July 26, 2017

AFF CommunityLiberty

Restoring Tocqueville

By: Roger Custer

What makes America great is not politicians in Washington, D.C., it’s hard-working people who band together to solve problems in communities nationwide. It’s churches, civic groups, families, neighbors, entrepreneurs, and local organizations like America’s Future Foundation (AFF). It’s you when you get involved with growing non-profit organizations that foster community.

Alexis de Tocqueville noted this in Democracy in America.

You put it in action by helping to grow AFF chapters, now in 26 cities. This year, AFF has already hosted 104 events in 26 cities, reaching more than 6,700 young leaders.

We now have 26 active chapters, up from 22 one year ago. Chapter leaders in more than 5 other cities are working to launch new chapters right now, in Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Omaha, Pensacola, and Portland.

Alongside this chapter growth, we continue to build and grow relationships with coalition allies and key student organizations such as the Institute for Humane Studies, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Leadership Institute, and The Fund for American Studies; national organizations, such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, The Heritage Foundation, and the State Policy Network; and, state-based think tanks, such as the Beacon Center of Tennessee, the Illinois Policy Institute, the Mackinac Center, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Given AFF’s rapid growth in programs and reputation, a similar organization called the Young Conservatives Coalition (YCC) decided to cease its operations and send its assets to America’s Future Foundation. YCC’s president, Chris Malagisi writes,

“After eight-plus amazing years, YCC is formally closing shop at the end of June 2017. But don’t worry, we’re also proud to announce that America’s Future Foundation will become the caregivers of both The Buckley Awards and Reaganpalooza, and will keep those great traditions alive! We’re confident these great legacies will be in the good and capable hands of America’s Future Foundation, which has grown over the years to become the country’s premier network of liberty-minded young professional leaders.”

Alongside the chapters, AFF’s Writing Fellows Program has also grown. Writing Fellows meet once every week, for six weeks, at the Washington Examiner offices, where they are exposed to a working newsroom. They hear from journalists, such as Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner, Stephanie Slade of Reason, Ron Meyer of Red Alert Politics, and Christopher Caldwell of The Weekly Standard, about how to publish their work.
Alumni of the AFF Writing Fellows program published 512 pieces in 2016. That number will be doubled this year, at least. Already in 2017, Writing Fellows have published more than 650 pieces.

Currently, 32 of the 70 Writing Fellows alumni are publishing consistently, at least once per month, advancing free-market ideas in publications including: The Washington Post, Forbes, National Review, Reason, U.S. News and World Report, the New York Post, the Washington Examiner, and many others.

Caroline Thorman (pictured, right) participated in the program in 2016. Professionally, she serves as deputy communications director for Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA11) in the House of Representatives, and her writing has appeared in publications such as Red Alert Politics. She writes:

“AFF’s Writing Fellows Program has been incredibly helpful to me as I aspire to become an influential writer in an increasing polarized culture. Being able to simplify complicated issues where the average reader will not only be intrigued, but educated by what you write indicates you’ve done your job well. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to participate in a fellowship that pushes me to excel as a writer, helps me improve my writing techniques, and prepares me to communicate ideas that work.”

Success can be measured by the impact on individual leaders throughout the country. Chris Harelson (pictured, left) is a talented, young freedom activist from Utah who launched AFF Provo in early 2017. He writes, “Building America’s Future Foundation in Utah is key to the success of our statewide and national movement. With a place for young professionals to connect, learn, and build relationships, we can expect to have a more engaged movement among young people.”

Another snapshot of our impact can be found in Detroit, where a community of young liberty-minded leaders is spreading a free market message among Millennials.

Heather Pfitzenmaier serves as chapter leader of AFF Detroit. She reports,

“Our Detroit chapter is filling a tremendous gap in the state by continuing to develop liberty-minded young professionals as they start and advance their careers. By offering opportunities for leadership and development, our members are stronger advocates for liberty in their communities across Michigan. Our events also transcend preaching to the choir and bring new individuals into the movement. AFF is opening their eyes to our ideas of freedom and doing so in an engaging, dynamic way. Whether it’s a policy discussion on economics, a training on how to better communicate to friends, or a social to build community, AFF is filling an important gap in our great state for the next generation.”

I’m not sure Tocqueville would make the same observations today. He probably would be distracted by the media’s 24-hour news cycle that focuses on drama related to politicians in Washington, D.C., and the overgrown government they run.

But through our work, we make it more likely that our peers will hear the message of freedom and begin to make the same observations Tocqueville did more than 180 years ago.

Together, we can achieve the vision of an American culture permeated with a love for liberty, free markets, limited government, and personal responsibility.

Roger Custer is the CEO of America’s Future Foundation.