after the first few days and said, Roger, you can’t believe how I feel. My daughter, this week, has been reading Walter Williams and Tom Sowell in her class at TFAS.

And so they will be exposed to Hayek and Walter Williams and Tom Sowell and a lot of these great economists. That we hope will inspire these students to read more from those people. And so they do get a good exposure to really great books.

Bluey: You had mentioned earlier that The Fund for American Studies started in the 1960s. What was the impetus behind its creation?

Ream: The story is that Charles Edison, who was the son of the inventor, Thomas Edison had been secretary of Navy under [President Franklin Roosevelt]. He had been a reform governor of New Jersey and chairman of McGraw Edison. He called a group together at his suite at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel late in his life. It included the great Congressman Walter Judd from Minnesota, William F. Buckley, David Jones, who I knew, and several others. And he expressed the vision of an organization that would bring young people who seemed, in the campus unrest going on at the time, to be questioning American values.

So let’s bring them together in the summer, come to the best and brightest, and expose them to the American political and economic ideas. And they can make up their minds, but at least they have to hear about those ideas first. And shortly after that, sadly and unfortunately, Gov. Edison passed away. And it was viewed as he was going to endow this, but it wasn’t something he had done before he died. But the organization went to Georgetown. They got a professor named Lev Dobriansky, great government professor there who later served as an ambassador for Ronald Reagan, to sponsor us at Georgetown. And we created the first program in 1970 with a credit from Georgetown, and the rest is history, so to speak.

Since then, we’ve been trying to educate young people who are going to be leaders in the future, journalists in the future, about our American institutions.

Bluey: And you certainly touched the lives of thousands, tens of thousands of alumni who are now working out in careers throughout all of these different fields. Who are some of the alumni that our listeners might be familiar with, and what are they doing today?

Ream: I attended a program in 1976 and one of my classmates was Mark Levin, who I know many of your listeners will know from his Fox News and radio shows. And the great books he’s written. Mark and I have remained friends and he was a great friend to have as a classmate back in 1976.

The others from the early years, there was Ron Robinson, later president of Young America’s Foundation. His wife, Michelle, who founded the Clare Boothe Luce Institute. There was Frank Donatelli, who worked in the Reagan White House in the 1980s. Clint Bolick, who founded the Institute for Justice and was later at the Goldwater Institute, before now serving as an associate justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. A great defender of school choice programs and reform in education.

Through our Robert Novak Journalism Fellows we have a lot outstanding alumni such as [Federalist editor-in-chief] Mollie Hemingway and Tim Carney, who’s at the Washington Examiner. Joy Pullman at The Federalist. We have Kat Timpf, who’s also at Fox News, who’ve received Novak Fellowships from us.

We have two serving in Congress now. Republican David Rouzer of North Carolina, and a Republican from Tennessee, David Kustoff. We’ve had others in the past. We probably have about three dozen or more serving on the staffs of members of Congress. And we have some serving in state legislatures around the country as well.

Bluey: A great reach and impact. I’m particularly thankful for the work that you are doing in the journalism field. In addition to having that great program on economics and other issues, you also, as you mentioned, offer the Robert Novak Journalism Fellowships, you have a relatively new fellowship with the Wall Street Journal. Why have you made this commitment to journalism, and tell us more about these programs?

Ream: From close to the start, we had created campus programs for young journalists, and we’d go out to campuses and hold conferences in the 1970s. And that evolved into a summer long program for journalism students, it was called the Institute for Political Journalism, now the Program on Journalism and Communications.

We’ll select, if we can, 40 to 50 young journalism majors, bring them to Washington for an internship and courses in economics and government, and try to set them on a path where they get experience in the internship that’ll make them successful in their careers.

A natural follow on to that was when in 2013, we took over the Robert Novak Journalism Program. Bob Novak, the great journalist, covered politics and wrote a column for decades here in Washington. He had helped inspire that program with Tom Phillips. And it’s a fellowship for a year for young journalists, less than 10 years of experience who have a great writing idea, a writing project idea, preferably a book. And they submit the project ideas to us. We’ll pick six or seven and give them a fellowship so they can take some time off, do the research, use the shoe leather that’ll enable them to publish a book.

And a lot of great books have been written. I think we have over 75 books that have come out of that program, some best sellers. And it’s really helped these young people establish themselves and move on in their careers, as with Mollie Hemingway, as an example of that. Tim Carney too, will tell you that’s what started his career. And then in fact, we’ve just opened up applications for this next round of Robert Novak Journalism Fellows.

The Joseph Rago Fellowship is a great one. Joe Rago was a Pulitzer prize winning editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal. He died suddenly in his sleep, and his parents and friends came to us about establishing a fellowship in his name. We pay the salary of a young journalist with less than five years experience to work at the Wall Street Journal on the editorial page for nine months.

Bluey: You mentioned some application deadlines coming up. For our listeners who want to learn more, or if they have children or grandchildren or nieces or nephews who would like to participate, how can they go about doing that?

Ream: We are recruiting right now for summer of 2022 programs, which will start in June and run for eight weeks. The information can be found on a very easy to find website,

If you go to, it gives you all the information there. We had application deadlines that move. We had one yesterday, but we’re extending deadlines toward early April. So anyone who’s interested can apply now, find the information. We provide the housing. It’s live, learn, and intern. We do everything for a student. We’ll get them the internship. They get enrolled in the courses at George Mason.

We’ve got co-curricular activities that go on, from everything from visiting monuments and seeing Washington, to going to briefings, hearing great speakers. We do a congressional briefing with members of Congress, hear from different agencies and individuals.

A lot of our students have the opportunity to come to The Heritage Foundation and other think tanks. So just a great idea for any young person who’s interested in public policy, journalism, international affairs, even business. I recommend it very highly. And we have lots of scholarships available as well, to defer the cost of the program.

Bluey: We’ve been honored to host them here. And we thank you, Roger, for your leadership of the organization. Again, for our listeners who would like to learn more, it’s Thanks for being here today.

Ream: Well, thank you, Rob. I have a great affinity for all the work you do here. The Daily Signal’s great, I really admire what you’ve built here. And it has a lot of influence, so thank you for what you’re doing.

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