When it comes to reaching young conservatives in the South and across the country, Stan Williams is your man. While the Atlanta native is working hard to engage his generation in politics, the 29-year-old activist thinks he’s identified a transcendent issue that people his age can unite behind.
“Young conservatives and young moderates are being swayed by fiscal policies,” Williams said at a local Atlanta burger joint. “It’s all striking a chord, even if they are socially liberal.”
As a commercial real estate professional, Williams had a front-row seat to the collapse of the housing market, which he believes was a wake-up call for the country. While he hopes everyone gets a chance to purchase their first home, Williams believes it is a privilege that must be earned through hard work.
“Big government actively promoting the American dream for homeownership was a nice idea, but it didn’t make fiscal sense,” Williams explained. “Homeownership is not a right, it’s a responsibility.”
After just a few minutes sitting across from the Princeton University graduate, his ambition and strong principles were very clear. Yet he is not a partisan firebrand focused on attacking President Obama or Rep. Nancy Pelosi, but someone committed to intelligent dialogue and problem-solving. Williams believes his interest in politics was shaped not only by a summer he spent on Capitol Hill during college, but during intense dining hall debates on his Ivy League campus.
“Some of the discussions were heated, but instead of focusing on people, we focused on ideas,” the young man explained while enjoying some iced tea after a hot Atlanta afternoon. “It’s always been about norms, policies, and movements.”
Williams’ calm, friendly approach is helping The Heritage Foundation sell out events across the city, a feat even his beloved Atlanta Braves rarely accomplish. He pushed to hold an upcoming June event at a local brewery, at a lower cost than usual for attendees, to attract young people who may be in between jobs or looking for work in a tough economy. Part of the reason Williams is enjoying his outreach role with the Young Presidents Club, which aims to engage conservatives under 40, is that those working with him are so eager to embrace new ideas.
“Heritage is great about listening to the young members,” Williams said. “It’s because they really do want to help educate our youth and grow as an organization.”
Williams is particularly enthusiastic about the internet’s limitless potential to help find a starting point for folks who may be unsure about political activism. He relies heavily on Facebook, e-mail distribution lists, and mobile devices to spread the conservative message and promote four events a year held by the Atlanta Committee for Heritage. Williams also uses local ties he has been building since childhood to create a buzz around the metropolitan area.
“We have a good group of people here in Atlanta,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is make it more interactive and put a younger slant on things.”
Williams has serious concerns about many of President Obama’s early hallmarks – deficit spending, cap and trade, bailouts, and government expansion – but he also sees a positive aspect of the democrat’s first 18 months in office.
“The only great thing is that younger people are getting involved again. It’s mostly because the Obama administration’s policies don’t make sense.”