Concordia’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter is looking to start discussions and engagement among students, and are making themselves known on campus through their active presence.
According to their webpage, YAL is the largest and fastest-growing pro-liberty organization on American college campuses. There are more than 750 YAL chapters and 250,000 youth activists nationwide.
According to senior Liam Nuhring, YAL is open to anyone who is interested.
“You can have any sort of value system, you can have any sort of personal beliefs,” Nuhring said. “YAL is dedicated to personal freedom and liberty and doing what’s best for the future of our country.”
According to Nuhring, he found that his belief system and values line up more to what is represented by YAL than any other organization, and got involved shortly after the Concordia YAL chapter was official.
The YAL chapter at Concordia was started in the spring of 2015, by former student Bjorn Altenburg and senior Ian Lane.
Lane discovered YAL after he joined Campus Republicans his sophomore year, on the premise that he would be promised a free trip to a conference in Washington D.C.
At the conference there was an organization, Young Americans for Liberty.
“I come from a background that’s more socially liberal and fiscally conservative, so I identify with the republicans only for the economic issues, not for social issues,” Lane said.
“When I found out there was a nationally recognized organization that has the social liberal aspect and the fiscal conservative aspect, I was sold.”
Lane looked into YAL’s website to find out if there was an active chapter at Concordia, and it turned out that a chapter was in the works, meaning somebody had applied to start a chapter. That person was Altenburg, and so Lane teamed up with him. Today Lane works as a state chair for the organization, working to recruit people to start chapters at different colleges and universities in Minnesota.
Shortly after the Concordia chapter was started up, current president for the group Kaila Juntunen got involved.
“Ian [Lane] actually approached me after him and Bjorn [Altenburg] started drafting a constitution for YAL in spring of 2015, so I was involved in their first couple of initial meetings when we were just talking about becoming a chapter,” Juntunen said.
The chapter held an election last spring, and Juntunen started taking over presidential duties this summer. She started leading meetings at the beginning of the semester.
“As president my main responsibility is to be the face of the chapter here, gather people to come in, and make sure that it’s the environment that we want it to be,” Juntunen said.
According to Juntunen, other duties include planning meetings, recruiting people to work at tabling events, engaging with people and promoting the events that they do.
“I think that YAL and the libertarian movement create a good middle ground for open dialogue in politics, which I think we definitely need,” Juntunen said. “This year a lot of people have been interested in what we’re saying. Maybe that’s because of the two unpopular [presidential] candidates,” Juntunen said.
According to Juntunen, the discussions often take place in the Atrium, when curious students stop by. Tabling at Concordia generally means sitting behind a table and handing out free candy. YAL representatives will try to step in front of you when you’re walking and say “Hey, what do you think about this?” Juntunen said.
According to Juntunen, this “in-your-face” strategy has worked well for YAL National, but they are trying to pull back a little bit at Concordia, especially with the provocative statements.
“We don’t have to necessarily degrade other things to build up our movement,” Juntunen said.
According to Juntunen, this is why the chapter seeks to take away “the big government sucks” type of statements, and instead advocate for their values while also encouraging discussion.
“I think the one thing that people don’t realize is how much we appreciate critical discourse,” Juntunen said. “We don’t want to just come here and have a bunch of liberty lovers talking about all the issues that we totally agree on.”
Nationally, YAL started in 2008, following the youth campaign for Ron Paul. Ron Paul was a republican who ran for president and lost to John McCain in 2008 and again to Mitt Romney in 2012.
According to Lane, Paul was running the principles of promoting individual freedom and liberty. There was a large youth movement that followed Paul, and the youth director for his campaign decided to turn that movement into an organization, Young Americans for Liberty.
According to Lane, the organization stands for free minds, free markets, civil liberties, and being able to do whatever you want — so long as you don’t harm anyone else.
“We want the individual to be in control of their life, rather than the government to be in control of their life,” Lane said.
This year, one of the main causes that the group will be pushing at Concordia is free speech and the idea of open dialogue, as well as rights to carry self-defense tools. The group arranges trips to conferences, and can lead to internship and job opportunities.
Lane said he has heard a number of mixed opinions of the organization at Concordia in the past, but does not know how the group is perceived today.
“I know that in the past that we’ve been received as an abrasive group that is very ‘in-your-face,’ questioning the status quo and what not,” Lane said. “I’d encourage anybody who reads this article to come out to our meetings and see for themselves, rather than having that false impression.”
According to Juntunen, the chapter has people that are registered and pay dues to YAL National, but also people that aren’t. Juntunen said that there are about 10 active and really dedicated members, and a lot more that have shown interest in the group.
For more information, Concordia YAL is the Facebook page for Concordia’s chapter or yaliberty.org is their national website.