On February 15th, 16th, and 17th, Students for Liberty hosted the 6th Annual International Students for Liberty Conference, also known as the ISFLC. I attended this event along with three students from Madison Liberty: fellow blogger Helen Shibut, Nick Farrar, and Reid Walker.
Rather than list every single event, person, and organization associated with this conference, which could take about as long as the conference itself, this article will highlight some of the more interesting and unusual aspects.
Friday kicked off with a rather bizarre performance called Party Milk by Dorian Electra. Apparently, Students for Liberty awarded Ms. Electra a fellowship several years ago, but it was difficult to discern what connection, if any, the song has with the promotion of liberty.
John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, was the featured speaker that evening. He spoke about the morality and history of the free market, and his new book on the topic, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business.
Saturday was easily the most jammed packed of the three days. It featured six informational sessions where attendees could choose to learn about a wide variety of topics from a considerable range of speakers and organizations.
I first selected “The Teachings of Chairman Jim: The ‘Nuts and Bolts’ of Building a Libertarian Campus Organization” which was presented by Dr. Jim Lark, a professor at the University of Virginia and Chairman of the Libertarian Party from 2000 to 2002. In this talk, Dr. Lark discussed, as indicated from the title, many of the challenges associated with both the creation and maintenance of a liberty group on college campuses. Given that this topic would be vitally helpful to just about every student at ISFLC, it was a bit disappointing to find that more of them did not take advantage of this discussion.
Second on the docket was “Why Conservatism is Worthless Without Libertarianism” by Jack Hunter. Readers of this blog may recall that I first met Mr. Hunter while I worked for the 2007/08 Ron Paul campaign in South Carolina. For those who don’t know, his work, first written under the moniker The Southern Avenger, was exceedingly inspirational to me and was one of the key factors that ultimately led to the creation of this blog in mid 2008. He spoke at some length regarding the ideals and importance of constitutional conservatism as well as the damage done to both the Republican Party and the conservative movement by faux conservatives like Rick Santorum and Senator Lindsey Graham.
From there, I attended a taping of the Stossel Show. Below is a short, introductory clip of this soon-to-be aired episode.
After lunch, I took considerable time to wander among the tables of the various libertarian organizations, speaking to a whole host of folks including: The American Conservative, Americans for Self Government, the Free State Project, and the Libertarian Party. During this exploration, a man at one of the tables offered me a chance to drink raw milk. Given that I had never had such an opportunity before, I accepted. Worry not skeptics, so far I have not suffered any ill effects from this adventure.
Later, Representative Justin Amash (MI-3) chatted about “The Future of Liberty”. The room where he spoke was filled well beyond capacity and some attendees had to listen from the hallway. Although the representative did not spend too much time contemplating on the future, he did offer a number of unique insights of his service in Congress, such as his adherence to a political ideology when most of his colleagues simply bowed to the will of the party leadership.
After dinner, the Stossel Show filmed another episode, this one tailored for a much larger studio audience. Over a period of a little more than an hour and a half, Stossel featured guests such as Gary Johnson, Dennis Kucinich, and Ann Coulter.
When he brought up his last interviewee, former U.S. United Nations ambassador John Bolton, a good portion of the crowd left in protest. Mr. Bolton then spoke of his support of drone strikes, a position adamantly opposed by a vast majority of libertarians.
Sunday began at 10 AM with “How Libertarians Can Combat the Mainstream Media” with Jackie Bodner and Julie Borowski, also known as the Token Libertarian Girl. They offered advice on ways to make an impact with local and college news sources, tips on the creation of a successful blog, and ways to connect with other like-minded thinkers.
Although I could write additional pages about ISFLC, I believe that I’ve offered you some of the more interesting tidbits. It was surprising that Campaign for Liberty was absent and a bit disappointing that no Republican group was present, especially the Republican Liberty Caucus. Nevertheless, given that Students for Liberty brought together over a thousand students and activists from across the globe to network, hear from dozens of knowledgeable speakers, and learn about a multitude of important topics, I would rate the event as highly worthwhile.
Schedule permitting, I look forward to seeing you at ISFLC 2014!