On Friday evening, former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul delivered the keynote address to the 5th Annual Young Americans For Liberty National Conference.
Paul founded YAL in 2008 during his first presidential campaign, as an organized effort to attract young people on college campuses to the libertarian movement. The four-day national conference focuses primarily on education seminars, leadership training and developing youth activism and, lead by prominent sponsors such as the Leadership Institute and CATO. Five years since its start, YAL “is the largest, most active, and fastest-growing pro-liberty organization on America’s college campuses, with more than 380 chapters and 125,000 student activists nationwide.”
Paul attended a press conference before he delivered his address to over 300 students, who were eagerly anticipating his arrival. In Paul’s opening statement to the press, he explained that his passion to work with students derived from their “intense interest in the philosophy of liberty.” He declared that young, liberty-minded people were the solution to government corruption and growth, as they will be the most likely to stand up say, “we believe in liberty, (and) we believe in minding our own business.”
When asked by a reporter if the outstanding charges against Bradley Manning had merit, Paul responded: “there’s some criminality there, and that’s with the government.” He felt strongly that Manning has already been “overly punished” and expressed deep concerns over the government’s ever-growing power.
“The more it’s like an empire,” Paul said, “it’s more likely the truth is considered treason.”
When asked about Senator Rand Paul’s recent debate with Governor Chris Christie over the NSA scandal and the role of national security, Paul shyly smiled:
“You’d have to talk to my son, and, uh, who’s the other guy?”
While most politicians remain reserved in front of the press, Paul was actively engaged with the reporters; he went up to them personally when they spoke and he encouraged follow-up questions—a clear sign that Paul has developed even more confidence in his staunch libertarian, isolationist policies since leaving office.
When Paul entered the room to deliver his address, the students immediately jumped to their feet and burst out cheering for well over two minutes; despite the growing popularity of liberty-minded politicians like Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Amash, there was no doubt that Ron Paul still acts as their figure head and celebrity in the liberty movement.
Congressman Paul has a reputation for being outspoken and critical of Washington politics; however, his forty minute speech revealed new levels of dissatisfaction that could only be expressed once leaving political office.
He began his speech by encouraging the students to remain active in the movement, believing their efforts will be the biggest force of change in the country:
“That is where the revolution is, it’s on your campus,” he exclaimed.
It’s going to be a “revolution of ideas, it’s going to be a non-violent revolution…but we have an idea who’s time has come and nobody’s going to stop it.”
His speech quickly turned critical of the current political climate in Washington and his disappointment with both major parties for upholding the ‘statist quo’. He bluntly accused liberals of driving the country into poverty through bad policies of overspending and debt accumulation:
“Well that’s a good way to have equality, of poverty,” Paul explained.
“We’ve tried all the statism and all the varieties of statism…it’s time we had something really (new)…(and) that’s individual liberty protecting your rights.”
Paul was just as critical of the Republicans as he was of the Democrats, often lumping them in together for promoting big-government policy and interventionism:
“Republicans and Democrats are exactly alike,” he exclaimed, “(and) they all want to go to war.”
Slightly later into the speech, he attacked their similarities again, declaring:
“They spend the money, they print the money, the grow the debt, they start the wars!”
Paul came around full circle at the end of his speech, returning to a positive message of hope and change, driven by young people.
”The revolution will be with young people. And it has to have music.”
Young Americans for Liberty held its 5th National Convention at George Mason University from July 31st-August 3rd.