“I’m very suspicious of people who think they know where they will be in 10 years. You have to be flexible”
“The best hires are folks who can hit the ground running. They come with ideas they want to see in action”
Paul Teller (Republican Study Committee) shares his advice for breaking into a career on Capitol Hill at AFF’s July event on Capitol Hill.
In Washington DC, libertarians have long been outsiders, working hard to fight big-government policies despite meager representation in the two main parties. Fortunately, organizations like the Cato Institute have made great strides in bringing the cause of liberty to the forefront of national debates. Today, David Boaz, Executive Vice President at Cato, is one of the battle-tested leaders at the forefront of that campaign.
“I think the most important thing the Cato Institute has done,” Boaz says, “is to create a presence for libertarian ideas — the ideas of the American Revolution — in Washington and the national political debate, so policymakers and journalists can’t ignore them. We do that by talking about fundamental ideas, developing policy proposals based on those ideas, and reminding people that lots of Americans are neither liberal nor conservative but hold essentially libertarian ideas.”
Like many libertarians, Boaz was not born and raised a libertarian. He was, however, raised in a family of conservatives, most of them lawyers, who regularly talked politics around the house. “There was a lot of political talk in my household growing up,” Boaz says, “so I was always interested in politics and policy.” However, he eventually encountered the writings of Ayn Rand (as well as Goldwater, Hazlitt and Hayek) and he soon began to see “a tension in conservative thought between freedom and government-imposed order.”
By college, Boaz was a nascent libertarian and starting a chapter of Young Americans for Freedom at Vanderbilt. Although he applied to law schools, he realized that he was more interested in advancing freedom than in studying law. After graduating, he moved to Washington and became the first Executive Director of the Young America’s Foundation. Looking for a more explicitly libertarian organization, Boaz eventually found the Cato Institute.
In the intervening years, the Cato Institute has grown rapidly, and Boaz’s roles and responsibilities have expanded as well. He worked hard, proactively sought out new opportunities to grow both the organization and his role within it, and became Executive Vice President. However, he is quick to emphasize the importance of results and personal fulfillment over the importance of job titles. He says the proudest moment of his career was writing Libertarianism: A Primer and editing The Libertarian Reader, “all in the space of about six months.” “Of course,” he says, “when people ask me how long it took, I tell them 20 years, because that’s how long I’d been studying the ideas that ended up in those books.”
Despite an impressive litany of personal and organizational successes at the Cato Institute, Boaz remains energized and focused on the challenges that lie ahead: “Most Americans believe in the fundamental libertarian value that people should be free to live their lives as they choose so long as they respect the equal rights of others,” he says, “but when it comes to applications, it’s so tempting to want something free from government, or want to advantage your own business over your competitors, or want to tell other people who or what they shouldn’t read, smoke, eat, drink, or marry.”
Boaz knows as well as anyone that winning over the American people, let alone politicians in DC, is a huge task. Nonetheless, he is confident that the efforts of Cato and the larger liberty movement, are moving America ever closer to “moving day”, the day when Cato’s work will be done, and he and his colleagues can “all load our trucks to move back to California or wherever my colleagues would like to live.”
For America, he says, “moving day” will arrive with “a federal government living under the constraints of the Constitution, no longer exercising the powers not granted to it — a foreign policy of restraint, a federal government that mostly defends us from foreign threats and adjudicates disputes that cross state lines, and most other aspects of life left to the states respectively, or to the people.”
Finally, Boaz has a word of advice for the next generation of libertarian leaders:
First, don’t be in a hurry to start a career. You have every prospect of living a long, long time. Enjoy your youth. Live abroad, walk across the country, work on a hopeless political campaign. Find your career when you know what you want to do. But if you ARE determined to get started on that liberty-advancing career, then do a good job from the beginning. You can get by with B- work in college…But in a world where our opponents are doing A work, we’re looking for interns and new employees who do A+ work and ask what else they can do to help.
Of course, there are many excellent organizations, such as America’s Future Foundation, which can help young leaders on the way: “AFF gives people an opportunity to learn about many different organizations and branches of the liberty movement, and a chance to hear ideas debated. Those are all part of your effort to find your own place in the movement.”
Tom Swanson is a student at the University of Notre Dame and served as an intern at America’s Future Foundation in summer 2012.
“One thing we take very seriously in the lobbying community is that we really are exercising 1st amendment rights on behalf of a lot of citizens in this country.”
Shawn Friesen, Director of Legislative, Political and Grassroots Advocacy for The American Academy of Dermatology Association, speaks about the role that lobbyists play in Washington, and gives some tips for breaking into a lobbying career.
“Boys are suffering a death of a thousand cuts” in today’s education system.
Ron Henry, president of The Boy’s Initiative, says that America’s education system has grown increasingly unfriendly to boys’ learning styles and needs. At AFF’s July roundtable on higher education, Ron talked about this “death of a thousand cuts”, why it came into existence, why it’s bad for our education system, and what to do about it.
“If you’re interested in a graduate program, you should look at a top-50 school. If you can’t get them to fund you, do something else.”
Bill Glod from the Institute for Humane Studies looks at the higher education bubble in graduate schools, particularly in the humanities, where he says too many students are either uninterested or unqualified.
John Barry, former Executive Director of America’s Future Foundation, is now the Head of Government Affairs for Visa International in London, England. Last week we caught up with him to talk about careers, liberty, and AFF.
America’s Future Foundation: How did you get involved in the liberty movement?
John Barry: Thanks to my family. My uncle is Ed Feulner. But more importantly, my father ran a small family foundry that was effectively put out of business by overbearing federal regulation.
AFF: What did you learn during your time with AFF?
JB: I learned the importance of personal connections and telling stories to get our point across.
AFF: How and why did you make the move to the private sector?
JB: I got lucky and was able to leverage my time working on Capitol Hill into a government relations job with Visa. It was important for me to get out of Washington and see what life is like in the actual economy that we in the Liberty movement talk so much about. This job came up that was about as far as you can get from Washington (San Francisco and now London) but still made use of my professional connections and experience working in and around DC.
AFF: What has been the key to your professional success?
JB: To the extent I’ve been successful, it’s a result of making sure to associate myself with hard working and determined colleagues. Be open to new experiences and always focus on the substance of the work and not the politics.
AFF: Speaking of success, what is the best thing young professionals can do to advance their career?
JB: Get multiple different experiences both inside the liberty movement and outside. You’ll be much more credible and wise if you get firsthand experience being an entrepreneur or working in the private sector as well as working within the movement.
AFF: We know liberty is important to individuals. Is liberty an important principle in business?
JB: Certainly, liberty at the societal level is essential for business to flourish. This is something that many in business today have forgotten as they seek special regulatory treatment or subsidies from the government. So, yes, I think liberty is an essential principle in sustaining long term business success.
AFF: Do you have a favorite memory from your time with AFF?
JB: Probably the crabfests! Oh…and when we published the first issue of DoubleThink. It was such a landmark that we had become a permanent organization and produced something tangible.
AFF: Why do you support AFF financially, and would you encourage others to do the same?
JB: I support AFF financially because I believe that it is an investment in people, and that is one of the best investments that can be made. Investing in AFF is literally investing in the infrastructure of the Liberty Movement. My investment in AFF is multiplied many times over as AFFers develop through their career and the investment by others in other organizations kick in to further support their development and work. For these reasons and more, I’d absolutely encourage everybody to support AFF.
For example, Amanda Winther-Schorsch, an AFF member, won a lunch with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) at AFF’s Gala back in May. Last week she finally got to cash in. In addition to lunch, the day included a tour of the U.S. Capitol and plenty of great discussion. Here’s what Amanda had to say about the once-in-a-lifetime experience:
“My friend and colleague Tim Hedberg and I had lunch with Senator Rand Paul last Thursday, and I wanted to write you to thank you and AFF for making this possible. We ate in the private senate dining room, where we discussed current events, our work and interests, including online education and reaching young people through social media.
Afterwards, Tim and I were privileged to receive a private tour of the capitol building. It was an inspiring and exciting lunch, certainly an extremely unique opportunity for me as a young professional to engage with the ideas of liberty on a different level.
The AFF gala was my first AFF event, and I know I will be back for more. Thank you again for making this possible!“
Just one more example of how AFF helps young professionals advance their liberty careers! Join as a member now.
Should the government be able to tell us what to eat? Antonie Hodge doesn’t think so:
“If you want to do paleo, you should do paleo. If you want to eat donuts or smoke cigarettes, you should be able to do that too”
Antonie Hodge (Institute for Humane Studies) speaks at AFF’s “Get Government out of the Regrigerator” roundtable. Antonie speaks about her discovery and adoption of the paleo diet, which directly contradicts the USDA‘s dietary guidelines.
Here are the highlight’s from Dr. Ed Feulner’s keynote speech at AFF’s 2012 Leadership Dinner. Dr. Feulner is president at the Heritage Foundation. The speech focused on helping young professionals move up in their careers in the liberty movement.
As he prepares to name a successor, Fred Smith has big plans for the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Since founding the think tank in 1984, he has grown the organization into one of the most well-respected free-market organizations in Washington, but he knows how much hard work is left.
“If you look at the whole liberty movement across the world, let’s say .0001 of the world economy is devoted to defending freedom. You can be optimistic about how much value we’ve created with such little money, but you can also see how much more we could do,” Fred says, “The good news is that we don’t have to be the best, we just have to be better than the other side.”
However, Fred thinks there will be great opportunities to drive reform and return to free-market principles in the near future. “Statism is always failing,” he says, “We just have to stay around long enough to be there to suggest liberty as an alternative. Our system is falling apart now too. Our job will be to pick up the pieces and put it back together in a better way.”
He points out the ways that societal and technological changes (such as the internet in the last 20 years) have been able to drive political change: “We don’t even know what will generate growth and wealth in the next 20 years—it hasn’t been invented yet.” CEI is committed to staying vigilant, and staying around to ensure that “remolded” societies 20 years from now are more fundamentally committed to liberty than they are now.
Fred is confident that the next president of CEI will be up to the task, saying CEI will find someone a little more management-oriented. “There are a lot more issues,” he says, “and we have to get a lot bigger.”
Preparing to step down from the CEI presidency has given him a chance to reflect on how he got there in the first place. Growing up in the 60’s, Fred initially thought his support for the civil rights movement meant he was a liberal. He eventually began working for the EPA, but he was soon shaken by the inefficiency and corruption of big government bureaucracy. This experience illustrated the importance of free market principles, but it also left him impressed with how well environmental groups organized themselves. He realized that the liberty movement was falling behind in this regard.
This realization prompted him to form CEI, an organization that could promote freedom across many policy areas, from developing the “intellectual ammo,” to marketing ideas, to forming alliances, to advocating policy change. This “vertical structure” made CEI unique amongst its peers, but its early years were frustrating. Fred was unable to pay himself a salary for his first year building the organization.
Of course, CEI grew quickly and flourished, thanks to the hard work, vision, and entrepreneurial spirit of Fred Smith and many others. “Nobody thinks they’re entrepreneurial,” he says, “You look back and realize it later.”
Fred’s experience and eventual success has given him a lot of wisdom to share with the young liberty-minded entrepreneurs of today:
“There’s a lot to learn. You want a certain cockiness, that’s useful, but you don’t want to act like you know it all already. DC is a strange place. Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself. By being willing to express ignorance, you can learn more. Be a journalist: call people up and ask them to help you understand issues. Read.”
“You don’t have to be the expert, you can be an advocate. You don’t have to be the expert, but you have to know who the experts are. You can be a facilitator. Alliance-building is all about outreach. Market yourself, sell your ideas, and be alert for what people are doing in your field. Look out for things you can improve on and people who have the resources you need to succeed.”
Smith offers valuable advice for young people—the same people who will have to “pick up the pieces” and “suggest liberty as an alternative” in tomorrow’s world.
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