July 30, 2012

Profiles in Liberty: Alexander McCobin

By: Christine Smith

So many young people today are afraid to take risks because they are afraid to put themselves on the line and face the possibility of failure. After all, most organizations that are proposed never actually make it off the ground. However, Alexander McCobin, the Executive Director of Students for Liberty, is living proof that a person can be young and still make a huge difference. All that’s needed is passion and some hard work.

When it seems easier to become a Socialist

Alexander’s passion for promoting liberty began in ninth grade after he read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. From then on, McCobin dedicated his time in high school to learning more about liberty and reading as many libertarian works as possible.

When Alexander began college at University of Pennsylvania, however, he started to feel unsure of himself after he realized not as many students outwardly promoted liberty as he previously expected. Alexander shares, “I began to feel so isolated that I actually thought to myself, ‘Alexander, if you’re the only one who thinks this way, you must be crazy. Give up and become a socialist—it will become so much easier.’”

Alexander didn’t give up though—and the results of his dedication for liberty were more positive than he ever expected. He took a chance and started the Penn Libertarians to find out if there were other students in support of the libertarian movement. Fortunately, over 200 people supported the movement within the first year which convinced McCobin that he was not alone in his beliefs. He and his like-minded classmates just lacked a common meeting place.

The Penn Libertarians’ movement continued to expand when McCobin interned with Reason Foundation during the summer before his senior year. During the summer, Alexander met libertarian student group leaders from all over the country that faced the same challenges he did in gaining support. These meetings led to a very successful roundtable for sharing libertarian ideas, which then led to an even-more successful “Students For Liberty” Conference—the first in history. The New York City conference hosted over 100 students representing three countries.

“That’s when we realized there’s a demand for something like this. We had to turn it from a one-time conference into a full non-profit organization with year-round resources for students. We’ve just been growing ever since.”

Being a young leader comes with its challenges

Alexander says the biggest hardship he’s faced while establishing a full non-profit at such a young age is getting people to take him seriously.

“The biggest difficulty is getting people to take you seriously, especially with the student stereotype. When we started, many representatives from non-profit organizations worried that students couldn’t run a non-profit organization and going to speak at student groups wouldn’t be worth their time because students were immature, irresponsible, and lazy.”

McCobin also shares, however, that Students for Liberty makes combating that student stereotype their top priority and takes professionalism very seriously to instill a serious and professional message in all of their student leaders. This is why the organization has grown so rapidly.

Alexander’s AFF membership also helps him along the way, he claims, stating that the networking opportunities AFF provides are valuable.

I first got started with AFF when I was interning with the Reason Foundation because it’s a great place to meet other pro-liberty individuals—it’s a great networking opportunity in particular. I knew I wanted to get involved to meet other individuals and find out what other opportunities are available in the DC area. Networking is really important, especially here in DC.

A final piece of advice from Alexander

“Don’t just come up with an idea. Everyone has great ideas, but ideas aren’t enough. The people who stand out and who we need in the liberty movement are people who are willing to translate those ideas into reality and put in the work to do it. It’s not easy, it takes a lot of time and work, but it’s the most rewarding thing to do.”

If you’re interested in the work of Students for Liberty or interested in starting a student
group on your own campus, be sure to visit www.studentsforliberty.org.

Shares 0