Junior States of American Convention (JSA) Libertarian Party Booth
Tangible and Intangible Results
by Sean Haugh
Actually, most of this article is written by Lawrence Samuels, who is the Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party of Monterey County, and Northern Vice Chair of the LP in California. I'll get to his story in a moment.
There are many things to look for in this report. It's an excellent practical example of how to implement our goal of attracting new young members. If you want to recruit the future leaders and opinion makers of America, go to the source! The Junior States of America (JSA) is a great place to start, but is not the only organization where politically-minded youth are gathered.
You'll also find a description of how to do a bang up job running your next Operation Politically Homeless (OPH) booth. Most of these ideas work with any audience. You can order the basic materials from the Advocates for Self-Government http://www.self-gov.org/ . But for the chocolate chip cookies, you are on your own.
But what really struck me were how the intangible benefits of this activity led to some pretty amazing tangible results. Let Lawrence tell his story, then I'll explain.
"It all started about three or four years ago when the Chair of the Libertarian Party of Monterey County, Mark Dierolf, was invited to speak at the JSA convention in Santa Clara. He was invited because he happened to be an elected official (Hartnell College Board of Trustees in Salinas) and a leader in the Libertarian Party.
"I came along as the Vice Chair of the Monterey County LP to pass out literature to the more than 1,000 high school students attending this two-day convention. I was the perfect person to arrange this since I had a carload of libertarian literature, including a book I edited and contributed to, Facets of Liberty: A Libertarian Primer. I discovered that the students got completely jazzed when I autographed these books and then gave them away. I had a monopoly at this convention, since there seemed to be no other political organization handing out material.
"Next year, the JSA informed us that they were going to have a "political faire" that would allow all organizations to have literature tables. We jumped at the offer. I provided the literature and the Santa Clara County LP provided the volunteers. Further, I arranged for libertarians to speak at three one-hour long panel debates during this three-hour event.
"Our most popular giveaways were our buttons. We have over 50 types of libertarian buttons that the students devoured like locusts. Some of the favorite slogans included:
· Don't Rob: It's a Crime to Compete with Government;
· Support Free Trade - Smuggle;
· Harass Your Local Politicians;
· The State Sucks Big Time;
· More Freedom, Less Government;
· More Government Is the Cause Not the Solution;
· Socialism Sucks;
· There's No Govt Like No Govt;
· I Am Not a Natural Resource; and,
· Libertarians Against the War.
"Usually, we have around 500 to 600 buttons available and only a handful remained after one hour.
"We usually have four six-foot tables with red, white, and blue lights strung across the front with election ribbons. We have several large Libertarian Party: Defender of Individual Rights banners behind us, include one that quotes Clint Eastwood as a libertarian.
"We always have one or two Operation Politically Homeless surveys going on. One is posted on a large, wooden fold-up display with quotes from well-known libertarian actors and writers. We also have another wooden fold-up display called "The Wall of Shame," (provided by FED-UP - Foundation to End Drug Unfairness Policies - which I chair). This display has pictures of convicted drug users and their family with shameful details about their convictions - how they got a life-sentence for small amount drugs, or in a number of cases where no drugs were found at all.
"This year, we found a 7 foot tall cardboard Statue of Liberty and displayed it prominently. And to sweeten our philosophizing, we provided big containers of small chocolate-chip cookies from Trader Joe's for hungry students.
"We usually have about ten LP volunteers. We know that it is important to talk one-on-one with these bright students. Remember that these students are involved in JSA because they are interested in political science. They volunteer time to their local JSA club on campus. So they are active, interested achievers, everything that is needed in the Libertarian Party.
"The JSA organizes conventions in both Northern and Southern California. I suspect the JSA does the same in other states, which means that each state LP should contact their local JSA office.
"As for long-term results, one of the students in charge of last year's JSA fair had read my Facets of Liberty the year before and was quite impressed. He was very eager to help out with as many literature tables as I wanted, and provided me with the best location in the convention display room."
These efforts by the Monterey and Santa Clara Libertarians started small. They accepted an invitation and made the most of it. Each year they did this, they could not necessarily anticipate how the invitation to participate would be expanded. They just went out and did the OPH booth because, hey, that's what we do.
What Lawrence did not mention can be found in a recent LP News article on Gary Nolan's campaign. Nolan got his opportunity to speak at the JSA events this year precisely because of the groundwork laid by these local Libertarians. This in turn has led to more speaking engagements for Nolan, more chances for him to use his campaign to promote the Libertarian message nationwide.
And finally, one part that really struck me was how one of the event organizers had read Lawrence's book the year before and was impressed. Of course, it's always wonderful to hear that kind of feedback, to know that you had such a positive influence on someone.
But realize, Lawrence did not know about this until a year later. During that time, unknown to him, this student had been acting on the information he had received at our booth. Indeed, Lawrence would never have found out at all if he hadn't been told directly.
I have to ask, how many more examples must there be of people who heard what you had to say, or read what you gave to them, were influenced by it, and never had the opportunity to tell you about it?
You can't measure the value of an outreach booth simply by the number of names you collected, or even by what doors are opened for you, or the political network you create by doing outreach. There is an intangible result that may or may not ever make itself tangible to you.
For all you know, you sparked the thoughts of someone who becomes active in their local party, or maybe a future newspaper editor that is helpful to Libertarian candidates, or maybe just a person who for the rest of their lives tells their friends and colleagues to vote Libertarian. Hey, dare to dream, maybe that student you just introduced to Liberty will eventually become the first Libertarian President.
From small things, big things can come.
Sean Haugh is the Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of North Carolina . Sean is married to longtime Libertarian Pam Adams, and they have a family of three dogs and five cats. Besides them, Sean loves God, Liberty, and Oklahoma Sooners football. Write to Sean at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Libertarian Party booth at the April 2005 JSA convention in Santa Clara