It was exciting, eventful, and enjoyable! I’m referring, of course, to our second College Civil Liberties Tour, which took place out west last week. At each of the five events, the audiences, which ranged in size from around 140-200, were enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and passionate. They consisted predominantly of college students but there were also plenty of non-students at the events, including a member of Congress and a man named Bert Sacks, who fought a heroic and successful fight against the federal government’s levy of a $10,000 fine on him for taking medicines to Iraq in violation of the brutal sanctions that the U.S. government enforced against Iraq during the 1990s.
The Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), the co-sponsor of the tour, did a fantastic job of selecting the venues, organizing each event, and promoting it. Our panels consisted of Glenn Greenwald, the noted liberal who now writes for the Guardian, Bruce Fein, the noted conservative who worked in the Reagan Justice Department, and me, the libertarian. The panels were moderated by Jack Hunter, a conservative who worked for the Ron Paul campaign and who currently works for U.S. Senator Rand Paul and YAL.
A couple of people told me that they were looking forward to the “debate.” I explained that there was no debate — that all three of the panelists (and Jack) are all on the same page when it comes to the vital importance of civil liberties in our lives. At each event I emphasized that there was no issue more important in our lifetimes than what was occurring in the area of civil liberties. And I also emphasized that it doesn’t matter whether people are liberals, conservatives, or libertarians when it comes to the importance of defending and restoring civil liberties to our land, a point that was brought home with each of our talks.
The format for the programs was that a student member of YAL would welcome the audience and introduce Jack, who would then extend his own welcome and thanks and then introduce me, Glenn, and then Bruce. The speakers would speak for a little over an hour and then the balance of the second hour would be devoted to a question and answer session, which was always lively. In fact, hardly anyone left before the 2-hour programs had concluded.
We recorded all the events and will be posting them on our website within the next couple of weeks. We live-streamed three of the events. Unfortunately, owing to equipment problems, we were unable to live-stream two of the events.
We kicked off the tour on Monday evening at the University of Washington at Seattle. Everything went great, and we assumed that it would only get better as the week went on.
The next morning, Tuesday, we flew into Sacramento and put on our program a few miles away at the University of California at Davis. Everything went great again.
And then, the unexpected happened. Bruce woke up Wednesday morning with a stomach ache. By the time we landed in San Diego for our third event, he was feeling absolutely horrible. That afternoon, FFF’s program manager, Bart Frazier, took Bruce to the emergency room. He had to undergo emergency surgery and is doing fine but, alas, we lost one of our panelists for the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday programs. On Wednesday evening, Jack, Glenn, and I proceeded to do the programs at the University of California at San Diego. The next morning, we flew to Tucson for a program at the University of Arizona.
By this time, Glenn had realized that he would be unable to make a big lawyer’s conference in Ottawa, Canada, where he was to be the keynote speaker, without missing our Friday evening program. That obviously meant that our 3-person panel at the University of Colorado at Boulder on Friday night would be reduced to a one-person panel—me!
We thought briefly about canceling the event but decided that the show should go on. So, we improvised. We figured out that Glenn had a long layover in Chicago during the time we were putting on our program. So, the YAL members put together the necessary equipment, including big screens on stage, to handle a presentation by Glenn via Skype. He gave a live 30-minute talk from the American Airlines VIP lounge at the Chicago airport. It wasn’t as good as being there with us in Boulder but it was good nonetheless. We also had Jack deliver a short talk, followed by my talk and a very lively question and answer session.
One amusing aspect of the Colorado program was when a libertarian student came up to me after the event was over and said to me, “Your bringing together students of different ideologies is paying off. As soon as we leave here, my friends and I are going out with a group of socialist students who are here.”
All in all, it was an awesome week. We spoke to around 750 people, most of whom were students who were clearly concerned about the direction our nation is headed in. We talked about such things as the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, civil liberties, torture, assassination, indefinite detention, spying on citizens, the NDAA, the Patriot Act, sanctions, embargoes, foreign aid, foreign policy, and invasions and occupations.
We emphasized why civil liberties are so important to a free society and discussed what we could all do to get our nation back on the right track. Owing to the diversity of speakers, we imparted the important message that when it comes to the critical importance of civil liberties, it doesn’t matter whether a person is a liberal, conservative, libertarian, or non-ideological.
So, with our two College Civil Liberties Tours in 2012, we have now shared our civil-liberties program with well over a thousand people on nine campuses — Columbia University, Indiana-Purdue Universities, Middle Tennessee State University, Ohio State University, the University of Washington, the University of California at Davis and at San Diego, the University of Arizona, and the University of Colorado.
A special thanks to all our supporters for helping us make this important program happen. Your support has been invaluable.