YAL at the University of West Florida Addresses Local Politics and Political Philosophy

Rebekah Johansen
Nov 5, 2012 at 6:52 PM

Speakers Barry, Valentino, and Robertson

On Thursday, October 25, Young Americans for Liberty at the University of West Florida held our inaugural event, Campus Debates with members of and candidates for the Escambia County, Florida, County Commission. Working with the College Republicans, College Democrats, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, students were able to contact and communicate with all candidates and members from Escambia County's 5 districts. Ultimately, three speakers -- Escambia County Commissioner Wilson Robertson (District 1), Escambia County Commissioner Gene Valentino (District 2), and candidate Steven Barry (District 5) -- attended and participated in an informal panel discussion of local issues.

Student moderators

The first part of the forum consisted of student moderators discussing with the candidates their views on the government's role in issues such as personal choice and drug policy, business, and social issues and asking for local examples.

Sponsors with Steven Barry

Although the setup and intent was not to have necessarily a libertarian, liberal, and conservative, this turned out to be the case. Throughout the night, Commissioner Robertson offered strong defense of liberty ideas such as that of personal choice in terms of medical decriminalization, saying, "As long as you don't hurt anyone else, what business does the government have in telling you what you put in your body?" He also offered a strong defense of the idea that private citizens can best handle social issues.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Valentino opened a discussion of government and business by quoting John Maynard Keynes and defending the idea of too-big-to-fail. Finally, Mr. Barry provided insight into and perspective from the issues faced by the residents of the more rural, conservative areas in Escambia's fifth district. Questions from the audience closed out the evening, bringing the focus around to specific local issues.

This forum was unique among local political forums. "This was a fantastic event," said Robertson, "it let us talk about things that don't normally get discussed but probably should." Barry agreed, saying "usually in local politics, you see the same faces and hear the same questions everywhere you go, but this one stands out."

Young Americans for Liberty at UWF hopes to use this event to launch into being a large and active student political group along with launching a new political conversation on campus.