An Open Letter to Old Conservatives From a Millennial Conservative

Joshua Denton works for the Indiana Family Institute in Indianapolis.
Joshua Denton works for the Indiana Family Institute in Indianapolis.

As a young conservative, I am convinced that a good portion of millennials are disinterested in conservatism in part due to issues of perspective, attitude, and messaging. Perspective affects attitude, and both affect messaging.

Consider the following observations so you don't miss millennials.

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Millennials are capable of so much more than what is expected and required of them. If young adults are not encouraged to do hard things, why should it be expected that the majority of them will take initiative without encouragement?

Optimism is contagious.

One would almost infer from certain attitudes that implementing conservative values in public policy is a hopeless cause. Assertions of truth may be hard to accept for certain groups of millennials. But truth is not dead, and never will be. That's where persuasion, winsomeness, and listening all come into play.

Every public policy and political agenda affects a human heart.

Everyone has a right to be treated with love and respect regardless of ideology. People who have differing opinions are not enemies and millennials know that they deserve to be treated properly. Communicating a correct message incorrectly generates more damage than profit. It's possible to say the right thing, but say it in a wrong way. Of course, there are some who are so angry and hardened that persuading them is more than a bit difficult, but nothing can ever justify conservative Christians demonstrating anger and severity to their political opponents.

Be willing to engage honestly.

It's one thing to offer well-rehearsed talking points on a TV interview but another to have a heartfelt one-on-one discussion with a college student. Don't pretend knowledge. Ask questions, welcome comments. Share personal stories. Circumvent controversy, pursue peace. The goal shouldn't be to win a debate, but to patiently share and instruct. And if you're met with hostility, don't personalize it — if you're being both gracious and truthful, the hostility of the person with whom you're speaking isn't generated by you.

Celebrate goodness with a cheerful heart.

What do you stand for? Don't only be always against things. Encouragement is essential to everyone. People gravitate toward good news and a cheerful attitude because they are attractive.

Speak the truth gracefully.

Communicating a point doesn't require going off on rants. Rigid dogmatism doesn't prove one's virtue. Aggressive arguing won't change someone's politics; grace and truth combined with prayer and a good example can influence hearts.

Live what you believe.

Lead by example. Don't say one thing and do another. Millennials aren't bamboozled by words and will spot incongruences.


Even as a young conservative, at times I am dismayed at how inarticulate some spokespeople are when approached "off the cuff." Make it your business to know what you believe and why. Millennials have the right to assume you will articulate your views appropriately at any time.

Joshua Denton works for the Indiana Family Institute in Indianapolis and is completing his degree from Thomas Edison State College. Follow Joshua on Twitter @1776Josh.

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