The first weekend of March opened with big events in Texas. Specifically, the Young Americans for Liberty State Convention! Saturday March 2nd was a day filled with exciting speakers, thought provoking discussion, chapter networking, and of course free food, with members from all over the state gathered at UT-Arlington’s Lone Star Auditorium. We here at New Mexico State University felt it was only natural to visit our neighbor state and join in.
The day prior began with an early morning meeting at our chapter co-founder’s home, ready and eager to make the ten hour drive — forgotten suits and missed alarms notwithstanding. After a brief once-over to designate drivers and fill up tanks, we filed into our vehicles, got on the road and drove… and drove… and drove, luckily managing to stick together for most of the drive.
The earliest highlight of the ride up would have to be the border patrol checkpoint and a meeting with an officer who was none too fond of being recorded. The next several hours blurred into a conversation whose topics shifted from video games and mathematicians to snoring and jokes, all undertaken in the name of our firm belief in personal liberty… and to prevent the driver from clocking out behind the wheel between stops for gas and beef jerky, among other things.
For some among our ranks, our first arrival into Arlington was something to be marveled at, we Las Crucens being shocked at the sight of a genuine thriving city, alive with lit glass facades against a backdrop of night and the pillar of civilization that is the “Taco Casa” advertised in bright lights. This state of awe proved to become a bit of a problem however, as the truck carrying Austin and Luke was lost among the traffic, leaving the second car at the whim of two people unfamiliar with the area and one passenger who could get us on the right street. Eventually though, with a flipped U-turn and a couple of missed lefts here and there, we arrived at the hotel.
We immediately went to get some pre-convention drinks with some other freedom fans in our area, setting upon a bar aptly named “Redneck Heaven.” The setting proved the name of the establishment to be quite accurate: the country music was loud enough to drown out any timidly-spoken conversation. A sign by our table read, “Guns only have two enemies: rust and politicians,” which was a strong indication that we were in the right place. Our chapter was able to sit down with YAL chapters from Houston and our sister city, El Paso. Among those with us that night was none other than the convention’s keynote speaker Jack Hunter, known professionally as The Southern Avenger.
The convention morning started bright and early (perhaps a little earlier than a night out had prepared us for!) with an introduction by YAL Executive Directory Jeff Frazee and the keynote by Jack Hunter. Mr. Hunter expressed his thoughts on liberty’s place in American politics, and proved that our cause is growing by introducing, over Skype, Senator Rand Paul.
Senator Paul talked about his current work and upcoming battles in the Senate: the front lines of the battle against government growth and power. He didn’t leave us without anything to take home, though: his advice to those who were unsure of their place in the liberty movement and those young people who valued their freedom but wanted to exercise it in pursuits other than politics, was simply to do what you love and get into politics when you are older. This strategy worked remarkable well for Senator Paul, who only entered the national stage at age 47 after many years as a successful ophthalmologist.
On our lunch break, members of our chapter had opportunities to meet the many sponsors who worked to get the convention off the ground. The Advocates for Self Government, creators of the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, among other things, offered buttons to identify a person as a Libertarian, a Conservative, or even a Statist (which turned out to be the most popular choice). A few attendees took advantage of their new identities as statists and offered to give people their “daily pat-down.” Another booth had free copies of books that included The Road to Serfdom, Economics in One Lesson, and The Law. These went fast, almost as if everyone coincidentally had assigned reading due the next day.
Soon after lunch, we were given two presentations by Chris Doss of the leadership institute. Our chapter’s co-president, when describing this trip beforehand, explained that he was most excited for Chris Doss, even more than Jack Hunter or Rand Paul. He was right: these talks by an admitted grammar enthusiast and former member of the political establishment were funny, insightful, and instructive.
The major theme was how to be an activist; we learned about what our own presentations should look like, such as the right way to table on campus and the wrong way to speak to people who disagree. One of the most important ideas we took with us was that our YAL chapter didn’t need to convert or even to educate: we simply needed to find the people at our university who are already sympathetic with the values of liberty.
Leaders in YAL took the stage afterward to provide accounts of their own exploits in political activism. Included were the outgoing and upcoming YAL Regional Directors for our area, and a person who worked on the Ted Cruz Senate campaign. It was important to hear what one could expect from activism in the real world, as change in America doesn’t happen at speeches or conventions.
The following 2 hours were dedicated to local and statewide policy discussion. We decided to take a break from the Lone Star Auditorium as we were neither from the area or from the state, and spent the next few hours talking with people from the El Paso chapter about economics, politics, and classical music. Who knew that the Federal Reserve System is always an appropriate topic of conversation?
Our last speaker was Congressman Steve Stockman. He explained to us his own story and some adventures he had (some that he couldn’t talk about in public!) when running for congress in 2010. Stockman was probably the most hilarious speaker that day, which was unexpected for someone in Congress. He was also controversial: a few questions were dodged (though mainly with jokes) and some questions that he answered about defense and cyberwarfare suggested a stance that didn’t line up with the non-interventionist opinions of the majority of those in the crowd.
The Las Cruces chapter spent the remainder of the convention night drinking and having fun. Though the ten hour drive home took any energy we still had, our first convention as a chapter gave us all some ideas on where we stand in the political battles ahead.Published in