Rethinking conservative leadership for a new age.
John Jay Institute Alumna
B.A. in Political Science,
M.A. in Legal and Political Theory, University College of London
Senior Advisor, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt
Policy Director, YG Network
current position and location
Senior Policy Advisor for the presidential campaign of Governor Jeb Bush, Washington, D.C.
“The Witherspoon Fellowship was crucial to my formation as a Christian, and it deepened my understanding of the role of civil society. From there I gained an appreciation of the proper role of government—a limited role with the primary purpose of protecting and strengthening the space where civil society can flourish.”
April Ponnuru, a graduate of Liberty University and University College London, knew the potential of conservative policies to build a flourishing society, but she also knew that contemporary conservative politics weren’t measuring up.
April believed that conservatives were badly in need of a governing agenda that spoke to the needs of average people, including young mothers who, like herself, have careers and families to balance. She believed the Republican Party was too heavily identified with the interests of the rich and big business, and so April began working on an aggressive, conservative policy message that would target middle class voters.
At that point, she had already worked in both House and Senate leadership offices, serving as a senior policy advisor to Roy Blunt (R-MO) during his tenure as House Majority Whip, and later as a senior advisor and director of his Senate leadership office. She’d also served as executive director of National Review Institute, founded by William F. Buckley, Jr., and as vice president of National Review magazine. She married conservative journalist Ramesh Ponnuru in 2002.
In 2013, April became policy director of the YG (“young guns”) Network, a young conservative organization founded by up-and-coming leaders such as Paul Ryan (R-WI). YG is now at the center of the conversation about how conservatives should address health care, higher education, and an economy that works for middle-income families.
In May 2014, April’s team published Room to Grow, a collection of essays that put together some of the best new conservative ideas from respected policy thinkers—including Yuval Levin, Andrew Kelly, Michael Strain, and Bradford Wilcox—into a popular manifesto that launched a flurry of public discourse. Its publication generated refreshingly constructive debate among conservatives, enlivening what had been a stale and tired conversation. “To be a conservative is to apply timeless truths to the present moment,” reflects April, and her team found sophisticated ways to do that. New York Times columnist David Brooks called the publication “the most coherent and compelling policy agenda the American right has produced this century.” April’s work was profiled in a cover story for The New York Times Magazine.
This groundbreaking work led to her being tapped in 2015 as senior policy adviser for Governor Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign.