By Zoe Rader
For The Diamondback
International students and leaders gathered at the University of Maryland on Saturday for the Students for Liberty annual regional conference promoting the freedom of speech.
The group has chapters around the world, including at this university, educating about libertarian ideals. The day-long conference was centered on the theme "Express Yourself," encouraging participants to share their thoughts on all forms of life, said Yusuf Mahmood, a junior economics and philosophy major.
The idea of freedom of expression was reiterated throughout the conference. Although the event was hosted by Students for Liberty, Mahmood — who also serves as president of the libertarian group's mid-Atlantic region and this university's chapter — said people should look "beyond the left-right paradigm" and "understand where a lot of us are coming from."
"The purpose is to show how there are several forms of expression that exist beyond free speech," Mahmood said. "A lot of people don't know what [libertarianism] is so I want people to come and ask really hard questions to our speakers," he added.
However, those who are established libertarians like Ishmam Faisal, a 25-year-old resident of Woodbridge, Virginia, also attended the conference to learn more from the renowned speakers.
"I have been a libertarian for 10 years, and I wanted to see what kind of speakers they had and what's new to the table and what has changed since the Trump administration," Faisal said. "I'm hoping to gain new ways of thinking and new arguments that I wouldn't have thought of just to escape my own version of my libertarianism bubble."
The event featured various speakers, including economists, human rights activists and other leaders, who shared ideas on libertarian theories and how to better express oneself freely in today's society.
Karith Foster, a stand-up comedian, diversity engagement specialist and founder of the Foster Russell Family Foundation — an organization promoting free speech and social change through various programs — spoke about the effects of stereotyping and individuals' provincial mindset.
"I'm a huge proponent of free speech because so often people are afraid to talk because they are worried about offending others," Foster said. "What I love about Students for Liberty is that they are about free speech."
Foster also encouraged students to think differently, emphasizing the importance of thinking outside the box in all aspects of life, including one's interpersonal relationships.
"My husband has this analogy where, if everyone thought the same way, it is like painting with the same color," Foster said. "But if you can add other elements and textures and colors, that's what makes a beautiful piece of art."
More than 150 students and other attendees came from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and other states throughout the region.
"I love coming to these conferences," said Mariia Chaplia, an intern for Students for Liberty from Ukraine. "It's all about diversity and the potential to meet many like-minded people."