Yes. The 2nd European Students for Liberty Conference is over. But the event closed by Gilles Verstraeten and the full SFL/ESFL boards singing for liberty will remain in the heads and hearts of the participants for a long time.
The European Students for Liberty Conference has become by its own merits in the most important of all the students’ events that happen along the year in the old continent. And I am not talking about size (yet), but about its meaning and implications:
- when you are able to make that people crosses Europe by car from Lithuania to Belgium driving more than 20 hours;
- when you are able to attract more than 350 students from all over Europe (and other parts of the world) who travel by their own means sacrificing their time and money;
- when you are able to organize such an event without any subsidy or support of public funds or Administration (considering that in Europe almost nothing is organized without subsidies) and just use private donors;
- when you are able to bring people from every country in Europe (*) to a single event (including Belarus, the last dictatorship in the continent)
and everything in the name of liberty… then you know that you are big. And again, I am not talking about size. Yet.
One year and a half ago I decided to attend the 1st ESFL Conference, also in Leuven. I had not heard anything about “Students for Liberty” before. It sounded interesting and it was just a couple of hours driving from where I live so I decided to go. That weekend changed my life in such a way that I have been attending as much SFL events as I could. You might think that I am just being nice with my (now) friends at (E)SFL when I say this, but these are not just words: it did it, because it brought me hope again. Hope in the future.
When you meet so many young people whose main driver are the ideas of liberty in the middle of such a hostile environment for liberty as is the current one in Europe, you can only have hope. And precisely that was the essence of this year’s conference: hope. From the Tom Palmer’s speech early on Saturday morning to the closing speech by Steve Davies on Sunday afternoon, hope in the future was present as the main thread of the speeches: with the history of the humanity in perspective the World has evolved, in general terms, in the right direction (religious freedom, abolition of slavery, freedom of speech, women rights, fall of the USSR, gay rights, technological development, quality of life…). We have a better world now, thanks to people who not only thought that liberty was a good idea, but who also acted to defend that idea, sometimes paying with their own lives. And there are no reasons to think that the things will change, that the World will start evolving in the wrong direction now, as long as there are still people willing to fight for liberty: exactly as Students for Liberty is doing.
The conferences were great. I enjoyed almost every second (and I tweeted every second also :P ). It was sometimes made clear that to be a great mind does not always imply to be a great speaker, but when you find people who meet both requirements, like Tom Palmer, James Lark or Steve Davies, then you succumb to their excellence.
But the conferences is not (only) about the speakers, it is about the networking, one of the most enriching experience that you can imagine. For that, the “socials” after the conferences play a crucial role. You are able to talk to a lot of people who shares similar ideas, but with extremely different backgrounds and experiences. You are able to increase your knowledge network. You always learn, and make friends. And sometimes you dance.
As I told to Wolf von Laer on Saturday night, maybe Alexander McCobin was not yet aware of the importance of what he and the people who founded Students for Liberty had achieved. Maybe not even us. But I am sure that the entire world will benefit from it, sooner or later.
Last words to thank all the team from SFL, ESFL and specially to Nick Roskams and the people of LVSV Leuven who hosted us for their great work and for making this possible. Thanks to all of you. The only think that I regret is not being able to talk to more people during the weekend.
If you are reading this and you did not attend the conference, then you should start planning it for next year, if you want to be part of the future :-)
(*) As far as I am aware, only Ireland was not represented this year.
If you want to read what I wrote about the International Students for Liberty Conference celebrated last month in Washington DC, click here.