One UT student organization seeks to promote conservative values and initiate a dialogue about individual liberties.
A student determined to adopt a project of the Young America’s Foundation founded the University of Tennessee’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) in 2013. The club seeks to promote the five core principles of limited government, individual freedom, free enterprise, traditional values and a strong national defense.
Michael Hensley, a sophomore studying political science and communication studies, serves as the club’s chairman of the executive board. Hensley founded the UTK chapter of the organization during his freshman year and has worked diligently to expand it ever since.
In the few years that YAF has been at UT, the organization has hosted a variety of events and completed several projects. The club promotes its beliefs by organizing campus initiatives, hosting conservative speakers and by sending students to conferences across the country.
Laura Beth Hirt, a junior in business analytics and economics, serves on the executive board of YAF. Hirt participated in the Never Forget project—a 9/11 memorial featuring 2,977 flags to represent the American lives lost in the terrorist attacks. Hirt said that the memorial was the first of its kind on campus.
“No memorial like that had taken place on UT’s campus before YAF was established and that makes me especially proud to be a part of the organization,” Hirt said.
Trevor Sharpe, a sophomore triple-majoring in chemical engineering, computer science and math, has been an active member of YAF since finding the club’s booth at the involvement fair last semester. Sharpe said that in his short time as a member, he has completed several accomplishments.
“Since joining YAF, I personally have participated in placing flags for a 9/11 memorial, listened to a speaker on the modern devaluing of women, invited two veterans to share their experience in the military in a small group setting, collected and sent thank you cards to a veterans’ home and attended a training conference in Washington, D.C.,” Sharpe said.
Hirt said that the organization is meaningful to her because of its mission to spark a dialogue among young adults about their different freedoms.
“If YAF is able to influence one student to think critically about biased media, have a conversation with a veteran or stand up for their right to free speech on campus, my time in YAF is worth it,” Hirt said.
YAF’s next event will be a lecture with former chief speechwriter and senior advisor to President George W. Bush, Mr. Marc Thiessen, on Monday, March 23 at 7 p.m. in the Toyota Auditorium of the Howard Baker Center. All students, faculty and members of the community are invited to attend free of charge. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m., and there will be a Q&A session following the lecture.
Edited by Jessica Carr