(Editor's note: This commentary originally appeared in the winter 2008 issue of Impact, the Mackinac Center's quarterly newsletter.)
Getting college students to turn out for anything early on a Saturday morning is no easy task. Yet the Mackinac Center's college outreach project, Students for a Free Economy, drew more than 50 energetic and intelligent student leaders from 15 different universities to a day-long freedom forum on a Saturday in November.
The event, held at the University of Michigan, was geared toward free-market student activists in the Midwest who want to know how to spread the ideas they are so passionate about. SFE co-hosted the event with a nationwide organization called Students for Liberty.
Attendees spent the entire day hearing from 13 different expert speakers and panelists on how to market the ideas of freedom. There were presentations on advancing freedom in the policy world, the academic world, the political world and through popular culture. Sessions on blogging and video helped students learn to use technology to maximize the impact of the free-market message, and a student panel discussion covered how they could effectively host events and run freedom-friendly student groups on their campuses.
Many of these students are already busy spreading the message of freedom on their campuses by leading student groups, hosting events, writing articles and promoting campus dialogue. Many hope to find careers in advancing free-markets when they graduate. They left the forum knowing that there are myriad ways they can continue to fight for the precious ideas that made this country great.
"This conference was a great place to learn how to spread the message of liberty and economic freedom," said Kyle Latham, a student at Grove City College. "I've never taken 16 pages of notes so enthusiastically or happily."
"This conference was an intense forum which provided us as an organization with more of the tools and resources that we needed to spread our agenda of liberty," added Charles Fehl, a student at the University of Michigan."
To those who are pessimistic about the future of freedom, the caliber of students attending this event should serve as a source of hope and encouragement. Seasoned Mackinac Center Legislative Analyst Jack McHugh, after attending the event observed, "Where did all those smart, cool, idealistic, principled college kids come from, anyway? Maybe we're not 'all gonna die' after all."