Students from all over the world descended on Washington, D.C. this weekend for the International Students for Liberty Conference. It is the premier event for millennials who believe in the principles of freedom. And although we’ve heard the talking heads on TV discussing the all-important “youth vote” for months now, do we really know what their main concerns are or how they view the current Presidential election cycle? FortySix News has discovered that this extremely diverse demographic is not as simple to comprehend as political pundits would have us believe.
I arrived early and staked out a prime spot in the main entrance of the hotel where the conference was being held. My goal: Find out why students from all corners of the globe were here and what their thoughts were regarding the Presidential election, as well as what their thoughts on the candidates from both major parties were. The answers I got to these questions were interesting and, at times, somewhat surprising.
Most of the students/millennials I spoke with told me they came to the conference to network with others from around the world that do not have the same freedoms that Americans take for granted. They want to discuss with others the struggles they face promoting liberty in their countries and to learn from one another what works and what doesn’t. When I asked what these international students thought of American politics and the current Presidential election, many expressed the same thought: “It’s better than what we have in my country. In my country we don’t have the ability to freely share information about the issues or the people in power.”
American students/millennials have a somewhat different reason for attending this weekend’s event. Some came to network and to learn how to promote liberty on their college campuses. Others came to learn more about issues like immigration and national security. These students have a different perspective regarding this year’s Presidential election. When I asked American students/millennials what they think of the current election cycle and the candidates the answers were not just surprising, they were humorous. My favorite top three answers were:
- This is the first Presidential election cycle I am eligible to vote in and my choices include a reality TV star and an ancient socialist. I just don’t believe either one knows anything about my generation.
- People say millennials are immature and spoiled brats. Yet when I watched the debates, I had to call my mom and say, “See, I am an adult. Don’t believe me? Turn on the TV and watch the debate. They’re acting like 5 year olds.”
- It’s hard to support a candidate when you wonder if you’ll get kicked out of your “safe space” on campus if you disagree with something they say.
As humorous as their view of the current election cycle is at times, these students are very serious when it comes to the state of freedom in America, or around the world for that matter. The issues that matter most to the students I spoke with are economic prosperity, civil liberties like privacy and freedom of speech, and reducing the size of government. These students fully believe that government is way too big and far too intrusive in our day-to-day lives. And their ideas and thoughts on how to resolve these issues are as diverse as their demographic. The one thing that they all agree on…none of the candidates seem truly trustworthy when it comes to defending liberty.
As the conference continues during the next two days, students will have the opportunity to learn from experts and each other. They will have the opportunity to learn from one another as they discuss the issues they face in their individual countries. But most importantly, they will learn how to promote, and defend, liberty around the world. They will be given the tools and knowledge they need to lead their peers and future generations in the fight for freedom thanks to Students for Liberty and their many partners at the International Students for Liberty Conference.