Youth Gather to Fight for Freedom Around the World

Representatives from conservative and center-right youth parties from across the globe met on November 4 in Miami, Florida as part of the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU). These young leaders gathered for organization elections and observed the U.S. presidential election just a few days later.

Simon Breheny of Australia’s conservative youth party (Young Liberals) was elected the new IYDU chairman. He described what he believed IYDU’s role would be in the coming year.

“Essentially we are the youth wings of the mainstream conservative political parties across the world,” he said. “Our values and principles and the things that we stand for are real message.”

“Essentially we are the youth wings of the mainstream conservative political parties across the world”

Breheny pointed to examples of IYDU members already impacting the future of their countries. “We’ve got activists all over the world,” he said. “Young political leaders are doing incredible things. They are fighting for freedom in their own countries, like Venezuela, Montenegro and Ghana.”

IYDU is a vehicle to bring people together, explained Breheny. “It allows for us to learn from each other,” he said. “We are training the next generation of young activists, many of them already making a difference in their own fight for democracy.”

“Young political leaders are doing incredible things. They are fighting for freedom in their own countries, like Venezuela, Montenegro and Ghana.”

IYDU promotes greater freedom and the principles of smaller government around the world. In 2016, the group held events in Taiwan, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Ghana and the United Kingdom. The Miami meeting offered these young leaders a chance to meet with colleagues from around the world and connect with activists in North and South America.

But two speakers stood out starkly to Breheny. “The most powerful message came from one of our best speakers, Sirley Ávila León, a Cuban exile who experienced some incredible difficulties,” he said. “She had been beaten brutally by the regime.” León lost one of her hands in a brutal machete attack organized by Cuban state security on May 24, 2015.

“She had been beaten brutally by the regime.” León lost one of her hands in a brutal machete attack organized by Cuban state security on May 24, 2015.

“Hearing her story was really, really powerful,” Breheny said. “We got to hear about the plight of Cubans and Cuban Americans and how important it is that they have a place to go (America). Because the U.S. is this beacon of liberty. I hope it always remains that, practically and symbolically, because the world needs to know what a free country looks like and what their own country could be if they free themselves from the yoke of the regime.”

“the world needs to know what a free country looks like and what their own country could be if they free themselves from the yoke of the regime.”

The other message from Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness was more positive and uplifting. He talked about communicating conservatism in a positive way, and using real stories of how these policies have positively impacted people.

“The Left uses this tactic all the time,” said Breheny. “And I think the Right, conservatives, classical liberals and libertarians need to get better at telling human stories. We are in favor of rule of law, small government and free trade because of the impact they have on the lives of [regular people].”

“And I think the Right, conservatives, classical liberals and libertarians need to get better at telling human stories. We are in favor of rule of law, small government and free trade because of the impact they have on the lives of [regular people].”

“Too often we allow compassion, kindness and caring to be monopolized by the Left,” he added. “As conservatives we need to do much better at showing how free markets, rule of law, constitutional democracy are relevant in a positive way to people’s everyday lives… Too often that is message that is lost on conservatives.”

Breheny was one of the IYDU members who stayed after the meeting to experience the American election process and participate in election observation training with the Leadership Institute. “I was really pleased to be in the U.S. for the presidential election. It was just really interesting. I got to go to a Trump rally, and a Clinton rally where President Obama was speaking, and a Marco Rubio for senate rally. I spoke to some of the local candidates, as well.”

He pointed out the differences in his country of Australia.

“I was interested in what the energy and enthusiasm was like,” Breheny said. “It was much more enthusiastic and passionate than it seem to be in Australia where there is quite a bit of apathy.”

The “real battle” in the United States, Breheny observed, is getting the voters out, compared with Australia, where voting is compulsory—“and much more boring.”

“In the U.S both parties are fighting for a middle ground position – and have to win those voters,” he said.

“In the U.S both parties are fighting for a middle ground position – and have to win those voters,” he said.

Breheny added that being in Florida only added to the experience.

“For us it was really just fascinating being in a state where you’ve got quite strong views in both directions on who should be in the White House,” he said. “It wasn’t just being in a swing state but being in one that was crucial. Also in terms of the demographics of Florida; the state has a unique position with so many Hispanics, Cubans and Latin Americans.”

In fact, Breheny made sure to talk to Cuban Americans in Florida, a crucial part of President-elect Donald Trump’s victory in the state. “Some Cuban Americans saw this vote as an opportunity to demonstrate their displeasure with President Obama’s direction on Cuba,” he noted.

Breheny has already started laying out plans for IYDU in 2017. “I think one of the regions we can do more work in is Asia. Australia is in this strange position where we are culturally an anglosphere with the U.S., U.K., Canada and New Zealand, but regionally we are closer to Asia. So, it’s important to me as an Australian that we stay true to a region that is so important to economically. I’m looking forward to working with our partners in South Korea and Taiwan. Last year the IYDU leadership did a  huge amount of work in this region and I was really proud to be part of IYDU’s Asia youth forum, and I plan to continue that.”

The IYDU is the youth wing of the International Democrat Union (IDU), a coalition of conservative and center-right political parties around the world, which includes the U.S. Republican Party. Find out more about IYDU, member parties and upcoming events here.  

Katrina Jorgensen is a contributor for Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter @Veribatim

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