Earlier today, the Atlas Network announced that Students For Liberty won the 2011 Templeton Freedom Award for Student Outreach.  The Templeton Freedom Awards honor outstanding work by pro-liberty organizations and are one of the most prestigious awards a nonprofit organization dedicated to liberty can receive.  The award was given in recognition of the success of the 2011 International SFL Conference at George Washington University, which drew 500+ attendees from around the world to discuss strategies for promoting liberty on campus and to hear from today’s leaders of liberty.

It is a tremendous honor for SFL to receive this award, not just for the 2011 ISFLC organizers or SFL as an organization, but for the growing student movement for liberty as a whole.  SFL is more than just a few individuals.  SFL is a movement to create a freer world that empowers individuals across the globe to be leaders of liberty; leaders such as Ankur Chawla, a student at the University of California-San Diego on SFL’s Executive Board; Morgan Freeman, a Sam Houston State University student in our Campus Coordinator Program; Joseph Henchman, an attorney at the Tax Foundation on the Alumni For Liberty Board; Wolf von Laer, a student at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos on the European Students For Liberty Board; and the tens of thousands of members of our student groups who run events, organize protests, and promote an intellectual climate of liberty on their campuses every day.

There are too many people to thank who were have helped SFL grow over the years and make the 2011 ISFLC possible for me to list here.  So, in addition to SFL’s many supporters, student leaders, staff, founders, and advisors, I would like to particularly thank everyone who participated in the first International SFL Conference in 2008 that laid the groundwork for this award and SFL as a whole: those students who fought a horrendous blizzard to make it the first day; those speakers who volunteered to speak at a conference run by a handful of students with little more than our passion for the project to suggest we would be successful; and those organizations who saw potential in our effort and offered resources and advice to make that first conference possible.  Without you all, we would not have made it past 2008, much less thrive in 2011.

Attendees of the 2008 International SFL Conference

What makes this award so much more meaningful is that Students For Liberty is not one of the established think tanks in the liberty movement.  We are only 3 years old; a nonprofit run by students and for students dedicated to liberty.  No SFL leader has more than a few years of experience organizing for liberty, yet in receiving this award we have joined the ranks of organizations and leaders who have been around for decades and are pillars of the cause.  In 3 years, the ISFLC has gone from a pie-in-the-sky dream of a few students in the northeastern United States to an international event deemed on par with any other organization fighting for freedom today.  As such, I hope that SFL receiving this award inspires other students to take a risk for the cause of liberty.  This award is proof that students can make a difference.  You don’t have to be 50 years old with a rolodex of contacts in DC or a bankroll from an established organization to start something great.  Five students ran the first SFL Conference on a budget of $7,000 with no institutional support.  And in 3 years, that conference has grown to receive the highest award available in the liberty movement.

Attendees of the 2011 International SFL Conference

As meaningful as this award is for our work with the 2011 ISFLC, it is just a signal of our need and ability to work even harder to create a freer world.  In particular, we are going to follow up on the success of the 2011 ISFLC with an even bigger, even greater 2012 ISFLC.  The schedule already includes a Keynote Speech by Peter Thiel, recipient of the first SFL Alumnus of the Year Award, a live performance by GORemy to open the conference, and a second filming of the Stossel Show, and we are adding new speakers and organizations every week.  Last year’s ISFLC may have won the Templeton Freedom Award, but this year’s ISFLC is going to set the bar even higher.  If you want to participate in the largest gathering of pro-liberty students in the world, you can register here for just $10 per student and $20 per alumnus (i.e. any non-student) until October 31st when registration rates increase.

Once again, thank you to the Atlas Network and the Templeton Freedom Awards Advisory Council for bestowing this great honor upon us, and thank you to all of SFL’s leaders and supporters who have made this organization what it is today.  The student movement for liberty is here to change the world, and the world is starting to recognize that.