Three semesters ago, YAL at Central Michigan University was just a thought amongst three soon-to-be activists scribbled on a few pieces of paper. Today, CMU YAL has grown to engulf several dozen students into the ideas of liberty, and I, as State Chair, have had the privilege of helping other activists create their own YAL groups in Michigan. At the first ever Michigan YAL State Convention, the aspiring network of Michigan activists came together to propel themselves into their next tier of efficacy.
We started by getting the word out at home. To promote for the convention at CMU, we took advantage of the #WarOnYOUth activism kit and spread awareness about the national debt in an unconventional way.
In just a few hours, dozens of students participated and learned about the nation’s astounding national debt. Sixteen students signed up to learn more about the upcoming State Convention!
Just a week later, CMU YAL geared up for our biggest event yet, and over one-hundred activists from as far away as the Upper Peninsula. During our icebreaker, we were pleasantly surprised to see that most of our attendees’ first event with YAL was that very day, several coming from high school, and even one younger than that; one engaged middle school student came to finally learn the answer to his question “What’s better, public or private roads?” Luckily, he found his answer.
As the day progressed, students got to learn about exciting opportunities with our sponsoring organizations, network with one another, and develop their activism skills in how to put on successful activism projects. Some students, being at their first liberty-oriented event, found ways to further progress their group’s efforts and their professional ambitions.
After our lunch break, activists got ready to hear from our featured speakers. Shikha Dalmia of the Reason Foundation was up first, offering an answer to “What’s Holding Detroit Back?” Here’s a hint: the government. Up next was Manuel Lopez from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, one of the nation’s best state-based pro-liberty think tanks.
Shikha’s talk sparked some good, heated debate, and was incredibly informative. Manny’s gave students an idea of how they can find alternatives to traditional media through the Mackinac Center’s editorial “Capitol Confidential.” Recently, he shared, they had discovered and controversially reported ludicrous Michigan union contracts allowing teachers to be drunk up to five times on the job.
Just before we geared up for our keynote address, I gave a brief talk on how to overcome university bureaucracy and grow a YAL chapter when there are institutional roadblocks in the way. With all activism talks considered, students certainly left with a wealth of knowledge to put to use on their campuses.
As our final event, CMU was privileged to host Congressman Justin Amash who spoke on the current state of the legislature and how he has been working to “move the needle more in the direction of freedom.” Amongst many of his efforts, he was pleased to share an update on the House Liberty Caucus, Amash’s original organization of pro-liberty representatives, and how it has grown steadily since its inception. The tide, he said, is slowly turning in the favor of liberty. All in all, “things are looking optimistic,” both Amash and I noted, recognizing that positive change is happening at both the legislative and activist levels. For Michigan, our YAL convention demonstrated that the state has much promise for the liberty movement, and things are just beginning for us.
Thanks to all of the committed activists who attended, and YAL National for their indelible support!