I had the opportunity to attend the Christian Student Leadership Conference with my American politics class from Lancaster Bible College taught by Jim Cox. I took the class because I thought it would be fun, but I never knew how much I would be stretched and challenged to think deeply about what I believe. 

When I heard we had the opportunity to attend the National Association of Evangelicals conference, I was excited but I didn’t know what to expect. What would we be doing? Who would we hear speak, and where does the NAE stand on different public policies?

The schedule was filled with many speakers, tours and visits to our federal representatives. I was excited for the opportunity to learn more about public policies and what was going on in D.C. While I am a business major and not a political science major like many in attendance, I was very aware of how politics impact the business world especially when it comes to creating new policies.

The first thing that blew me away was the amount of work that the NAE team (Christine Sequenzia, Jennifer Haglof, Steve Eng, Galen Caley, and many others) put into making the conference happen. We had many opportunities that were once-in-a-lifetime. My class had the opportunity to meet with the teams of Representative Smucker, Senator Casey, and Senator Fetterman. Christine did a lot of work so all students would have two or three meetings with their federal representatives, and it was definitely worth the work. We had the opportunity to speak with people on their teams and learn more about what initiatives the representatives and senators were working on.

This was particularly meaningful to me, because I was amazed at how easy it is to ask your state or federal representatives questions. In no other country do you have the freedom to call your local or federal representatives and voice your thoughts, opinions and feelings about the policy they are working on enacting. Having the chance to meet with those congressional offices was one of my favorite experiences of the week.

Another impactful experience was the opportunity to go into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and attend a White House briefing. We heard speakers talk on an array of different issues, including gun rights and the war in Ukraine, among others. Each day we had the opportunity to ask the speakers questions, but I didn’t do so until this event on Thursday.

Through hearing updates on what was going on and having the chance to speak one-on-one with speakers, I became very aware that there are good people in the system fighting to protect and defend our democracy. This was my biggest takeaway from the conference. So often the media portrays politicians in a negative light, and it can be hard to figure out what is truth versus propaganda to persuade people to believe one way or another. We need to remember to take everything we hear with a grain of salt and to work hard to figure out what is actually true from what is not.

While I didn’t agree with every speaker we heard during the week, it was very informative and stretched me a lot. I became more deeply aware of how complex some of the issues like immigration are and that solid Christians fall on both sides of the issue.

The NAE’s Christian Student Leadership Conference was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would highly recommend to anyone regardless of career aspirations in the political sphere, because policy and legislation impact everyone.