Wednesday, February 23, 2011

AUSFL attends ISFLC (or Attack of the Acronyms)

Before heading of to the International Students for Liberty Conference 2011, the future of AU Students for Liberty appeared to me to be on shaky ground. This feeling had nothing to do with the current state of affairs within the club. As far as I could tell everyone involved was full of passion and willing to do everything it took to get AUSFL up and running again and get it running better than ever. In fact, if I had to describe the work ethic and dedication that I've seen these past weeks, only Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" seems appropriate to capture the sleepless nights as well as the incredible flexibility the members of AUSFL have shown. Rather, my fear stemmed from meeting a non-member friend while carrying the above-pictured sign home in preparation for the conference. She asked to see what I was carrying and I of course obliged. I could see on her face immediately that she had no ideas what the sign meant, and couldn't even place "AUSFL" as the acronym for any AU club or organization. I was a little crestfallen, but explained readily. I wondered: how could our group ever hope to make an impact when so few people even know we exist? I was able to work out the answer to this vital question throughout the next three days. What I found was so incredible and heartening that I'd be willing to bet that by the end of the year we are able to make "AUSFL" a household (or would it be apartment-hold here?) name at and around AU. See pictured above a team now solidified and empowered to take on apathy and lack of information directly, those being the two biggest enemies of liberty in our lives. Here's how we got to the point where I no longer fear for the movement:

ISFLC offered our attendees numerous opportunities that will enable us to better advocate for liberty here on campus and all throughout our world. Pictured here is AUSFL member Emily Schofield with founding father James Madison, or at least a book about him. ISFLC offered us access to some of the best information out there on the theories behind liberty as well as the techniques most useful in fighting for it. Liberty lovers love to read, and this fact was not ignored by the planners of ISFLC who made sure that every day of the conference a whole library of books was at the disposal of attendees, for free. Talk about a "free" market. I came home with many studies, arguments, dialogues, and theories that I know will contribute not only to my own understanding of liberty and its place in society but my ability to spread the word and work towards a freer world as a whole. Providing information is one of the greatest components of Students for Liberty (especially important is the Free Books program which is explained in detail on the SFL webpage). This is because the better informed we are the better decisions we can make and the more legitimately we can make our point. One of the things that has always assured me that liberty is the right path is the fact that those who work for it have read all the requisite theory. In no other movement do you have the degree of truth-searching and truly critical thinking that I saw going on all over the place over the weekend. People actually questioning their own beliefs. This was a major point that Megan McArdle made during her address at the end of the conference. The only way we're going to start winning is by being a step above the rest. Not only being well read, but admitting our mistakes, truly exploring the other side of the argument and relying whole heartedly on the rationality and sensibility that liberty is grounded in. So I realized the first incredible tool we had on our side in the fight for liberty: knowledge.

The next thing we have going for us was something I think all AU students can identify as essential to the survival of any group, idea, or for most students here even the individual will to go on: networking. Ignore the fact that I'm simply texting away and appear entirely unengaged in this picture. what you can't see is that I'm entering in my phone the email address of a student at another school who wants to start a non-partisan think tank, much like one of our members here at AU. By bringing together the people who want to work on these various projects as well as the resources that each individual has access to, the conference allowed all of us to become part of the network of the liberty movement. This means more access to resources, combined brain power, and support when times are tough or when we need to make a stand. Beyond that, it was especially important for us to all get together to trade ideas. The conversation you see above wasn't all phone numbers and pleasantries. We actually debated, philosophized, planned and even revised our different efforts toward liberty. By learning from each other and having an open dialogue we gained inspiration from student groups that made a big difference on their campus (especially those who won awards for their efforts Friday night). We also gained contacts for future cross-campus events, bigger initiatives and alliances that will enable our group to have a greater focus and advocate for liberty at every level possible. Thus, the second great tool we have behind us: support.

Last, but by all means not the least, we had some fun! Each night ended with a social that let us wind down from a busy day and interact in a more casual environment. This meant even better conversations, debates, and idea-exchanging that leads to cohesion within the movement and our group as a sub-unit. By sharing these experiences and then bringing them back and further sharing them with other AUSFL members, we can strengthen our efforts and become more like a team on the path to victory rather than the footnote I feared we may become. At the Saturday social put on by Cato, I remember the feeling I got when a guy in the back raised his glass and shouted "to Liberty!" and the whole place toasted liberty together. It was the electric feeling of change. This was the feeling I've always been dreaming about, waiting for, hoping for. This is the feeling of the world shifting under you feet, of being caught up in a great change that will define you and your life. I can't get enough of it. So let's take this revolutionary passion and spirit and apply it to every aspect of our advocacy. While I knew this component of our success was present before the conference, I feel it even more strongly now. Our third and greatest tool: passion.

With a toolbox like that, I think we're pretty well set. We're invested in this in ways many don't yet understand, but that passion is what will propel us to victory and, in the short term, to becoming a respected and legitimate force in the AU community. I feel empowered to do this now. Hopefully you do as well. Pretty soon everyone will recognize our acronyms.

Let's start building a freer world.

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