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The following is a guest post by Senior Campus Coordinator Will Smith.

I’m an outspoken libertarian. I’m also bisexual.

To my surprise I have, on multiple occasions, stood and watched people’s faces contort in befuddlement as they try to reconcile these two aspects of my life. Many of my friends and colleagues in the LGBT community have stared at me, completely floored, as they ask me how I can possibly defend a party that hates gays. How can I work with people that want to take away my rights?

This disconnect stems from a basic misunderstanding about libertarianism. Libertarianism (with an emphasis on a small “l”) is not a party, it’s a philosophy. As an anarchist I don’t give the actual Libertarian Party much thought. They don’t represent me. (That said, it’s interesting to point out that the LP platform has supported gay rights since the 1980s, decades before the Democrats.) Libertarian philosophy holds as one of its basic pillars that individuals have the same rights regardless of race, religion, gender, or orientation; put simply, it treats people like people. Building up from that, any branch of libertarianism must have at its core a respect and defense of the rights of minorities, including the LGBT community. Quite simply, it is impossible to use libertarianism to defend any form of legal discrimination against anyone based on circumstances of birth. Once you understand this, the idea that libertarianism opposes the rights of the LGBT community is laughable and to claim otherwise is intellectually dishonest. That said, there are the unfortunate few among libertarians that “disagree with that lifestyle” or “love the sinner, not the sin” based on a distorted view of reality or their own personal bigotry, but, if they are truly libertarian, they would never defend using the gun of the state to promote their ideas.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to announce that the 2015 Students For Liberty Alumnus of the Year Award will go to Edward Snowden for initiating a global conversation on the balance of power between governments and peoples that has led to and continues to bring about meaningful reforms to intrusive, abusive, and unjust government surveillance programs.

Like SFL’s previous Alumnus of the Year recipients, Mr. Snowden is not, in fact, an alumnus of Students For Liberty.  Mr. Snowden finished his formal schooling before SFL’s founding in 2008.  We are presenting this award to recognize and honor Mr. Snowden as someone who is no longer a student, but whose commitment to liberty has had a resounding impact upon the world and can serve as an inspiration for others.

Mr. Snowden, a former employee of the CIA and contractor for the NSA, blew the whistle on numerous surveillance programs and activities by the United States and United Kingdom that have been described by one U.S. District Judge as “almost Orwellian” in nature and contain features that are likely to be found unconstitutional.  There have been countless articles published on the revelations Snowden brought to light, governmental inquiries into the legality of the disclosed programs, and public debates regarding the legitimacy of such state conduct.  Such widespread discussion and scrutiny of the state would not have occurred if Mr. Snowden had not chosen to give up the comforts of his established life to call attention to the daily and massive violations of civil liberties taking place, giving the American public (indeed, the entire world) the opportunity to critique and reform them.

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One of our speakers for the upcoming 2015 International Students For Liberty Conference on February 13th-15th will be Yeon-mi Park!

Yeon-mi Park enjoyed a rich lifestyle by North Korean standards for much of her life, but after her father was imprisoned for selling items to China, Yeonmi was forced to move out of Pyongyang. She escaped to China with her family after her father’s release, eventually making her way through Mongolia to freedom in South Korea. Yeonmi is part of a generation in North Korea that can’t remember a time when the government provided for its people. This generation has very little, if any, loyalty to the Kim regime. On the Casey Lartigue Show with Yeonmi Park, a TV podcast produced in South Korea, she said that because the North Korean people cannot get anything from the government, they must buy what they need from the markets to survive. At Summit, she will speak on this “Black Market Generation,” including their views on North Korea and the outside world, and their increasing consumption of foreign media. Now living in Seoul, Yeonmi studies criminal justice at Dongguk University. Since her freshman year, she has given speeches in both Korean and English to middle school- and high school-aged children about North Korea. Like our other speaker Joo Yang, she also participates in “Now on My Way to Meet You,” a television program that features North Korean women. After graduating, Yeonmi hopes to complete her master’s degree in International Relations in the United States with further ambitions of working with the United Nations and other organizations to spread awareness of North Korean human rights issues.

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Early in high school I started working at a little restaurant in New Jersey for my first job. I was young and clueless. It was a small place and the majority college-aged staff was very close. It was expected that as the new kid I would struggle to fit in at the start. Weeks and months went by and I began to find my place. I took a liking real quick to one employee named Vinny. His nickname was “Goblin.” He was a high-school drop out, cooked a delicious cheeseburger, and was addicted to heroin. He was one of my best friends throughout high-school and through the job.

Vinnny was awesome. We had so much fun when we were on the same work shift. He would cook and I would cover the counter. We would sing songs and I would just laugh at his jokes and impressions. We made fun of our bosses together. We would try flirting with female customers. We would sneak chicken nuggets to each other when the bosses were not looking. We would argue about hip-hop and yell at each other over songs. After I got my license, we hung out and drove around. He was hard on me though. He wanted me, an idealistic high school kid, to understand the realities of the world around me. I knew about his addiction the entire time and I knew he was struggling.

Vinny was a good friend and there was a real brotherly love between us. But during senior year, I began to work less. When high school ended, I left the restaurant to go to college and we drifted apart. I didn’t see or talk with Vinny for a while. I went back to the restaurant last year and learned that Vinny had died from a heroin overdose in September 2012.

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Ben Carson is full of it. America’s favorite ultra-conservative Fox News personality is criticizing Common Core for all the wrong reasons.

The program will take the power to set education standards from the states and place it in the hands of the federal government. This move has inflamed conservatives and has led them to decry the program as a federal takeover of education and as a move by the Obama administration to force the values of Washington upon school children across our 50 states.

While I wouldn’t go this far in my own personal criticism of Common Core, I will acknowledge that the program is befuddled with problems. Namely, the Common Core standards still place standardized test scores as the benchmark for how we determine whether children are learning. It is asinine to think that failure to pass a standardized test is an indication of low intelligence or an inability to learn.

Our society’s obsession with testing is deeply disturbing. Education in this country needs to be fundamentally re-envisioned. It simply does no good to scrap the old standardized tests and replace them with new standardized tests. Common Core does exactly this and should be rejected as a result.

However, Dr. Carson has other reasons to despise Common Core, and (shockingly) his reasoning is stupid.

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