TFAS held its fourth annual Institute for Leadership in the Americas (ILA) at Santiago, Chile’s University of the Andes from January 9-20, 2012. The program brought together students from the United States and 14 countries throughout Latin America. The 48 young leaders came together to learn about the founding philosophy of the U.S. and the moral and economic underpinnings of the free enterprise system.
Students were treated to lectures by top professors from the U.S. and Chile. Professor Brad Thompson, who heads the Center for the Study of Capitalism at Clemson University, served on the faculty for the third straight year. Many students reported that Thompson exposed them to ideas that they had not heard before. Thompson’s lectures on the morality of capitalism are unique in academia and make a mark on students who often report that their home universities vilify or avoid the subject altogether.
“ILA is definitely a life-changing program,” said one ILA student from Venezuela in a survey of the program. “Let’s make this possible for more students each year – we need young people to open their minds, to see and learn what they have before they lose it, like we have.”
ILA student Fernanda Tejada Levy of Bolivia was inspired by Thompson’s class to write an op-ed when she returned home after hearing that Bolivian President Evo Morales had passed an education law that would teach the “21st Century Socialism” of Hugo Chavez to all Bolivian students. The article, which according to Levy was inspired by Thompson’s class, won her a spot as a permanent opinion columnist for La Prensa, a major Bolivian newspaper.
TFAS chose Chile as the location for ILA because of its example as a bastion of stability and growth in a region that has seen a decade-long backslide into antiquated socialism and to underscore the lesson that free markets and the rule of law are the elemental keys to prosperity.
The ILA formula – one week establishing the philosophical and moral basis of capitalism, followed by a week linking Chile’s unique progress to its adherence to these principles – has proven very successful among students accustomed to a steady diet of anti-American populism.
The decision in 2008 to create a program that targets students in Latin America has strengthened the worldwide alumni network. The notion that these students will be in positions of leadership in their countries in the coming decades provides hope that the lessons that they learned at ILA will soon manifest in a more prosperous and peaceful hemisphere.