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Posts Tagged ‘Madison Liberty’

IMG_2184On Wednesday evening, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis spoke in front of over a hundred students and members of the local community at James Madison University.  Sponsored by the Student Government Association, after Sarvis spoke he fielded numerous questions from the enthusiastic and supportive audience.

This trip marks Sarvis’ first visit to the Shenandoah Valley in about a month as he continually crisscrosses the state spreading awareness of his campaign.

Although a host official campaign materials were available on site, including palm cards, door hangers, bumper stickers, buttons, and yard signs, several supporters brought their own home-made signs, including this particularly amusing one featuring grumpy cat.

IMG_2195For JMU students who are interested in learning more about Robert Sarvis and the ideals of liberty, I encourage you to attend a meeting of Madison Liberty, a group which meets on Wednesday evenings starting at 7:00 PM in Taylor Hall, Room 305.

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Wednesday night proved to be another spirited and informative political debate at JMU.  About fifty people sat in the audience in the lecture hall that evening.  A few were from the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County community while most were enrolled at James Madison University.  Six students, two from each of the College Democrats, Madison Liberty, and the College Republicans spoke about their political beliefs and the positions of their party.  Katie Pillis and Mitch Weissman voiced the Democratic platform, Luke Wachob and Helen Shibut represented Madison Liberty, and Nicole Clarke and Cole Trower stood for the Republicans.

In the first round, each group had the opportunity to pose a question, while the remainder of the debate centered around queries fielded from the audience.  Topics discussed included: drone strikes and U.S. foreign policy, the drug war, Obamacare, and government subsidies.  The entire event lasted about an hour and a half.

For those who were unable to attend the debate, below is a video from the first hour.  Please note that there are two minor gaps in the video, first due to a small mechanical mishap and second as a result of a request from one of the debaters to delete a comment.  Nevertheless, the video should prove useful to assess the philosophy and prowess of each group and the student representatives who participated in this discussion.

A special thanks to Rick Showalter for the images for this piece.

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Picture by the JMU College Republicans

Picture by the JMU College Republicans of the April 22nd, 2012 debate

Tomorrow, April 3rd, three student groups on the campus of James Madison University will be participating in a spirited political debate.  Katie Pillis and Mitch Weissman will be representing the College Democrats, Cole Trower and Nicole Clark will speak for the College Republicans, and Helen Shibut and Luke Wachob will offer their perspective from Madison Liberty.

For the past several semesters, these organizations have come together to enhance dialogue at JMU.  For those who have not attended previously, here is a short write-up and video from their April 22nd, 2012 debate.

The debate will be taking place starting at 7:00 PM on April 3rd, at Miller Hall in Room 1101.  As with previous gatherings, it should prove to be both an enjoyable and informative time and so I hope to see you there tomorrow!

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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.

Party Milk
Dorian Electra

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.

IMG_1718
Jack Hunter

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.

Representative Justin Amash
Representative Justin Amash

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.

Ann Coulter & John Stossel
Ann Coulter & John Stossel

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.

Jackie Bodner & Julie Borowski
Jackie Bodner & Julie Borowski

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!

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Several months ago, I began to think of ways in which I could improve the political climate here in the Shenandoah Valley.  When I came up with the answer, it seemed so obvious.  Why not bring Representative Ron Paul to the area?  After all, there are a growing number of folks in the area, especially younger voters, like the students of James Madison University, that hold Dr. Paul in high regard.  In addition, to the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t been here in recent times; he didn’t have a campaign stop here during his presidential run in either 2007/08 or 2011/12.

PaulSo, with these thoughts in mind, I contacted Representative Paul’s office in order to arrange for him to speak in Harrisonburg.  Working in tandem with Madison Liberty, a JMU student group devoted to the principles of individual freedom and limited government, the idea of bringing Ron Paul to the Valley was transforming from a dream into a reality.  It was an exciting prospect!

And then came additional bits of favorable news.  The students of Madison Liberty secured a good location at JMU for Dr. Paul.  Plus, I was told that Ron Paul himself was interested in coming here.  I could get the necessary paperwork within days.  Only one hurdle remained.  Securing the funding for the event.

Now, I had expected that it would cost a good bit of money for Ron Paul to come to Harrisonburg.  One had to consider issues of transportation, lodging, and whatever he sought in the way of a speaker’s fee.  Nevertheless, I was stunned by the amount quoted to me.

As indicated by the title of this piece, I would need $55,000 for this event.  Yes, you read that figure correctly.  If he can make this kind of fee, then I suppose I can’t speak ill of it.  After all, free market principles dictate that he should charge whatever he is able to get.  Unfortunately, in the process, this kind of money will exclude many, myself included.  Part of me wishes that I could simply cut a check myself to cover the costs, but, like a vast majority of Americans, I don’t have $55,000 lying around.

Yes, perhaps my idea of bringing Dr. Paul to Harrisonburg might never amount to anything; a dream deterred.  Nevertheless, hope remains.

In closing, should any wealthy conservative and/or libertarian read this post and care to generously contribute to this project, please let me know.  Dr. Paul is and continues to be a hero to many of us in the liberty movement, myself included.  Is it too much to ask to share him with the fine folks of the Shenandoah Valley?  I suppose that’s the $55,000 question.

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Paul Ryan in Rockingham County
Photo by Helen Shibut

Paul Ryan, the Republican Representative for Wisconsin’s First Congressional District and Mitt Romney’s running mate, made a campaign stop at the Rockingham County Fair Grounds on Friday.  His visit marks the first of any presidential or vice presidential candidate to the central Shenandoah Valley.

Besides Representative Ryan, speakers also included: Delegate Tony Wilt of Rockingham County, Delegate Steve Landes of Augusta County, State Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg, and Representative Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke.

The event itself was quite well attended.  Most estimates I’ve read peg the audience about 3,000.  Like the recent Obama rally in Charlottesville, each person had to pass through “airport style security” overseen by both the Secret Service and the TSA.

Reaction to the gathering was mixed.  Although most of the people that I spoke with enjoyed Ryan’s speech, the event was plagued with a number of shortfalls.

First, no one could bring in liquids, which was expected.  However, the fact that one could not even get a cup of water without paying for it seemed completed absurd.  Would a person have to suffer through their thirst if he or she could not pay $2.00 for a beverage?

A view of a portion of the crowd and the fence that segregated attendees.

Second, the venue did not allow for a majority of the spectators to see Paul Ryan.  The organizers set up a ring of fences around the platform and only a portion could enter this circle.  Although raised, the platform was not nearly high enough for many people to even catch a glimpse of the man who could very well be our next vice president.

However, one positive aspect, as compared to the Obama event, was that the police did not close down traffic in a highly central location for the better part of an hour, which would have wasted the time of countless residents.

Overall, I would rate Ryan’s event a success even though, as mentioned, there were several aspects that could have been and should have been handled in a better manner.

So the next question is will any of the five presidential candidates: Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Gary Johnson, Virgil Goode, or Jill Stein, make a stop in the Shenandoah Valley between now and the election?  If you will recall, four years ago Barack Obama won the city of Harrisonburg after making a speech at JMU while John McCain merely sent a relative to the local GOP headquarters.  After all, personal campaigning is an important element to electoral success and Ryan’s visit on Friday should serve to bolster the local Republican effort.  Now how will the other candidates respond?  Our first answer comes tomorrow when Libertarian Party candidate Judge Jim Gray speaks at JMU.

As a final note, I want to shout out a special thanks to Helen Shibut of Madison Liberty for the picture of Paul Ryan.  As mentioned, I happened to be one of the countless spectators who could not get close enough to get a usable shot.

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From Madison Liberty

Tomorrow, Monday, September 17th, Judge Jim Gray, the Libertarian Party vice-presidential candidate, will be on the campus of James Madison University.  Madison Liberty is hosting the event.  As their name implies, they are a liberty-minded group of students at the university.

The gathering itself will be taking place starting at 3:30 PM on The Commons, which is next to D-Hall.  For non-JMU students, a parking pass is available at parking services, located in ground floor of the parking deck beside the football stadium on Champions Drive.

Whether you consider yourself libertarian, conservative, liberal, some other political persuasion, or even those who are not particularly informed, tomorrow provides another excellent opportunity for the students of James Madison and the surrounding community to expand political dialogue and learn more about Gary Johnson and his running mate, Judge Jim Gray.

You may have forgotten, but tomorrow is Constitution Day, the anniversary of the signing of our Constitution.  How better to commemorate the day than by spending an hour with Jim Gray alongside a bunch of students who actively seek to restore and expand our freedoms?

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Photo by the JMU College Republicans

On Thursday, three student-led groups at James Madison University held a debate to discuss a multitude of important political topics.  The groups involved were the College Democrats, the College Republicans, and Madison Liberty.   For the format of the event, each organization submitted two questions regarding a specific political issue that all of the groups then answered.

It was quite interesting to hear the differing positions of the students and their groups, to hear where they overlapped and where they disagreed.  All three seemed to support policies that are more tolerant of drug legalization than the mainstream of either the Republican or Democratic Parties.  Could this result simply stem from the college mentality of greater personal freedom?  Or does this commonality represent the growing acceptance of more liberal drug laws and a future in which each state or locality can set their own policies?  And when a Republican student from Washington D.C. asked if anyone thought that the American Civil War was not a “good war”, it was amusing to see a fair number of hands in the audience raised in opposition.

However, what made the evening truly special, in my mind, was the fact that the three groups made a conscious effort to come together in a civil atmosphere to actually discuss political principles.  Unfortunately, it seems as if the whole political sphere has become increasingly poisoned with divisive and unproductive rhetoric.  The mentality of far too many individuals is, why waste your time debating issues with people of differing opinions?

The 2012 Republican nomination for President, Senate, and House of Representatives shows a similar trend among members of the party.  For example, twenty-year incumbent Bob Goodlatte has so far refused to directly engage Karen Kwiatkowski, his primary opponent.  He practiced a similar move in 2010 when facing challengers outside of the GOP.  Although there are certainly tactical arguments to be made why he shouldn’t debate, his more or less outright refusal to do so further erodes the chance for future political dialogue here in the Shenandoah Valley.  Now it would be disingenuous to pretend Goodlatte is some sort of lone exception.  After all, this act has been the trend of frontrunners and incumbents for many years, a tactic used to delegitimize their opposition.  Nevertheless, regardless of the merits of the candidate who employs it, political debate ought to be encouraged rather than stifled.

However, I’m a bit disappointed to confess that I haven’t always held such a viewpoint.  As I recall, during my time with the College Republicans of William & Mary from 1998 to 2002, our group didn’t make many efforts to reach across the aisle to engage the Democrats or other opposed organizations in order to openly explain the difference in our two groups so that the student body could get a better understanding of the issues that separated us.  Why would we?  After all, weren’t they the hated enemy that we sought to defeat by any means necessary?  And what about the libertarians?  Those that came to our organization were typically viewed with suspicion and deemed too wacky to be taken seriously.  I’m glad to see that the JMU organizations are choosing a more open-minded path.

Getting back to the present, here in the Shenandoah Valley, there are currently at least five different kinds of political groups active: Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Constitutionalists, and the Tea Party.  Is it possible for some or all of these groups learn from the JMU students and to come together and offer the community a similar forum?  Or is such an idea nothing more than an idealistic dream?

Given their efforts to improve political dialogue on Thursday, I applaud the efforts of the JMU students in Madison Liberty, the College Republicans, and the College Democrats.  Although there is certainly a wide variety of political opinions, the attempt of these groups to not only reach out to the community for more recruits, but also foster a greater understanding and even tolerance for opposing viewpoints is a lesson that organizations outside the university and national political pundits would do well to learn.

For those of you who did not attend, to follow is a brief excerpt of the gathering.  I hope you find it informative.

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Liberty Online

If you are like myself, you’re always on the lookout for new, like-minded political blogs.  That’s why you can find a multitude of links on the right-hand side of the page promoting websites of merit.

Well, along those lines, I’m pleased to report that James Madison University’s student voice for liberty is now online.  The group, Madison Liberty, just created their own blog on Blogspot.

Whether you’re looking for additional commentary regarding the recent Senate debate, discussions of ideology, or would just like to keep a finger on the pulse of student activities at JMU, Madison Liberty’s website should be a great resource.  You may not agree with everything they say.  Heck, I’ve found that I’ve come to a different conclusion than one of their posts already.  Nevertheless, I believe that this website will be chocked-full of well-reasoned discussions and commentary.

So I encourage you to head over to Madison Liberty and see what they have to say.  Maybe we can share a comment or two.

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