Heard of CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference? Our exclusive CBC Member of the Week is Carin Walters, Director of Events & Conferences for the American Conservative Union, which organizes the annual CPAC conference. In one of the most riveting years of its existence, CPAC directly effected the Republican presidential nomination with speeches by Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich, while Donald Trump changed his mind last minute about attending. Learn why below and much more about CPAC and Carin Walters!
Congratulations Carin on being our Conservative Book Club “Member of the Week!” Tell us a little bit about yourself and the work you do as Director of Events and Conferences at the American Conservative Union. What got you interested in event management?
Managing large-scale political events was never on my mind when I attended college or growing up working in the family hardware store. Although, my dad raised me and my 5 sisters and one brother to be politically active, I was a criminal justice major and on-track to attend law school after graduation. After college, I decided to move out to Washington DC from Minnesota and tried a few different career paths.
At that same time, an internship at the Leadership Institute afforded me an opportunity to learn about the different ways I could be politically active, and connected me with Chris Malagisi (Editor in Chief of the Conservative Book Club).
When I moved permanently to DC, Chris was working at the American Conservative Union, as the Director of CPAC. I asked if they needed some help in the events department, looking for something temporary. That really was the start of my interest in event management. It’s been almost 5 years and I haven’t thought of doing anything else.
We’re all very proud of you Carin and truly enjoyed CPAC 2016 this past weekend. Congrats on an amazing CPAC! How did you feel it went? What do you think were its highlights this year?
My initial inclination immediately after an event is to think about everything that could have been better and identify areas of improvement for next year. It’s the perfectionist in me – and it drives everyone in my office crazy! That aside, I think CPAC 2016 went extremely well and am so very proud of the team we work with, the some 120 volunteers who did everything from escort VIPs to check name badges, and all of our partner organizations who helped us a great deal to determine the issues we talk about each year. It is the time, generosity, and support of these people and organizations that make CPAC a success.
Some of the highlights for me personally were the things we sought to improve upon from past years’s efforts based on attendees’ feedback. We were able to more fully integrate social media into the overall CPAC experience, the CPAC app was much more useful this year (and included an awesome game where we announced the winner as part of the straw poll presentation), the stage was brought even further out into the audience to bring speakers as close as possible to the activists, and the CPAC Hub (exhibit hall) was more interactive and fun for attendees than it has ever been.
Obviously, the speakers were a huge highlight for everyone and I think continuing with the Q&A portion that we started last year was an important reflection of our desire to encourage the highest level of interaction between speakers and the activists in the main ballroom.
There’s been many news stories about Donald Trump changing his mind last minute to speak at CPAC 2016. Can you give us any background or reason(s) why he changed his mind?
It came as a pretty big surprise and somewhat of a disappointment to me when Mr. Trump decided not to come to CPAC at the last minute. I got word of his decision shortly before it became public knowledge. The sticking point became our policy that candidates for president at CPAC have to take questions. He preferred to spend the entire time giving remarks.
Our Chairman Matt Schlapp and Executive Director Dan Schneider and I worked hard to incorporate the Q&A portion of the event last year, and although it’s easy to understand why the campaign made the decision to go to Kansas instead on Saturday morning—there were elections going on—we very much hoped to bring all of the candidates to our event.
What books, authors, or conservative-themed books, influenced your political philosophy and outlook on life?
Although I grew up very culturally conservative, my family homeschooled us until college and I didn’t do a lot of reading on the topic until my 20’s. What I read helped reinforce what I already believed and opened my mind to new ideas, too. Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative encouraged me to think about how I defined patriotism, and Fredrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom explained to me the relationship between government, the economy, and the profound effect those forces can have on populations. I also credit my strong Catholic faith with my strong conservative values; I think they go hand-in-hand.
Tell us a little more about yourself!
Why did you join the Conservative Book Club? How is the user experience beneficial to you?
When CPAC is over, and I get some time to relax, I have more free time to get into a good book. I love to read. It can be hard to sift through the hundreds of conservative books available, so it’s really helpful to have CBC as a guide and point me in the “right” direction.