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Natalie Le’s libertarian activism draws on her mother’s experience of communist Vietnam

Natalie Le is a Students For Liberty Local Coordinator at Harvard University. She told us about her journey and how her mother’s experience under communism in Vietnam influenced her libertarian ideas and values.

My mom was a refugee of the Vietnam War.

The Communist Party in Vietnam believed everyone was on an equal playing field. My mom’s family was well-to-do, so they raided the house and took everything. My mom was left with nothing and had to escape.

She immigrated first to Canada and then to the United States, where she had me. She was so hardworking and willing to do everything to ensure that I would be okay and have the best education. Her life would have been so different if she stayed in the refugee camps in Thailand, or if she had stayed in Vietnam.

Looking back at it, that is why I’m a libertarian.

My mom witnessed horrible things when she escaped Vietnam by boat. What she went through was terrifying – she was the last one in the family to make it out. But she doesn’t let the past dictate who she is now, and she’s overcome it. She’s my inspiration.

Liberty means being free to chase after dreams and pursue ambitions. It also means everyone having the opportunity to do that. Thanks to my mom’s sacrifice, I’m able to have that. I’m studying and working for an organization I believe in, advancing a cause near and dear to my heart. I feel like I’m making a difference and that’s an important aspect of human flourishing.

Students For Liberty has taught me so much, from everything about classical liberalism and its principles to professional development. It has connected me to friends and organizations around the world. I still have friendships I’ve made through SFL from when I first joined.

The first time I heard of SFL was through the economics club that I ran with my friend. We often talked about Austrian economics there, so SFL appeared on my radar. I was cautious at first about being involved, but I’m so glad I joined.

One of the best things about SFL is the perspective it lends you, because it is international. It has a global mission to advance freedom and prosperity. I have made friends from all over the globe, and I wouldn’t have met them if not for SFL.

Free speech is an especially important topic to me. My mom would tell me about how she wasn’t able to speak her mind under the communist regime. It got to the point where if you said something the party didn’t like, they would put you in jail.

The regime disrupted the free flow of dialogue in any way they could. My aunt lived in Singapore at the time, and the Communist Party was opening the mail to see what they were saying. My mom had to write carefully and cryptically to not get into trouble.

That’s why my biggest achievement on campus has been talking about uncomfortable topics and advocating for free speech through SFL. Free speech is a sensitive value that we need to take care of.

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.