Young Americans for Liberty met Saturday for their state conference at UNC's Kenan Conference Center and focused on sharing their philosophy of liberty — the idea of freeing Americans from the government’s fiscal and social infringement.
In the morning session, participants heard from speakers about civic engagement and activism, and the afternoon consisted of speeches from prominent politicians and Young Americans for Liberty affiliates.
“I liked it a lot,” said UNC junior Meredith Allen about the first half of the event. “The people who were talking had a lot of experience with campaigns. And I liked having that more hands-on experience, as opposed to having a professor talking to you.”
Alex Johnson, director of UNC’s YAL chapter, said she was excited the state convention was held at UNC and is enthusiastic about the student organization’s growth.
"I’m excited that we have such a large chapter, and it’s really grown this past year, and that we’ll have more opportunities to do more activism and educate the student body,” she said.
Edward King, director of programs and operations for the national YAL, said the Libertarian-centered movement started in 2008 after Ron Paul, then a presidential candidate, mobilized youth through “Students for Ron Paul.” After the race, YAL was established to continue engaging youth in Paul's principles.?
“We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit,” King said. “What we run our field program out of, we are focused on civic engagement, but we can’t get involved in political parties.”
He also said the nonprofit status of the organization means they aren’t overtly political — they can’t make specific endorsements — but can host events to share political philosophies and engage students in conversation.
Freshman Austin Bright said he joined UNC’s chapter of YAL because he liked their political philosophy.
“I like the idea of being left alone and left up to my own devices,” he said. “I think that for myself, I can determine what’s best for me, and I don’t need someone else to tell me that, whether it’s a government or another organization.”
The keynote speakers at the convention represented the movement’s diverse political and party affiliations, but all advocated for less government.
U.S. House Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican, said he did not support the war in Iraq and that he thinks the president has too much power to bypass Congress when deploying troops.
The second speaker, John Allison, is a UNC alumnus, former president of BB&T and current president and CEO of Cato Institute, a Libertarian think tank in Washington.?He delivered a speech emphasizing a need to expand capitalism and rethink egalitarianism.
“Capitalism was invented and transformed the quality of life for human beings,” he said. “The reason capitalism did that is it gave people the opportunity to experiment, pursue the truth, to innovate and be creative. Liberty is essential for economic wellbeing. It’s also essential for spiritual wellbeing.”
Clarence Henderson, a participant in the Greensboro sit-in and chairman of North Carolina’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, delivered the final keynote, addressing the government’s infringement of human rights — which, he said, should be reasserted through a principle-driven movement.
“The lord is my shepherd — not the government,” Henderson said. “We must ask ourselves — are we going to continue to ring the liberty bell or allow ourselves to be taken back to the tyranny of King George III?”
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