Students Learn the Price of Liberty—At Home and Abroad
By Sarah Pride
Patrick Henry College
This summer, Patrick Henry College students experienced a number of fascinating opportunities. Some immersed themselves in the Costa Rican culture in order to learn Spanish. Some flew across the ocean to Prague for a missions trip. And still others were able to visit Israel to learn about terrorism from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy (FDD). Besides this, students also interned at National Geographic, Slate magazine, and the governors’ offices in Hawaii and California, among other hands-on job experiences.
One of the two PHC students on the Israel trip, junior Kenny Ly recounts a visit to a maximum security prison where he, senior Taylor Sandoval, and around 30 other American college students talked with 20-30 actual terrorists. One of the terrorists had been the No. 13, the thirteenth most influential person, in the Palestinian Liberation Front.
“We asked them, how could they attack civilians? And they replied, over and over again, ‘The Israelis force us to do it. There is an occupation, and it is our duty to fight against it,’” recalls Ly, obviously shaken.
At one point, a terrorist attack occurred 600 feet away from the group. A Palestinian stole an Israeli’s gun and shot him. In general, however, Ly found that the people go about their daily lives as calmly as Americans, despite necessary restrictions.
“The biggest surprise for me,” he shares, “is what the Israelis have to do to protect their citizens. They’re on constant alert, with weapons everywhere. They check you for guns when you enter a restaurant.”
Last year, PHC students Nat Kurcab and Nick Butterfield also earned this same fellowship from the FDD in Washington, D.C. The year-long experience begins with a two-week, all-expense-paid trip, which includes lectures from key officials and journeys to certain intense areas of Israel. Fellows are then expected to initiate and organize five campus events over the upcoming year.
This year in Israel, Sandoval and Ly heard from the former No. 3 of the Mossad (Israel’s intelligence agency) and the Indian Ambassador to Israel, among others. They visited the Lebanese-Israeli border, the Syria-Israeli border, the Prime Minister’s office, a maximum security prison, and the West Bank. At the West Bank, they spoke to an actual victim of terrorism, whose wife and son were killed in a drive-by shooting.
Ly returned from his experience sobered. “This trip showed me the real threat that terrorism is,” he says. “We asked them why the United States has not faced more of it. They all replied, ‘There is no good reason.’”
He and Sandoval have since organized the first of their five events to raise awareness of the realities of terrorism—a September 11 candlelight service, with Brian Solo, former commander of the USS Cole, as the speaker.
Also learning about the gift of freedom this summer were junior Derek Archer and senior Daniel Turner, who interned at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) in their home state of Washington. The EFF researches and educates “to advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government.” Archer, who researched in the Labor Policy Center, was “completely blown away by the way the organization actually operated. They had a mission, knew what it was, and let it dictate their job.” He found himself fascinated by labor policy, an area he had not seriously studied before.
“I took away the vision that one person, with God’s help, can really change the world,” he says.
Turner worked in the Education Reform Center. Since his boss was working on a documentary, he quickly found himself learning how to fill in for some of his tasks, such as writing articles.
“I was doing influential work,” marvels Turner. “It encouraged me for my last year at Patrick Henry. I could enjoy working as an analyst.”
Archer’s boss for the summer, Mike Reitz, Legal Counsel and Director for the Labor Policy Center, says that he is definitely open to having more PHC students intern in the future. “Patrick Henry students are on the same ideological plane as us,” he explains.
Altogether, many students were able to leave their summer months with a better understanding of the motto “for Christ and for Liberty.” Freedom is a precious, fragile thing, they found, and one can work to preserve it in many different ways.