Kennesaw State University’s Free Speech Wall Event

Before I begin with photos and commentary on the success of the Free Speech Wall event at Kennesaw State University, I want to preface this with a not-so-nice trip to this chapter’s recent past. I’d like to do this to show a parallel of what we were, and what we’re becoming. A comparison that will allow one to better appreciate what we did this week.

Prior to my YAL National Convention training and subsequent arrival as president to this chapter, KSU’s YAL went through a one-year period in which we stagnated and began to decline in membership, interest, activism, events — everything. Rumor was circling around other political organizations that we were done — that the start of the 2013-2014 year would mark the end of the struggling chapter. In short, at the end of the 2012-2013 year, we were down to about two or three active members.

I wanted to defy these rumors and reverse the downward trend. My YALcon training inspired me to make this chapter like the many success stories that were shared during that amazing weekend in August. Better yet, I had about four or five interested members that who, because of the chapter’s earlier circumstances weren’t engaged last year, but were ready and eager to join me in building this chapter back up again. Within the first month, we achieved Certified Student Organization status (CSO). It was the first time in over a year that we had achieved that. We then had our first meeting, the first in almost a year. After a couple of meetings and our first tabling event in a long time as well, we were ready to revive this inactive chapter and go forward with Constitution Week!

Free Speech Wall — September 19th

As aforementioned, we tabled before the event a week before, put up flyers all over campus and even got a spot in the Sentinel school-newspaper advertising the free speech wall.

Still a little bummed that the journalist got my first name wrong. But at least she got the “Young Americans for Liberty” part right, which is I guess what matters. 

So, time came for the actual event. This was my second event ever, and my first event as chapter president. I had only tabled twice ever before this. So, needless to say, I was a bundle of nerves and pretty inexperienced. Not to mention, I was leading a group of people that had even less experience than I did.

Our motto: Go big or go home. Not really, but it’s fitting because our free speech wall was humongous. It was made out of a massive free-standing frame that our member Nathan Wilson made, which held up four walls of Sheetrock  measuring at 4ft. x 8ft. each.

I was personally out there from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Other members joined for a few hours here and there across that time period. It didn’t take long for my nervousness — and that of my fellow members — to go away. The free speech wall was such a hit, and our confidence soared as the hours went by.

Dozens of people actually thanked us for putting a free speech wall up. One young lady said, “Why don’t groups do stuff like this more often? Stuff that actually matters? Thank you for putting this up. This is awesome.” Every last pocket Constitution, which had a palm card inside and a label of our chapter’s information stuck to that, was picked up from our table. I’m talking every Constitution: The ones that YAL sent specifically for this week, and the other bundles I had from two different recruitment/starter boxes. 

I tried naively to keep a count of how many different people contributed to the wall. I lost count at around 500-600… and that was at 2:00 p.m.

Not everyone wanted to sign up to our email list. But that’s okay, and it’s expected. Those that simply enjoyed it for what it was, made their contribution to the wall. Those that were kind-of on the fence took a Constitution because I told them it had our information on the inside palm card, and those that were very interested and wanted to become more politically active, actually signed the email list. So the 50+ sign-ups that were collected were actually quality sign-ups, in my opinion. Time will tell if there are any future leaders in there.

A young man, standing amongst a group of his friends, after I told him what YAL is and what YAL does said, “Wow. Students say and stand for a lot of things. But this has made the most sense out of all of it. This is more important than ever. It is so important. I’m not even into politics, but you just sold it to me. Where do I sign up?” I think that those words epitomized our success that day. It put a smile on my face that wasn’t shaken off for the rest of the day.

Here are pictures of the three other walls:

And here’s me putting up a few of my favorite quotes from Ron Paul and a couple funny ones by the second greatest Ron: Ron Swanson.

Oh, and I almost forgot: Six hours in the Georgia sun.

Conclusion

We took the walls down at around quarter-after-five. Even then, a group of about six students rushed to the cargo van where we were loading everything, asking if they can write on it before we hauled it away. One guy wrote rap lyrics that he had written saying, “This is so cool. When I get big, you can sell that piece of Sheetrock for a fortune.” Another girl put a Bible verse, again, thanking us for what we did on campus that day.

Our success on Thursday I don’t think can measured in numbers — although, granted, they were very impressive. Our success was much deeper than that. For starters, we may have just doubled our chapter’s size with this event. Our image and reputation on campus, which is being built all over again, has started on a well-received and positive footing.

The morale boost from this event has solidified the positions of other members already in this chapter. They can’t wait to do the next thing and have been eager to know what they can do to help. I got to see my new officers, who are completely new to this, in action, and boy, was I surprised. They are total naturals. And finally, a clear message was sent to the campus, the student organizations, and all the students of KSU that day:The Young Americans for Liberty chapter at Kennesaw State University is very much alive and well!

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