This weekend, thousands of liberty-loving students from across the country gathered in Washington D.C. for the 10th annual International Students for Liberty Conference (ISFLC). One of the largest gatherings of Libertarian students in the world, the three-day long conference is a great way for students to network, meet new friends and hear from a variety of keynote speakers. Noteworthy speakers at past conferences include Cato Institute Vice President David Boaz, Ron Paul and a video chat with Edward Snowden
The organization behind the conference, Students for Liberty (SFL), is a libertarian nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and advocating the ideals of liberty. Although it originally started as a small meeting between college friends at a leadership conference, SFL has since grown into an international movement with nearly 3,000 local student groups stretching across every inhabited continent.
As a member of SFL, University of South Carolina junior Dalton Green explains that the International Students for Liberty Conference is one of the most anticipated events of the year for Libertarian students.
I was ready for this year’s conference the moment last year’s ended. I suppose it may seem strange to people who have never attended, but the atmosphere is indescribable. Everyone is just so happy to be there and you always run into new friends.
Dalton explains that he went to the conference with a group of friends from his campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), another Libertarian organization which often works closely with SFL. According to Dalton, SFL reimburses each group that brings ten or more students to the conference, so his group simply loaded the cars with snacks and started the trek to D.C.
Still, it wasn’t all fun and games. Dalton warns of the dangers of picking the wrong car and being stuck with “truly god awful music”.
“Have you ever heard of Russian Chanson? Look it up. After 7 hours, I can promise it’s very very real.”
All joking aside, Dalton explains that it's these very idiosyncrasies and differences that makes the conference so special. With people from all across the country and from every walk of life, he says that you never know who you're going to run into. People come to the conference to learn and debate, but sometimes they walk away with a little more.
You grow as a person. I once met a woman who was working as a prostitute in order to pay for her college tuition. She didn't have the same political concerns as me but I learned so much from her. We’re good friends now.
Another attendant, senior Mary Biggins from New York University explains that this was her fourth year attending the conference.
It’s amazing how much it’s grown. I remember how huge it was when we first cleared 1,000 attendants but now that’s just a given. It really gives me hope for the future of this organization and Libertarianism as a whole.
Still, Mary misses a few aspects of the older conferences. As the conferences become larger and larger, Mary believes that some people may be missing out on the more personable side of the conference.
Of course, I know a lot of people who have also been coming to the conferences for years and we all get together. But I feel bad for some of these young kids who don’t know what to do and are intimidated by it all.
Additionally, Mary laments the end of her favorite speaker, John Stossel. Some may recall this name as the host of the libertarian news analysis program “Stossel” on Fox Business. A libertarian himself, Stossel loved to hear from young college students and would film part of his show at ISFLC. This gave students a unique opportunity to talk and engage with Stossel while also getting them a voice.
With Stossel off the air, he obviously can’t do that the way he used to and I really missed him this year.
Nevertheless, Mary explains that ISFLC was an overall success and that she didn’t see anyone with a sad face, even "when Rand couldn’t make it".
All in all, the International Students for Liberty Conference is something everyone should experience, regardless of political orientation. After all, where else can you find Vermin Supreme, Rand Paul and Judge Napolitano in one place? Besides, it's an unparalleled opportunity to learn, have fun and forge lifelong friendships. As Dalton explains,
I didn’t know what a libertarian was when I joined YAL and went to my first ISFLC. Now, these people have become my family.
Lead Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons