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Remember the triumph of James O’Keefe? He was the young David who seemed to come out of nowhere to take down the Goliath, ACORN, back in 2009 with powerful (and personally entertaining) undercover videos that showed the dark side of the organization. Like many conservatives who are rising to recognition on a national stage, O’Keefe is part of a unique group of alumni from theLeadership Institute, or LI, located in Arlington, Va.

The institute was founded in 1979 by Morton Blackwell, a respected conservative leader and former special assistant to Ronald Reagan. It has successfully graduated such recognizable names as Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell, just to name a few. Since LI’s inception, it has trained more than 70,000 of America’s brightest for effective leadership, yet my recent discovery of the school feels like the uncovering of a massive buried treasure.

The mission of the program is to identify, recruit, train and place “a generation of conservative leaders unwavering in their commitment to free enterprise, limited government, strong national defense and traditional values.” Because LI is a “do” tank, and not a “think” tank, the tools provided are practical and aimed at winning battles. In addition to classes, programs include what is widely known as “Washington’s best internship” and a full array of assistance in employment placement, through resources such as Conservativejobs.com, among others. Many politicians today are calling on the institute for help in staffing.

This prestigious school has a self-contained mini-campus that consists of one building with dormitory accommodations. Students are provided with room and board, as well as exposure to some of the best conservative teachers in the political arena. On the fourth floor is a television studio where experts give hands-on training in front of and behind the cameras (and where I presume O’Keefe spent some time honing his skills).

The program offerings are comprehensive, and they work as well on campus as they do on the road, where classes are given in various states at very little cost. In fact, the school’s 44 programs, whether week-long or weekend workshops, are 97percent funded by generous donors who care deeply about the cause of liberty and believe strongly in the proven results of this unique organization.

Having experienced the benefits firsthand, I can tell you that those donors have found a sweet spot for their money. I am not easily impressed, and I am very choosy about my charitable giving, but I will make it a priority to fund the Leadership Institute and fervently cheer on LI graduates like O’Keefe and Dana Perino, along with some of my recent classmates who are heading out to win battles.

Michele Kirk


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