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Students For Liberty Regional Conference Credit: Meredith Stern , Meredith Stern

In Philadelphia, the city where freedom was founded, over 200 liberty-minded people came together this Saturday for the Students for Liberty Regional Conference.

After having been hosted at many other institutions in the past, SFL returned home to Penn, where the organization was co-founded by 2008 College graduate Alexander McCobin.

This was the largest regional conference in SFL’s history. It was organized by both Penn and regional SFL members.

“For me it all began in ninth grade when my dad gave me a copy of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ for my birthday. I finished it and said, ‘This is what I’ve always believed put into words,’” McCobin said.

At Penn, McCobin went on to found the Libertarian Association — now known as Penn for Liberty. Later on, he founded SFL after noting that there was no national organization for like-minded students to organize under.

PFL board member and College freshman Zachary Slayback stresses that the club’s mission is not political, but philosophical. “PFL is unique among Penn Political Coalition groups in that we are not actually aligned with any political group. Some of our members voted for Barack Obama, some voted for Mitt Romney, some for Gary Johnson. Some didn’t vote,” Slayback said.

He emphasized that the group is more interested in creating societal change through academic forums and discussion than through political organizing.

Despite the organizers’ non–political slant, many of the participants and speakers at this weekend’s conference were very much self-proclaimed libertarians. “Atlas Shrugged” and its political philosophy as espoused by Ayn Rand was cited more than once, especially during the breakout session “Fighting for Freedom Against Re-elected Obama,” led by Ed Hudgins of The Atlas Society.

“Take a look at the logic of the paternalist state,” Hudgins said. “Basically the logic is that the government has to take from the productive people in order to give to the people who are entitled, so to speak. Meaning the productive people that are left have to have an even greater burden. That is the ‘Atlas Shrugged’ scenario playing out right now, right here.”

Besides outlining the “bleak” libertarian perspective under the new Obama administration, Hudgins also offered some solace to students hoping to promote change, suggesting that they go into their communities and take pictures of themselves standing out in front of closed businesses, with signs that read, ‘Atlas is shrugging.’”

Hudgins also suggested that students find businesses in their area that are doing well and celebrate their success with a “Thank a Capitalist Day.”

Vassar College junior and president of his local chapter of SFL, Julian Hassan, was inspired by Hudgins and said he planned on carrying out the suggested photo project at Vassar.

In addition to smaller breakout sessions like the one that Hudgins led, the conference was bookended by two panels — one on student activism and a second on the drug war. It also featured several speakers, including Penn’s Alan Kors. Kors, a professor of European history, explored themes from his essay, “Can There Be An After Socialism?”

Throughout the day, SFL live-tweeted the event and encouraged its participants to as well, through the handle #SFLPhilly12.

“On my way to UPenn for #SFLPhilly12! Time to celebrate the huge strides for #liberty this past week #marriageequality #marijuanalegalization,” tweeted Michelle M, @Michelle7291.

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