This January, 50 university students traveled to Santiago, Chile to be part of the Institute for Leadership in the Americas (ILA), where TFAS trains future leaders in political philosophy, public policy and economics.
While attending classes on the picturesque campus of the University of the Andes, students engaged in discussions with top professors from the United States and Chile on the moral underpinnings of capitalism and the necessities of a free and prosperous society. The coursework and follow-up discussions left a profound impact on the young leaders.
“ILA was one of the best educational and cultural experiences I’ve had in my life,” said student Orlin Chavez (ILA 15) of Honduras. “It is my desire to continue to have the support of TFAS, it really is a fund that helps change lives, thoughts and societies to keep us free.” Chavez wasn’t alone in his enthusiasm for the program. 80 percent of students said ILA would have a large or life-changing effect on their lives, and a full 100 percent said that ILA exposed them to new ideas, concepts and cultures.
ILA Director Jon Perdue said this year’s program was especially impactful, having student leaders from both Venezuela and Hong Kong who were able to share their experiences on the front lines of student protests in their home countries. “While classroom teaching from great professors can instill a sense of importance about defending individual liberty and the rule of law, nothing drives the point home like the testimony of one’s peers who have just witnessed their freedom being snatched away,” he said.
Inside the ILA classroom, Dr. Brad Thompson of Clemson University’s Center for the Study of Capitalism sparked discussions with a week-long examination of political philosophy and the moral foundation of capitalism and free enterprise.
The following week, students studied the public policies that have made Chile a breakout economic power in Latin America through the teachings of Chilean professors Juan Ignacio Brito and Ricardo Leiva of the University of the Andes. The professors brought their lessons to life by bringing in Sebastián Claro, director of the Central Bank of Chile, to explain Chile’s constitutional restraints on monetary policy.
Professor Michael Paulsen, a graduate of Yale Law School and current distinguished chair at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, gave a lecture on the origins and philosophy of the U.S. Constitution and how it differs from those that most students were accustomed to in their home countries.
During the two-week program, ILA students also visited a number of historic sites in Chile, along with a visit to the congress in Valparaiso, where they were able to sit in on committee debates surrounding the issues they were discussing in class.
Two Chilean congressmen, Jose Manuel Edwards and Jaime Bellolio, spent an hour and a half with the students, briefing them on current issues and taking questions on Chilean politics and public policy. Congressman Bellolio also taught two classes during the second week of the program, which provided the students with an insider’s perspective on Chile’s current public policy debates.
As the program came to a close, the new TFAS graduates were ready to return to their home countries and make a difference with their newfound knowledge. “ILA was a life-changing experience, both intellectually and personally. I’ve made amazing friends and I’ve learned new perspectives from which I can now see the world,” said Maria Noel Irabedra (ILA 15) of Uruguay. “Thank you so much for the opportunity to go to Chile and dedicate two weeks to learn new ideas and share them with others in order to help create a better society in each of our countries.”
We look forward to seeing the impact Irabedra and her fellow young leaders make in the coming years as TFAS alumni. As Fernando Labiano (ILA 15) of Argentina put it, “With organizations like TFAS, and programs like ILA, freedom may triumph.”
For more information on the ILA program, visit: www.TFASinternational.org/ILA.