Easily, my proudest achievement in 2015 so far is The Atlas Society's success at the International Students For Liberty Conference (ISFLC).
In February, we supported Students For Liberty as a sponsor at the annual event in Washington, D.C.
Senior Scholar Ed Hudgins kicked off The Atlas Society's speaking track on Friday evening with his talk, "Can Silicon Valley Save the Republic?" In it, Hudgins re-iterated the message of his current book, The Republican Civil War, entreating the Republican party to jettison its anti-liberty baggage and embrace market entrepreneurship.
TAS Founder David Kelley explored the foundations of Objectivism with talks such as "Why You Need Philosophy" and "Objectivism: Reason and Reality." And The Atlas Society's William R Thomas bridged Ayn Rand's ideas to a wider libertarian audience with his talk, "Austrian Economics and Ayn Rand," among others.
The Atlas Society hosted a table at the front of the conference, where staff spoke to numerous attendees about Ayn Rand, Objectivism, and The Atlas Society's work.
(Clockwise from top left: Ed Hudgins opening The Atlas Society's track, Laurie Rice with a student named Dagney, William R Thomas speaking on "Austrian Economics and Ayn Rand," and David Kelley at The Atlas Society's table.)
In the months leading up to ISFLC15, I led a project to raise money for ten students to attend the conference as scholarship recipients of The Atlas Society. This is the third year I've led the project, with a total of 21 students attending ISFLC thanks to the generosity of our amazing donors.
The Atlas Society brought students from all over the country, with interests as diverse as law, politics, chemistry, art, film-making, raising a family, and one engineering student who is determined to "build the first permanent structure on another planet." (We think you can, Miles!)
Afterward, many of the students said the International Students For Liberty Conference had changed their lives. They wrote about the effects of The Atlas Society's talks on their outlook:
"The International Students For Liberty Conference was by far the most amazing gathering I have ever attended. I didn’t know what to expect, but this event ended up being the most memorable experience of my life." —Violet Trammel
"Attending this conference really opened my eyes to the fact that things are changing and there is a large group of people who are thinking of how best to do that. It was truly eye opening coming from upstate New York where there are consistently six or seven people coming to the city’s Objectivist club to a conference in DC with over a thousand people. It gave me a lot of hope that more people are realizing the worth of liberty, the power of free will (and by extension free markets)." —Sarah Kearns
"At the International Students For Liberty Conference, I was able to hear from various speakers on Objectivism. I had read Atlas Shrugged before so I had a basic idea of Objectivism, but from the various speakers sponsored by the Atlas Society I was able to get a clearer view on what Objectivism is and how it works. By learning about the values Objectivists agree with and the values Objectivists disagree with, I was able to see how Objectivism can fit into my personal beliefs." —Ashton Welles
"Even though an obvious commitment to liberty was the common current running through these policy arguments, there was something even deeper, more fundamental than that holding them all in common – an underlying philosophy from which all else sprang. I learned about that philosophy when I attended the events that were sponsored by the Atlas Society. David Kelley, a Princeton-trained philosopher, a friend to the late Ayn Rand, and the founder of the “open” faction of Objectivism, helped me to understand the finer points of a worldview that seemed to inform the entire libertarian movement (though I know not all libertarians would readily agree with that statement). Dr. Kelley was explaining the foundations of Objectivist philosophy; moreover, he explained why we, as activists for liberty, needed to understand philosophy.
'Political views are governed by peoples’ underlying beliefs,' he told us. Learning to spot these beliefs – the premises on which people’s politics are based – would help us to be better advocates for liberty. I left his lecture feeling more confident than ever in my ability to explain why I was a libertarian – and why everyone should be.Through the speakers of the Atlas Society, I came to agree with many parts of libertarianism. They opened the door to this way of thinking in a way that I didn’t think was going to happen."
(TAS's scholarship students: Kasey Orthmann, Trevor Hazen, Thomas Cooke, Tanisha Canty, Sarah Kearns, Violet Trammel, Ashton Welles, Chad Platt, Miles Drazkowski, Anna Kalkbrenner. Thanks Judd Weiss for many photos.)
I'm so grateful for the effort and presence of mind the scholarship students brought to the conference, for my colleagues at The Atlas Society who create such quality lectures and content, and for the benevolence of the donors who made our presence at the event possible.
Now that ISFLC is over, The Atlas Society is looking ahead to The Atlas Summit, June 18-21 in New Hampshire, where we hope to similarly teach and inspire students toward an understanding of Objectivism. You can help us to provide scholarships for interested young people by contributing to The Atlas Society now. We also hope you'll join us, as the Atlas Summit is a wonderful chance to be in a community of Objectivists from all walks of life.
(Thank you messages from students to donors for enabling them to attend the conference.)