Students for Liberty has grown from a handful of college students in 2008 who wanted to share ideas for how to build their libertarian campus groups to a worldwide network of more than 1,350 student groups representing more than 100,000 students on all inhabited continents. That stunning growth in the space of seven short years led to its largest gathering to date, the 2015 International Students for Liberty Conference (ISFLC) held from Feb. 13–15 in Washington, D.C. — with 1,715 attendees, the largest turnout ever.
Interns Keegan Cooke, Emma Dyce, Matthew Salomon, and Nicholas Farrar were among those representing Atlas Network and interacting with the students and other conference attendees in the exhibition hall.
Students for Liberty has long been an Atlas Network partner organization, and the two groups have collaborated extensively on programs, books, conferences, and more. At this year’s ISFLC, Atlas Network maintained an extensive presence, both with a prominent information table in the exhibition hall promoting Atlas Network’s mission and publications, and with a series of panels and breakout sessions featuring Atlas Network speakers and programs.
Students for Liberty campus leaders from around the world attended the Atlas Leadership Academy fundraising workshop and competition at ISFLC on Saturday morning.
On Saturday morning, Atlas Network Vice President of Marketing and Communications Daniel Anthony and Vice President of Programs and Institute Relations Matt Warner led an Atlas Leadership Academy fundraising workshop and competition, designed to help leaders of student groups look closely at their grant proposals and refine their goals, objectives, tactics, and target audiences into a successful pitch. One student took home a $1,000 grant awarded on the spot that day, and the others are much better positioned for competitive proposal submissions in the future.
Tom G. Palmer, Atlas Network’s executive vice president for international programs, spoke to students on Saturday morning about how to craft an effective and engaging public speaking style.
Also on Saturday morning, Atlas Network Executive Vice President of International Programs Tom G. Palmer presented a breakout session about effective public speaking techniques. Convincing people involves careful strategy, he pointed out.
“Your audience is not made up of passive people just waiting for you to pour ideas into their heads,” Palmer said. “The other player can anticipate your moves, and you can anticipate theirs.”
How can a speaker overcome hecklers and other audience distractions? How does one dress properly for a speaking occasion? What are some effective methods for ordering arguments effectively and providing the proper rhetorical road signs for listeners to follow? What types of cultural customs are important to consider? Which logistical considerations can make or break the smooth functioning of a successful presentation? Palmer addressed all these topics and more, drawing from his decades of experience representing libertarian ideas before a wide array of international audiences.
“Our purpose is not to ‘win arguments,’ but to win friends for liberty by having the best arguments; not to defeat foes, but to win allies,” Palmer said.
North Korean refugee and human rights activist Yeonmi Park spoke before a packed crowd on Saturday morning.
Late Saturday morning, human rights activist Yeonmi Park captivated a standing-room-only audience with her heartbreaking personal story of oppression inside North Korea and her escape from both that regime and China by walking to Mongolia with a compass, and beginning her new life in the free world as a refugee — an experience filled with both heartbreaking tragedy and heroism. Park represents North Korea’s “black market generation,” a rising attitude among the nation’s youth that is gradually working around and escaping the totalitarian mindset drilled into them from the time they are born.
Park has spoken at many Atlas Network events, including the 2014 Liberty Forum and Freedom Dinner in New York City and another presentation on Saturday at Atlas Network headquarters, where she spoke alongside Atlas Network Asia Outreach Fellow Casey Lartigue, who also serves as director for international relations with Freedom Factory Co. Ltd. in South Korea.
Palmer autographed copies of a recent book he edited, Peace, Love, & Liberty, the latest essay collection in a series produced in partnership between Atlas Network and Students for Liberty.
In a general session just before lunch, Palmer turned his attention toward why self-control, rather than state control, “is radical, subversive, and cool.” Although the word “responsibility” can conjure the thought of scolding adults, in fact the history of liberty is also the history of personal responsibility — and denying freedom entails stunting the growth of personal responsibility and good habits.
Palmer addressed the history of self-aware libertarian thought from the time of Richard Overton and the Levellers to the present, explaining how taking personal responsibility is an act of liberation and adulthood.
“The practical reason for freedom is that freedom seems to be the only condition under which any kind of substantial moral fiber can be developed,” wrote the early 20th century libertarian author Albert Jay Nock. “Everything else has been tried, world without end. Going dead against reason and experience, we have tried law, compulsion and authoritarianism of various kinds, and the result is nothing to be proud of."
Palmer closed his presentation with the observation that this generation — the Students for Liberty generation — is the generation of responsibility and freedom, and that he is ashamed of the legacy of runaway public spending and debt that his generation has left behind.
“I am so very, very, very proud of each and every one of you,” Palmer said. “Thank you very much for what you are doing. You make me deeply happy.”
North Korean refugee and human rights activist Yeonmi Park and several other notable figures in the liberty movement attended Atlas Network’s donor luncheon featuring Venezuelan expatriate and activist Helena Ball as the speaker.
Atlas Network hosted a luncheon on Saturday featuring Helena Ball, a Venezuelan expatriate and graduate of the London School of Economics who detailed the brutal economic conditions and violations of individual liberty currently experienced every day by residents of Venezuela. Ball explained how Cuba’s communist regime infiltrated the Venezuelan government after the death of former dictator Hugo Chavez, and told the audience that Venezuela is “is a country hijacked by thugs, controlled by Cuba, and aching to return to freedom.”
Atlas Network Vice President of Marketing and Communications Daniel Anthony presents a breakout session about how to leverage digital strategy to advance the liberty movement.
On Saturday afternoon, Atlas Network’s Daniel Anthony presented his breakout session on “Digital Strategies for a Free Society,” a fast-paced and hands-on workshop designed to help students harness the many tools available on the Internet to build their organizations, spreading their message further, faster, and more effectively than ever.
There are so many different tools and metrics that can be used to leverage online success that Anthony compared digital strategy to a juggling act.
“Juggling is a system of tosses and throws, of different patterns that, once broken down, understood, and mastered, can be put together to create something magical,” the famed and innovative juggler Michael Moschen said. Anthony pointed out that it’s first necessary to identify which core “balls” exist in the digital strategy juggling challenge and learn how to handle each of their unique “tosses and throws.”
By first curating content appropriate for an organization’s target audience, then creating and posting it within an online, scheduled format that allows it to be readily found and digested, organizations can better take advantage of opportunities to engage their audience by fostering a community dialogue and then monitor the results through appropriate metrics and analysis.
Free-market economists Dr. Lawrence White, Dr. George Selgin, and Dr. William Luther all participated in a panel discussion hosted by Atlas Network’s Sound Money Project, moderated by Grants and Awards Program Associate Johannes Schmidt.
Also on Saturday afternoon, Atlas Network’s Sound Money Project hosted a panel discussion with well-known free-market economists Dr. Lawrence White of George Mason University, Dr. William Luther of Kenyon College, and Dr. George Selgin of the Cato Institute, moderated by Atlas Network’s Grants and Awards Program Associate Johannes Schmidt.
The panel participants examined the state of monetary policy in the 21st century, exploring both past monetary failures and alternatives for better policy in the future. Dr. White explored the merits of free banking and the gold standard, Dr. Selgin detailed the failures of the Federal Reserve, and Dr. Luther analyzed the future of Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies. Together, they concluded that if monetary policy were less interventionist, we would have more stable money that would not necessarily resemble the currency system that we have today.
From left to right: Autumn Lansford, Atlas Leadership Academy program associate; Ratko Nikolić, co-founder and president of Serbian libertarian student organization “Studenti za slobodu”; Daniel Anthony, vice president of marketing and communications; Matt Warner, vice president of programs and institute relations; and Cindy Cerquitella, Atlas Leadership Academy director.
ISFLC was filled with speakers, presentations, and displays from many other Atlas Network partners and liberty-friendly organizations, and volumes could be written about all their contributions to the battle for freedom. Students for Liberty has taken the liberty movement by storm, and their growth shows no signs of slowing. By bringing the world’s rising generation of freedom activists together each year to share strategy and ideas, ISFLC is proving to be one of the most important events in the modern liberty movement. Atlas Network will continue to support them, working side by side for a free tomorrow.