Campus Progress (CP) was established in 2005 as the youth arm of the Center for American Progress. Its mission was to “strengthen progressive voices on college and university campuses,” “counter the growing influence of right-wing groups on campus,” and “empower new generations of progressive leaders.” CP pursued these goals by hosting and organizing campus speaking events; funding student newspapers; publishing articles and multimedia pieces on its CampusProgress.org website; and offering action grants, support, training, mentoring, and materials to leftist students engaged in public-education and advocacy campaigns on issues like Social Security, academic freedom, national security, global warming, capital punishment, and judicial nominations.
From its founding in 2005 until January 2012, CP’s director was David Halperin, the son of Morton H. Halperin (who held several key positions in President Bill Clinton‘s White House). Notably, Mr. Clinton was the keynote speaker at Campus Progress’s first annual National Student Conference in Washington, DC on July 13, 2005. Other conference speakers included Donna Brazile, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Greenpeace USA executive director John Passacantando, and Paul Begala. Begala, for his part, told his listeners that Republicans “want to kill me and my children.”
In July 2006, CP held its second National Student Conference in Washington, drawing some 1,000 young people from universities across the United States. Paul Begala was again among the guest speakers, this time condemning the evils of the “radical Right”; noting that “terrorists want to kill us, but right-wingers want to cut taxes”; and announcing that conservatives were “tearing down the American dream.”
A similar message was subsequently taken up by another featured speaker, Center for American Progress president and onetime Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, who made an appeal for a government that, in contrast to the Bush administration, was “committed to the common good,” and wished to see the United States “respected for our ideals and not just the force of our weapons.”
Then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama also spoke at the 2006 event, saying that Bush political advisor Karl Rove “doesn’t believe in government,” and that Christians in “red [Republican] states” had been duped by evangelical leaders into believing that “being a good Christian means being against gay marriage and abortion.”
On offer at the 2006 CP National Conference were a series of panels under the heading of “Media Bootcamp.” There, students could learn “how to work with the press to get out your message”; how to publish “advocacy writing and blogging”; and “how to make your message pop and take off.” Significantly, not one panel focused on the substance of the message that students were to commit their energies to publicizing. Slogans, rather than reflection, were the order of the day.
Speakers at subsequent CP National Student Conferences included such notables as Tammy Baldwin, Bill Clinton, Tom Daschle, E.J. Dionne, John Edwards, Keith Ellison, Russell Feingold, Van Jones, John Lewis, Ralph Nader, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Samantha Power, Kathleen Sebelius, Helen Thomas, and Maxine Waters.