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Young Man Changes Mind–World Shocked

Three years ago, the conservative political world was wowed by Jonathan Krohn’s speech on the floor at CPAC, the country’s largest gathering for the conservative movement. In his speech, the 13-year old delivered a defense of conservative principles, which while perhaps a bit simplistic by adult standards, displayed a level of eloquence and conceptual understanding quite rare for an early teenager. The response was predictably enthusiastic; the video quickly went viral as conservatives embraced their new boy wonder” while liberals denounced him as “creepy“. Meanwhile, many spoke of the bright political future awaiting the new conservative Wunderkind, and it seemed that Krohn would soon find his home within the conservative movement.

But in the years that followed, Krohn has changed his mind. Although he does not consider himself a liberal, his beliefs have shifted to a decidedly leftward bent and he can no longer watch his famous speech without cringing. As he told Politico:

“I think it was naive,” Krohn now says of the speech. “It’s a 13-year-old kid saying stuff that he had heard for a long time.… I live in Georgia. We’re inundated with conservative talk in Georgia.… The speech was something that a 13-year-old does. You haven’t formed all your opinions. You’re really defeating yourself if you think you have all of your ideas in your head when you were 12 or 13. It’s impossible. You haven’t done enough.” […]

“One of the first things that changed was that I stopped being a social conservative,” said Krohn. “It just didn’t seem right to me anymore. From there, it branched into other issues, everything from health care to economic issues.… I think I’ve changed a lot, and it’s not because I’ve become a liberal from being a conservative — it’s just that I thought about it more. The issues are so complex, you can’t just go with some ideological mantra for each substantive issue.”

Many have already begun to criticize Krohn for his abrupt change of heart, but there is nothing surprising about what has happened here. Young people change their minds as they grow up — and that is exactly what they should do. Often, more than once.

I tell my students that just as the person they are dating now probably isn’t the person they will end up marrying, so the political and social ideas they have embraced are not necessarily the ones that will stick. Youth is a time to date around before settling down, whether it comes to people or ideas; try a political viewpoint on for size, walk around in it for a while, see how it wears on you.

It’s also worth noting that for young people — and for some older ones as well — ideology is something we pick for emotional rather than purely rational reasons. To embrace a certain political style is a way to say something about how you feel about your parents or your background. Again, it’s a necessary and useful thing for many young people to see what it’s like to believe the opposite of what your parents brought you up to think and to try different worldviews on for size.

And if nothing else, the exercise will, hopefully, make you more tolerant and understanding no matter what your politics end up being.

Generally, insofar as students come to me for political advice, I try to tone them down a bit. Young people are often in love with the clarity and purity of theory. This is partly because their minds, very sharp and fast at that age, can grapple with abstractions as well as any adult, so they can easily become competent and even dexterous with theory and abstract analysis. But they are short on experience and don’t really get all the exceptions and the maybes that come into play when theory meets the real world.

Mr. Krohn hasn’t done anything wrong; not when he was 13 and said what he thought and not when he was 17 and changed his mind.  On the contrary, by doing his best to think through the big issues of the day, he’s been doing exactly what someone at his stage of life should be doing. Via Meadia wishes him and the rest of America’s young people nothing but the best as they try to figure out what’s going on in this complicated world and what they should do about it.

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  • Wayne Lusvardi

    Off topic: As I explained in an earlier post at Via Media, it is premature to celebrate voter approved pension reforms in San Jose and San Diego – See below:

    “State to Override Local Pension Votes” – San Diego Union Times, July 3

  • WigWag

    What a wonderful post; I wish all American opinion leaders would read it. While it is the political right that in this case needs to be admonished for forgetting that youngsters often change their views as they become more mature; the political left should be equally admonished.

    In this regard I am reminded of the thesis of liberals like Peter Beinart who have convinced themselves that young Jews are losing interest in Israel and Zionism because of Israel’s supposed poor treatment of the Palestinians. Beinart assured us that the inevitable result will be an American Jewish community that no longer supports Israel or advocates for the American government to support Israel.

    Beinart makes precisely the same mistake that CPAC acolytes do; he forgets that young people change their views as they get older; what they think at 18 is not necessarily what they will think when they are 30 or 40.

    Advertising executives understand this well; it’s why they aim so much of their ad dollars to people between the ages of 18 and their late 30s. They fully appreciate that views are malleable until at least that time.

    In my generation the greatest evidence of this reality comes from politics. How many “flower children” who supported McGovern in the 1972 presidential election ended up voting for Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election just eight years later? It wasn’t an insubstantial number.

    Professor Mead’s post put me in mind of this lovely poem by A.E. Housman (from “A Shropshire Lad”) about the fickleness of youth,

    WHEN I was one-and-twenty
      I heard a wise man say,
    ‘Give crowns and pounds and guineas
      But not your heart away;
    Give pearls away and rubies         5
      But keep your fancy free.’
    But I was one-and-twenty,
      No use to talk to me.
    When I was one-and-twenty
      I heard him say again,         
    ‘The heart out of the bosom
      Was never given in vain;
    ’Tis paid with sighs a plenty
      And sold for endless rue.’
    And I am two-and-twenty,         
      And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true.

  • Mick The Reactionary


    “In my generation the greatest evidence of this reality comes from politics. How many “flower children” who supported McGovern in the 1972”

    No disrespect is intended whatsoever, but from your posts I kind of thought you are high school senior or Community college student.

    You look so much younger on Internet! It’s got to be good, no?

  • Alex Weiner

    All of the adults in the room that allowed that child to give the speech really should have been more responsible at the time.

  • Anthony

    Two appropriate points for 4th of July: 1) “Young people change their minds as they grow up; 2) It’s also worth nothing that for young people…ideology is something we pick for emotional rather than purely rational reasons.” A very fine 4th advisory WRM.

  • dr kill

    He needs to stop talking so much and start working. Those Social Security payments he owes me aren’t going to earn themselves.

  • thibaud

    If a precocious young man is not a follower of Ayn Rand at age 13, he has no heart.

    If a precocious young man is still a follower of Ayn Rand at age 16, he has no head.

  • WigWag

    “If a precocious young man is not a follower of Ayn Rand at age 13, he has no heart. If a precocious young man is still a follower of Ayn Rand at age 16, he has no head.” (thibaud)

    It must be Congressman Paul Ryan that you’re talking about. The fact that many in the contemporary Republican Party think that the Ayn Rand worshipping Congressman is presidential material tells you all you need to know about how low modern day Republicans have fallen.

  • Jim.


    The quote is, “Anyone who is not Liberal at 20 has no heart. Anyone who is not Conservative at 30 has no brain.”

    I’m not certain how hearts and following Ein Rand work together at all.

  • James C Brown

    I remember that speech and the brief viral sensation it caused. My thought at the time was surprise because a conservative outlook and disposition (or mine at least) would not allow for parading 13 year old children in public like that, nor herald or celebrate a 13 year olds views as emblematic of the conservative cause. The whole incident was a P.T. Barnum-like publicity schtick. It made me feel bad for the kid, shame for his parents and disdain for the CPAC ringleaders.

  • Jay Livingston

    Reminds me of the 1972 documentary “Marjoe” — child prodigy preacher at age 4, atheist but still preaching (cynically) in his twenties.

  • Walter Sobchak

    I read wig wag and thibaud and I lose the desire to say anything.

  • Westie

    CPAC is the Disney version of Conservative very similar to this site.

  • thibaud

    Wig – not just him. PaulRyan-RandPaul-AynRand-RandyAndyAndPaulie and millions of others.

  • Jim.

    @James C Brown–

    So what do you think of Leftist teachers in our public schools across the country who perform the same indoctrination for their own political point of view each and every school day?

  • Jim.

    I would question whether encouraging kids to disagree with their parents is actually a good thing.

    Cultures where kids decide to go their own way tend to collapse demographically. This is because of the biological reality that there is a narrow window for females to (inexpensively) bear two (or more) healthy children. In the process of making things up as they go, too many fail to come around to realizing the essential nature of the traditional family before it’s too late.

    Most kids don’t need encouragement to rebel against their parents. Fewer still can figure out how to live life effectively without advice from the elder members of their family.

    Now, this isn’t to say that the Boomers need to be paid all that much mind; most young adults and millenials these days would be far better off re-discovering the values of the Greatest Generation or the Founders.

    The important point is that you get it right, and get it right sooner rather than later. It’s a pity Krohn fell away like this; fortunately he has time to regain the sense he showed at the beginning of his teens.

  • Pave Low John

    You guys are looking at this all wrong. Thank about it. The guy is 17 now. If you are a normal, red-blooded American male in the 16-21 age group, what is the Number One thing on your mind these days?


    Do you stick to your ideological guns and have enlightening, engrossing discussions about Milton Friedman and the Fairtax with a bunch of 50-somethings at a Tea Party rally? Or do you slap an ‘Obama’ sticker on your car, wear a ‘Rage against the Machine’ t-shirt and discuss social justice with that hot blonde working behind the counter at the local ‘fair trade’ independent coffee shop? Read some old stuff from P.J. O’Rourke, he had the same issues back in the 60s.

    Priorities, it’s all about priorities….

  • Art Deco

    Who is this person?

  • thibaud

    Pave Low John has it wrong. Go to the ground zero site of libertarianism,, and look at the photos of the site’s contributors. Ask yourself whether any college-age woman who’s not blind would prefer these hobbits over the liberal guys she sees around campus.

  • Pave Low John


    Oh, I’m not saying it’s a fool’s errand, young guys with something besides bong resin between their ears (ie. non-progressives) have been vainly chasing easy hippie chicks for decades. Hell, back in the 1970s, the service academies all had to invent regulations banning wigs while off-campus because all the cadets and midshipmen were tired of getting shot down by civilian chicks for having short hair.

    But, things do get better. Hippie chicks [deleted…], so it turns out to be a blessing in disguise not to get handcuffed to some aging Mary Moon in your later years.

    As soon as this kid gets a little, ahem, ‘satisfaction’ and matures a bit, he’ll be back. The toxic levels of stupid that currently plague the left side of the political spectrum will drive him back to the Light, just gotta have some patience…

  • Art Deco

    Go to the ground zero site of libertarianism,, and look at the photos of the site’s contributors. Ask yourself whether any college-age woman who’s not blind would prefer these hobbits over the liberal guys she sees around campus.

    There are 17 men on the staff of Reason. Of these, nine have posted their pictures on the site. Three of the nine are not anywhere near the age to be chasing coeds; it’ll happen to you too. Of the remaining six, I would wager four would be adjudged aesthetically adequate by most young women. One of the remaining two (Peter Suderman) you might just refer to as a ‘hobbit’. His wife, at age 39, is a good deal more attractive than most coeds. Think of better insults.

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