Reagan Ranch program touches on spiritual aspect of leadership


NORCO, Calif. — Norco resident and recent gradate of the University of California, Riverside, Darin Schemmer, said he experienced the "best month of his life in terms of spiritual growth" learning biblical foundations and insights from 40th president Ronald Reagan advocates.

Young America's Foundation, a national non-profit group, launched the inaugural Ronald Reagan Ranch Academy program July 3 to 29 at the Western White House—Reagan's Santa Barbara Ranch—to teach leadership skills based on the tradition of Ronald Reagan, according to a news release.

The inaugural class included 26 college students selected from across the country and Canada. Each student went through an extensive application process before being accepted into the free program.

"Ronald Reagan is such an excellent role model to follow, too," said Schemmer, who left for a five-week trip to study abroad in Hue, Vietnam after his stay at the ranch. "I wanted to attend the academy because it represented a completion to my awaiting degree in political science."

Schemmer compared the academy to "conservative boot camp."

Originally a Democrat, Reagan switched to being a conservative Republican and served two terms in the White House. He died in 2004 and was buried in Simi Valley.

During their month-long stay, where the students bunked at Westmont College, Schemmer and his classmates were taught by numerous lecturers, including Dr. Don Devine, a top Reagan administration adviser, former U.S. Office of Personnel Management director and current editor of; Dr. Mark Skousen, professional economist, former CIA economic analyst, and professor at Columbia Graduate School of Business; Dr. Burt Folsom, author of many acclaimed books and former senior fellow in economic education with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy; and Dr. Paul Kengor, nationally known for his works on presidential history, a professor of political science at Grove City College, and a fellow at the Hoover Institute on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.

Pursuing spirituality top of form
The program, according to the Young America's Foundation, is designed to bring out the best in the best, fostering an environment that is both intellectually challenging and focused on practical, real-world skills and applications.

"This was a month-long program where the optimism for the human condition, which great leaders such as Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill drew their energy and vision from, was nurtured," Schemmer said. "It was a place where you could find peace with your Creator and experience personal, political and spiritual growth."

Schemmer said the course material tapped on some untraditional sources.

"(It) was not one-use stuff of political campaigns or disposable issues, but readings from the Bible of conservative scholars, principles that will guide our decisions when the hyper-political atmosphere calls for steady and graceful leadership."

Robert and Jean Svoboda created the Reagan Ranch Leadership Academy after recognizing the lack of leaders with personal integrity, a respect for fundamental American values and strong communication skills graduating from college.

Because Reagan had a strong belief in God, Schemmer said he finds him to be a great role model as he pursues a career in law.

His favorite learning experience, the student said, was a visit to Vandenberg Air Force base and the federal penitentiary at Lompoc Prison on the same day.

"The tour of the Vandenberg Air Force Base, among the four largest in the U.S., was a very important place to visit and dine with military officers, cultivating our respect as future leaders for the military and national service," Schemmer said. "Since they only open the federal prison a dozen times per year for a tour, I felt this was a very special and interesting learning experience."

Lifelong benefits
In addition, Schemmer made some lifelong friends, including his roommate from Kyrgyzstan.

"I would recommend this experience to any student," said Schemmer, the eldest of five children in his family. "I felt like my college education was not balanced."

Schemmer has been involved in the College Republicans, Riverside County Young Republicans and the Riverside GOP Central Committee. He had the honor of attending the inaugural presidential address in Washington, D.C. two years ago.

"The biggest benefactors and leaders of this program, the Svobodas, said that if this program produces just one Ronald Reagan-like statesman, it will be a tremendous success for the ages."