Cardiff Students for Life President Emma Findlay-Wilson gives us her thoughts on Leadership Training 2015 (Oxford)
When you’re a pro-life student, you’re immediately a minority, and that means you’re probably used to not meeting other pro-life students. It’s easy to get trapped into your own little world, surrounded by angry pro-choicers, and to forget that you’re not the only one fighting this long and exhausting battle. There is nothing more refreshing and rejuvenating, therefore, than meeting a bunch of other people who are normal (mostly!) and lovely and also happen to be pro-life!
Any day that starts with free biscuits and tea is good, so the APS training day was guaranteed to be excellent anyway, but I was pleasantly surprised by both how useful and enjoyable it was. My favourite part of the day was a presentation by Oxford Students for Life on their previous Fresher’s Fayre stall and how it went. As the newly fledged president of the pro-life society in Cardiff with little to no organisational experience, I’d divided most of my summer between frantically worrying about how to plan my stall, and intermittently coming up with ideas, many of which were wildly impractical. The talk from OSFL was both helpful and eye-opening, and reminded us of the point of Fresher’s Fayre: to raise awareness of the society. If people see us, think about us, and maybe even talk to us, we have achieved our end: we are not trying to convince the entire student population to become pro-life (which even in my wildest dreams is a slight impossibility… at the moment anyway), but to see that we exist.
Probably the best aspect of the day was its hands-on approach. Though there were very serious and educational talks on pro-life issues such as euthanasia, which I found interesting and inspiring, they were not the sole focus of the training. Instead, we split up into groups, brainstormed, and even acted out situations (and for future reference, nothing is more terrifying than a male APS member pretending to be a rabidly pro-choice female). Though it was mostly hilarious, it was also extremely useful, and I made plenty of mental notes to relay to the rest of my exec.
But it’s not just the practical element that makes the APS sessions so worthy of your attendance. Honestly, it’s just amazing to meet some fellow pro-lifers and take a trip to the pub with them after a long day of social justice (and flapjacks)! I’ve made some excellent contacts in universities across the UK, and more importantly, I feel secure knowing that the people in APS have got my back if I get into any pro-choice hot water this coming year. My little notebook is stuffed with helpful email addresses and detailed notes on how to combat a pro-choice motion. I’m finally ready to start my term as Students for Life president!
Students For Life – St. Andrews President, Jack Stukel, also gives his thoughts on Leadership Training 2015 (Edinburgh)
Throwing oneself into the world of student pro-life activism can seem, at first, like an exercise in lonely futility. Confronted by indifference, revulsion, even outright hostility by both peers and administrators, it’s difficult to know how to proceed or who to talk to. Most well-established national pro-life organizations are fantastic for what they do, but what is unique about the Alliance of Pro-Life Students is that they can relate directly to what students are facing every day. Their Leadership Training Conference in Edinburgh was designed specifically by students for students. Balanced between crucial apologetics and practical society strategy, the Conference, from start to finish, was an unqualified triumph that could have only been delivered by a group sharing the experiences and worldview of those it seeks to inform. It is without hesitation that I wholly recommend and endorse the Leadership Training Conference and all the work done by APS.
Opening with a talk by the indefatigable John Deighan is a surefire method to energize any pro-life meeting, and this event was no different. Deighan’s analysis of the spread of the pro-life message in student culture was highly topical and especially helped me, as the president of the brand-new Students For Life – St. Andrews. Presentations by University of Edinburgh’s Margaret Palmer, bioethicist Dr. Calum MacKellar, and APS’ own Greg Jackson (on pro-life feminism, eugenics, and euthanasia respectively) followed, providing a firm foundation of knowledge to impart to our university peers. Lunch was thrown in there as well, a welcome opportunity to get to know a group of pro-life students going through the exact same struggles we at St. Andrews had been facing. Contacts were made, ideas were exchanged, and the pro-life cause was advanced a little further. Finally, to close the conference, APS provided critical practical advice. A presentation on how best to leverage a Freshers’ Fayre into increased participation was given by Greg Jackson, modeled on and informed by the Oxford Students For Life experience. Aesthetics, tactics, and goals were all discussed, which proved particularly enlightening for our St. Andrews delegates, as our Freshers’ Fayre was to be held the very next day. St. Andrews student and APS superstar Rebecca Short wrapped things up with a hugely successful workshop on recruitment events, which gave us a chance to brainstorm some ideal potential events. Dinner and drinks concluded the affair, a fantastic end to a fantastic conference.
APS’ Leadership Training Conference was enormously beneficial for me, both as a society president and as a young pro-life person. Their combination of informational education and practical advice proved to be the perfect cocktail for a successful, up-and-coming, pro-life society. As an organization run by students and directly focusing on students, their expertise and shared experiences create the ideal medium for the student pro-life movement. Their work has been and undoubtedly will continue to be both inspired and inspiring, and I cannot recommend their events highly enough!