Students voice their opinions on free speech ball

Photo by Elizabeth Bauman

Ethan Free

“Speech Ball! Come write on the Speech Ball!” Young Americans for Freedom members called as they rolled around a giant beach ball and handed sharpies to passing students.

The Young Americans for Freedom is a new club on UNO’s campus, aimed at educating students and promoting political discourse.

“Our goal is to show conservatives they don’t have to be afraid to be conservative,” said club president Kenneth Pancake. “We want to educate students about conservatism.”

The group’s mission is to “bring together students to advocate for the ideas of limited government, individual freedom, free enterprise, traditional values and a strong national defense,” according to the YAF website.

Young Americans for Freedom was founded in 1960 as a non-affiliated conservative group under Section 501(c)3, and as such cannot endorse any particular candidate or party in an election. Instead, it seeks to unite and strengthen young conservatives on college campuses, and to educate students who may not know what conservatism is about.

“For me, YAF is a place I don’t have to hide my conservative beliefs and hang out with like-minded people,” said Ethan Maas, vice president of the UNO chapter.

In addition to bringing conservative students together, YAF aims to encourage them to go out into the collegiate world.

“YAF wants to create a place for conservatives to come do some activism,” said Maas.

The group had their public debut two weeks ago when students brought a giant, inflatable beach ball to the commons area in front of Milo Bail Student Center. Members of the group spent several hours inviting students to come write on the Speech Ball. Students were informed it was a free speech exercise, and told they could write anything they wanted on the ball without fear of censorship.

Many of the students took the chance to write things unrelated to politics. ‘I love yous’ and jokes were popular. There were even a few Twitter and Snapchat handles.

On the political side, some people wrote satirical comments, like one student who signed their message “George Dubya,” and others wrote on more serious subjects. “Hate speech is free speech,” wrote one student, “but let not your free speech be hate speech.” By the time the ball was taken down, there was hardly a blank space left on its shiny plastic surface.

While this is the first year that YAF has brought out the Speech Ball, it’s not the first year that UNO has hosted one. They are popular among conservative groups around the U.S., especially on college campuses. The goal is always “to practice free speech, uncensored and unendorsed,” said Pancake. With this year’s success, the Speech Ball will likely be making a return in the years to come.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Maas.

“It’s a pain to inflate,” said Pancake.