A crowd of 800 teenagers, caffeinated on colorful Starbucks drinks that did not appear to contain coffee, sprang to their feet as Kyle Kashuv, the 17-year-old conservative Parkland student who gained a national following as a counterweight to the March For Our Lives, emerged on stage.
“Guys, we have a surprise for you,” Kashuv said as the riff from AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” played in the background. “You know what that means?”
“David Hogg?” one student shouted back.
“We have shirts. We have shirts! We. Have. Shirts!” Kashuv replied, flinging T-shirts into the frenzied crowd like Frisbees.
Kashuv was in Washington last week for the culmination of months of work with the pro-Trump group Turning Point USA, where he now serves as the director of high school outreach. The teenagers in attendance at the group’s high school leadership conference at George Washington University had already been treated to a host of big-name conservative speakers invited by Kashuv, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.
Instead of giving a talk to the students, Kashuv took questions.
One student who described herself as being from a “deep blue” part of Connecticut asked Kashuv what it was like dealing with liberal teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“A teacher tried to give me like an 89.4 and purposely gave me one point lower on a quiz to an 89.4 so I couldn’t get an ‘A’ in the class,” Kashuv replied. “But I power-moved her. I went to the administration and we made it happen.”
The crowd went wild.
Another asked him, what is his favorite dinosaur?
“T-Rex,” Kashuv said, before pausing and declaring his affinity for triceratops instead, prompting a smattering of jeers and cheers.
Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, a 24-year-old conservative who gained fame for protesting what he sees as liberal bias on college campuses and who was barred from speaking on Stoneman Douglas’ campus after the shooting, said Kashuv’s involvement with his group has given it more prominence within the conservative community, and it has benefited massively from Kashuv’s work to get dozens of Trump administration officials, members of Congress and celebrities like Mark Cuban to attend the conference.
“All the credit goes to Kyle,” Kirk said. “We’re nothing but an infrastructure that’s helped make this possible. We are a movement, don’t get me wrong, we were doing this before, but Kyle comes in and brings it to the next level. The energy, the enthusiasm, the speakers. He put his time, his talents behind this, and that’s a great partnership because we both benefit from this.”
Kashuv continues to talk about school safety and his support for the Second Amendment six months after the nation’s deadliest high school shooting and has appeared on TV dozens of times, but he’s branched out politically after successfully lobbying for a school safety bill in Congress earlier this year.
“He’s done an amazing job,” Scaramucci said, also emphasizing that his short term as White House communications director that ended after a vulgar rant recorded by a reporter was 11 days, not 10. “I think Kyle’s voice frankly is a much needed voice because it fits into a narrative of school safety, but recognizing that the founding fathers of our country wanted people to have the right to bear arms. I applaud all of these kids though.”
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