If you missed the 2017 YAL Spring Summit in Los Angeles this past weekend, you really missed out! There were great speakers, great sponsors with goodies to give out, and great people attending to get along with. Absolutely golden speakers included popular vlogger Julie Borowski, comedian Lou Perez, and the great libertarian champion, Congressman Ron Paul.
The best part of the experience for me, other than getting to see a bunch of old friends from years of activism, was a moment of reflection. Young Americans for Liberty has been around for nearly 10 years, though most of its growth and prosperity has been in the last 5. Having grown from just a few dozen chapters in 2009 to 900 chapters in 2017, YAL has come so far!
It's an organization I was proud to be a part of then, and it's an organization I'm proud to take part in today.
I entered the American libertarian circles (what people commonly call "the liberty movement") early in 2011, after reading 'The Revolution: A Manifesto' showed me how my College Republican worldview rested on pudding. An old comrade and YAL member Peter Tariche recruited me to start a Youth for Ron Paul chapter on my campus. In 2011 and 2012 my volunteers and I campaigned tirelessly for Dr. Paul.
At the time, we really thought we were going to make Ron Paul the next President of the United States. In hindsight, amazing and inspiring as Dr. Paul is, it was really his ideas we were fighting tirelessly for. We took his ideas of maximum civil and individual liberty, sound money, and a humble foreign policy and made them our own. After all, we were the ones who were battling student loan debt, were struggling to find a steady job in the "recovery", and more than a few of us had been in uniform and were tired of endless war with no results.
YAL was officially founded at the end of 2008, right after Dr. Paul's first Republican presidential campaign, but 2012 was the election cycle that really grew YAL. I won't go into detail, but let's just say a certain Republican, strongly libertarian candidate from Texas was totally screwed over by his Party's establishment. The outrage over that Party's treatment of said Fed-hating candidate, combined with the outrage over Barack Obama's reelection, significantly grew 2 pro-liberty organizations: Young Americans for Liberty and the Libertarian Party.
I'm a proud Libertarian--yes, even after Gary Johnson (one doesn't hate or abandon one's own team because they disagree with the team captain of one season). However, the beauty of YAL is that it gives me an umbrella to work with Republicans and Democrats on campus who care about principles more than party.
I attended a YAL debate viewing party in Las Vegas a year ago ad had a blast. Sitting on the same sofa were a College Democrat chapter leader and Bernie supporter, a Republican supporter of Rand Paul, and Yours Truly, the Senior Contributor for LP Nevada. We disagreed on candidates but we agreed that the U.S.' imperial war policy was a disaster, the War on Drugs is a brutal failure, and the Federal Reserve needs to be ended. Three parties, three candidates, one organization, one set of shared values... that's the beauty of YAL! It encourages people to work together on the majority of issues they agree on instead of hating each other over disagreements the way the mass media wants them to for good ratings.
Seeing Julie Borowski deliver a great talk, plus commentary on some of her recent parody videos, was top notch. Julie is wildly popular in political circles today, but she's still the same sweet, humble, soft-spoken gal I met at YAL's 2012 National Convention (Ron Paul was SO gonna be President that year, dammit!). Back then the organization really had to reach to get 250 American college kids to show up in one room. In 2017, there were easily that many just at the Los Angeles Spring Summit. YAL used to take up a conference room on college campuses; today it throws summits at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Apart from seeing Juli Borowski fan-girling super hard over Dr. Paul, it was amazing to see other old faces. Liberty brothers like Amir Zendehnam and Nick Hankoff were HUGE grass roots organizers for the Paul campaign in 2011-12 and are almost single-handedly responsible for other pro-liberty victories in the LA area. They helped bring Dr. Paul to speak at UCLA in 2012. I remember that night clearly--I was mortified when some dang old libertarian kids were smoking joints in line, since I was afrid the older folks would figure out we weren't real Republicans, but just college activists hijacking whatever political party was convenient for advancing their revolutionary agenda.
I also remember that same night at UCLA, when people were lined up for a mile, hopping fences, and climbing trees just to hear Dr. Ron Paul's message of liberty and, most importantly, of hope. That night I addressed some other Youth for Ron Paul chapter leaders during a pow wow. I saw how the establishment was actively trying to suppress the growing libertarian faction and I warned them that there was a possibility Ron Paul might not win in 2012, and that our 'campaign for liberty' might take 20 years to accomplish. One of the YFP chapter leaders there that night was Ben Roden, who would later become UC Riverside's YAL chapter leader. Seeing him still involved with the organization made me glad.
I'm glad people like him are staying around to guide today's college students to become principled defenders of liberty, to stand against fascism and racial nationalism when those fads pop up in our ranks, and most importantly, teaching them how to work hard and do effective activism in the real world instead of making enemies on Facebook.
I couldn't think of a more powerful testimony to the work of pioneers like Ludwig von Mises, Leonard Reed (founder of FEE), Murray Rothbard, and Ron Paul than to see high school students and college freshmen taking the train and Uber to a political convention. I stood there with Cliff Maloney at the evening social and we reminisced. Both of us were starry-eyed young activists back then. But in hindsight, our activism started over a decade ago.
It's been an honor to be a part of Young Americans for Liberty, and it gives me hope to see the new generation of college students carrying on the work we did.