I honestly don't know if I support or oppose Britain leaving the European Union. I have friends who have staked out positions on both sides of the issue, including friends I consider intelligent with different political philosophies from myself and friends that I consider intelligent who share my political philosophy.
In my opinion: The Brexit question was the wrong question to ask.
The question of remaining or leaving this particular institution misses the important question about what values matter in the political world. This was readily apparent from the global debate over the issue since the the same arguments were offered by different people on both sides of the question.
A little over a month ago, I summarized the most important life lessons of my first 30 years into 3 P's: People, Purpose, and Perseverance. There's a 4th P I want to add to that list: Place.
By place, I mean both where you are and your physical surroundings. One's location in the world says a lot about their relation to the world. It is the natural environment you're part of, which provides the resources that are available. It is also the social environment you're part of, including connections with both those who are alive today and those who lived in the past and made this place possible. In addition, the physical surroundings of yourself in a location deepens your connection to or separation from it. The way your surroundings are constructed influences what is easy/difficult to do, what you have access to, the way you think, and even the way you feel. The impact of this is that the place you are in influences both who you are and what you do.
It's easy to forget about the influence of your physical environment in today's digital world. I did so when drafting my reflections on turning 30. That makes it all the more important to intentionally think about where you are and the way you construct your surroundings.
I realized this while Gabrielle and I were hiking Yosemite Falls for our one year anniversary. The medicinal nature of the environment was striking. It reminded me of how important the outdoors are to human health. It also reminded me of the importance of place in all of the major events in life: getting married in the mountains of Pennsylvania, graduating from high school in my hometown, seeing the first African Students For Liberty Conference in Nigeria, and more.
In fact, the entire hike at Yosemite encapsulates the four P's: I was with the right person: my wife. We had a clear purpose: reach the summit. The hike required perseverance: it wasn't the most difficult hike in the world, but we haven't been training the same as we did for our honeymoon trip up Mt. Rainier. And the place was perfect: it was beautiful, serene, and inspiring.
So make sure you surround yourself with the right people, determine your life's purpose, and persevere through the challenges that come your way. While you're doing that, don't underestimate the importance of the physical place you are doing it in.
Originally at SFL here.
2015-2016 was both the most challenging and most inspiring year for Students For Liberty yet. In many ways, the tides of tyranny rose around the globe. At the same time, though, the student movement for liberty did not stand idly by. Over the course of the past year, SFL's students and alumni took on a corrupt government in Brazil, personally provided relief for those in need from tragedies like the earthquake in Ecuador, and introduced more young people to the principles of economic, social, and intellectual freedom than ever before.
This is why I'm pleased to share with you SFL's 2015-2016 Annual Report, which details how this past year was the biggest and most meaningful year of Students For Liberty to date. By the numbers, SFL continued to grow at an incredible pace:
That’s an 8% growth in student groups, 129% growth in leaders trained, 92% growth in conferences run, 120% growth in conference attendees, and 52% growth in media attention! These are incredible numbers. As I write in my final Letter from the President, the size and scope of Students For Liberty today is beyond anything we ever imagined when we started SFL almost a decade ago.
Beyond the numbers, every data point represents the story of a student who is learning about and standing up for liberty thanks to SFL. Take James Michel in Haiti for instance, whose story you can read about on page 14.
Jean Charles “James” Michel first joined SFL as a Charter Teams member in fall 2015 and, after completing Liberty 101, he quickly set to work recruiting for SFL Haiti. Facing obstacles like poor internet access and a hostile university administration, James met each challenge with grace and creativity. When the group found a restaurant willing to let them meet – but only on the condition that each member buy something – James bought juice for everyone present, knowing that some students couldn't afford the cost. Today, the group has grown from four students to 20, has an active presence on Twitter, and even sent a few members to this year's ISFLC.
This is the kind of dedication to that one can expect from all SFL leaders. This is the way the student movement for liberty is growing. This is how the student movement for liberty changes the world. This is the kind of story each number in the Annual Report represents.
As far as SFL and the student movement for liberty has come, there is much more for us to do. In the meantime, though, I want to thank you for being part of and supporting Students For Liberty. I hope you enjoy reading through the rest of the report and take pride in the growth of SFL and student movement for liberty.
2015-2016 was SFL's best year yet. It has laid the foundation for 2016-2017 being even better. Here's to a freer future!
One year ago today, Gabrielle and I had the perfect wedding. I know I'm biased, but I'm serious. It was perfect. Our closest friends and family were gathered on the Pennsylvania land that has been in the family for generations. The rustic decorations were natural complements to the mountain scenery. The sun was shining and the temperature perfect for an outdoor wedding. A Celtic band serenaded us during the procession. The drinks flowed freely into mason jars with old-fashioned straws. The food was delicious and accommodating to the wide range of diets represented by our guests (vegan, paleo, gluten-free, Kosher, etc.). The dance floor was in use until the wee hours of the night as the playlist ebbed from French new wave to Irish punk. When the light began to fade, we started a bonfire that grew to twice the size of the people standing around it. And long before the evening ended, fireworks lit up the sky. Junebug even dedicated an article to it titled, "Shabby Chic Pennsylvania Wedding." Honestly, it couldn't have been better.
But the day didn't begin that way. After spending over a year planning out our dream day, the universe presented one final obstacle to overcome. One year later, it's time to tell the story.
It's 7:30am. June 6th, 2015. My wedding day. I'm already half-awake in anticipation of the day ahead when I'm fully awoken by a knock on my door and my godfather, Uncle Mark's voice, "Alexander, get up." There ceremony isn't until 4pm. This can't be good.
I get dressed and open the door so he can tell me, "We have a shitty situation." The septic tank had backed up, leaving the basement a mess and the bathrooms inoperable. In just a few hours, 100 people were about to descend upon this mountain house in the middle of nowhere for my wedding.
I went upstairs and woke my groomsmen up, "Guys, we've got work to do."
Within a matter of minutes they had gym shorts on, brooms/shovels/mops in hand (as well as a beer for one of them) and a jovial spirit considering. The situation was rife for riffing. "Alexander, I thought we were supposed to give you crap this weekend, not clean it up."
The basement was the easy part, though. Fixing the septic was the tough part.
We got the Roto-Rooter guy on the phone just as he was walking out his door to a BMX tournament for the weekend. Once he understood the situation, he dropped everything and came out to help. After looking at the tank's piping through a telescopic camera, he identified the problem: The piping was split in two. One pipe was nearly a foot above the other so there was only 20% overlap.
He looked at me despondently and said, "I wish I could help. I have the material to replace it in my van. But you'd need a backhoe to dig a ditch deep enough to get to the split so I could do it.”
My Uncle Mark looked around at my groomsmen and myself and responded, "We have 4 strapping lads here. Who needs a backhoe?"
So, we went to the garage, pulled out every shovel and pickaxe we could find, and started to dig.
This is where I think I should mention some additional extenuating circumstances: The septic tank was in the backyard.... right next to where the ceremony was going to take place... literally 10 feet from the aisles. To add insult to injury, even though we had rented a portable bathroom to add capacity for the day, it was somehow broken. And even though it was June, it was only 50 degrees. Plus, it was raining. In short: I was in hell.
But, my uncle and groomsmen were determined. They went to work. They kept me on the sidelines at first, refusing to let me touch the tools. I said I wanted to help, but they told me to rest and not worry. They would handle it. Eventually, though, I couldn't stand idly by. I picked up one of the pickaxes and began to work out all of the tension in my body on the rocks and the soil beneath me. "There's a rock." Now it's gone. "There's another rock." Now that's gone. We rotated responsibilities. After an hour and a half of digging and shoveling, we finally found the piping.
After that, all we had to do was remove the end of the pipe, connect a new one, seal it with cement paste, shovel all of the dirt back on top, cover it with wood chipping, and top it off with a band stand so it looked like everything was intentional.
With a nice tip and a nice bottle of whiskey to thank him, we bid good bye to the Roto Rooter guy and looked forward to the rest of the day ahead. Everyone took a long shower that morning. The sun began to peak through the clouds. The temperature rose. Other family members began to arrive.
Once we were all dressed there was nothing more for us to do but wait. I had discovered that morning why having the right groomsmen is so important. After everything we had been through, we decided there was only one thing left to do. We each took a beer, grabbed the gun bags, and went down to the cabin a few hundred yards away to celebrate what we had done and what was to come.
Here's the thing, though: Just as we were walking from the house down to the cabin, Gabrielle and her bridesmaids were pulling down the driveway. They had woken up early to get their hair and makeup done. They had literally spent hours getting ready and were about to spend even more time preparing for the ceremony. When Gabrielle saw us strolling down to the cabin she asked incredulously, "Have they just been drinking and shooting all day while we spent all this time getting ready?!"
It took a lot to get to that day. We faced trials and tribulations together. We survived the wedding planning. And we made it through the many challenges that morning. But it always has been, and still is, worth it.
As a wise man once said, "Nothing in this world that's worth having comes easy."
Happy Anniversary, Love!
This is a place to share my passion for liberty, thoughts on leadership, and other musings.