By Alexander McCobin
Delivered at the New Hampshire Liberty Forum
February 20, 2016
Section 1. Introduction
First off, I’d like to thank the Free State Project for inviting me to speak.
There is something ironic being here today, though, isn’t there? Less than 2 weeks ago, the state voted overwhelmingly to have a socialist become the next president of the United States. The vote was split between a democratic socialist or national socialist, but either way, the support was for a socialist. Yet, just before then, the Free State Project reached a historical milestone: gathering 20,000 signatories to the Free State Project Pledge to move to New Hampshire to make it the freest state in the union.
I want to congratulate the Free State Project on reaching this remarkable milestone. There were many who doubted that it was possible. I admit, I was one of the skeptics for a while. Yet, as Matt Phillips described last night, it would be all too easy for the momentum to go away now that this goal has been reached. The conditions are ideal for it. On the one hand, those who have been working for this for over a decade and a half can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they accomplished something great. On the other hand, the state itself has recently indicated that it is not as friendly to libertarian ideas as many once believed. More importantly, it’s now time to get 18,000 individuals who have not yet moved to New Hampshire, uproot themselves and drastically change their lives. Honestly, it has the potential to be the perfect storm. And the next few years could feel like hell for you. That’s why I’d like to remind you of the words of Sir Winston Churchill: “If you are going through Hell, keep going.”
This is a message for the entire liberty movement. For years, we have been riding high with a seemingly endless wave of support from the success of Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012. We are entering a time when we will face great difficulties in standing up for liberty. We also live in a world of transience. It’s ironic that today, when people are living longer than ever and so have more time than ever, there seems to be less interest in making commitments that extend over time. Now, more than we have ever needed it in the past decade, we must embrace the virtue of PERSEVERANCE in the pursuit of a free future.
Section 2. Meaning of Perseverance
Perseverance is steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. There are four important qualities to this virtue: vision, action, adaptability, and patience.
It’s easy to visualize what perseverance means in sports. There are countless movies that depict the power of hard work in striving for your dream. They can visually depict the blood, sweat, and tears that go into developing one’s physical fitness. They can do it all in about 2 minutes with a catchy montage set against an inspiring song like Eye of the Tiger. What is most important is to see physical development as an element of personal development. The reason Rocky 6 may be my favorite of the Rocky movies is because it does just that. It takes the next step and applies the principles Rocky has learned in the last 5 movies to life in general. During one powerful scene with his son, Rocky says: “Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
Section 3. How to Persevere
For those who are thinking, “This is all well and good in theory and Hollywood movies, but what does this mean for me? How am I supposed to apply this to my life, and particularly, my work for liberty?” On the one hand, perseverance is the kind of quality that cannot be taught via lecture or readings. It is a quality you have in side and must practice in order to strengthen. My goal here is to talk about the importance of practicing this virtue and finding ways to apply it to your work for liberty. But I will offer 3 tips for how to persevere:
Section 4. Examples for Inspiration
Fareed Zakaria has said that the “The reason that libertarianism seems narrow and naive is that having won 80 percent of the struggles it has fought over the last two centuries, it is now forced to define itself wholly in terms of the last 20 percent. Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice if you were in Prussia in the 1850s, but in America in the 1960s? Libertarianism has become extreme because the world has left it no recourse.”
Libertarianism is not extreme because of our ideas. Libertarianism is extreme because we persevere with our ideas, whether they are popular or unpopular. We should learn from our forbearer movements and take their work as inspiration for our own:
Section 5. Perseverance and Students For Liberty
I can’t speak anywhere without tying the topic back to Students For Liberty. SFL is a US based nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate, develop, and empower the next generation of leaders of liberty. When we founded SFL 8 years ago, there was no libertarian student movement to speak of. Yet, today, SFL has over 2,800 pro-liberty student groups in our network and over 1,400 trained volunteer leaders in over 100 countries on all 6 inhabited continents. Last semester alone we ran 59 conferences for over 6,000 attendees. And we are still going strong.
There have been a number of reasons for SFL’s success, including external forces such as bad presidential administrations, new technologies, and the Ron Paul campaigns. But more than that, SFL’s success has been due to the people involved in the organization, and their embodiment of this virtue.
Section 6. Conclusion
Keep in mind: It will hurt. Others will doubt. You will fail at times, but you must find a way to learn from them and maintain the belief that failure is not an option. But remember, to close this as I opened, with words of wisdom from Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up.”