More than 300 conservative youth activists from the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) gathered for a day-long summit in the Mundelein Center on Feb. 12 to discuss political ideas, build leadership skills and network with fellow YAL members from across the Midwest.
The event was not only the first YAL summit held at Loyola, but the first held in Chicago.
Throughout the day, a variety of speakers discussed topics ranging from how to influence those with opposing viewpoints to how to spread the message of liberty on social media. Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) gave the keynote address in the evening.
YAL said it’s the “largest, fastest-growing and most active pro-liberty organization on America’s college campuses,” according to a YAL press release. There are more than 800 chapters on college campuses across the United States.
The main theme of the day was spreading liberty. Some speakers asked attendees to promote the summit using the hashtag #MakeLibertyWin.
“Each [YAL] Summit will educate college students in the ideas of liberty and train them in how to influence the political process,” the press release stated.
But what are the exact ideas of liberty that students and speakers came together to celebrate? The term itself lacks specificity, and YAL doesn’t endorse any one political party, according to its president, Cliff Maloney Jr.
“As a nonprofit, we endorse ideas. We do not endorse candidates, parties or specific legislation,” Maloney Jr. said.
Maloney Jr. said YAL’s ideas of liberty follow the notions that individual freedom tops bigger government, free speech is essential and the Constitution should serve as the nation’s primary guideline.
Loyola students at the summit defined liberty in their own ways.
Amber Loveshe, 21, is an outreach coordinator for Loyola College Republicans who helped register students and advertise for the summit. She said she believes YAL provides a good way for students to develop their leadership skills and get involved with politics. For her, liberty is universal and unable to be infringed.
“[Liberty is] about making sure … regardless of who you are or where you came from, that when you’re in this country your freedoms are protected, and sometimes I personally feel that government can infringe on your liberties,” said the junior criminal justice major. “To me, being part of YAL [is] about educating people because I think a lot of people in the young generation can have a voice and make a change.”
Loyola sophomore Cameron Casey, a College Republicans member, said he had a great time at the summit and added he thinks YAL has provided him with valuable leadership opportunities.
“It’s really gotten me to take charge in leadership with planning events,” the 19-year-old political science major said. “With College Republicans … there’s no way for me to go test my skills, but for this, it was a lot of ‘See what you can do,’ [and] ‘See how you can help out with the cause.’”
Casey said what he thinks makes YAL great is its lack of party affiliation.
“It’s refreshing because [YAL is] all about winning on principle, not really about anything partisan,” Casey said. “We’re not a group affiliated with Democrats. We’re not a group affiliated with Republicans. We’re just these set principles we believe in and that’s what we’re going to push.”
“Liberty means being able to live the life you want to live, without the government getting so involved in every little thing you do,” said Taylor Hollister, a psychology student from Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). “I think the current political climate lacks empathy — we’re quick to judge each other without listening to others’ needs. We can’t choose how other people live.”
Hollister’s twin sister, Rori, also attended the event. Though she described herself as “more liberal” than her sister, the IPFW graphic design student said she thinks there needs to be more “actual political dialogue happening” in order to promote the ideas of liberty discussed at the summit.
“The country is so disorganized right now. Everyone’s fighting each other,” Rori said. “Conservatives are calling liberals snowflakes, liberals are calling conservatives fascists … We need to break free from that and accept that one side isn’t right and the other isn’t wrong. We need compromise.”