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Freedom is for Everyone: Birth of Fife

This is a chronicle of the 1987 Libertarian Party National Convention in Seattle, Washington from within the Russel Means campaign for the presidential nomination.

We on the Means team all felt shock and dismay on the morning of Saturday, September 5,1987 when Ron Paul won the Libertarian Party presidential nomination on the first ballot. Many of us had wagered much and lost much pursuing a dream of the libertarian message carried to the oppressed throughout the USA and even the world. But wait, from such defeats do even greater victories spring.

The first sign that the defeat was not as it appeared came quickly. To no one's surprise Russell was nominated for vice president although we all knew he would decline. During the nominating speech he came from the back of the hall and took the podium. He declined the nomination and praised Andre Marrou, the only other viable vice presidential nominee, as a good libertarian and freedom fighter. He spoke of his love and gratitude for all the wonderful people he met in the Libertarian Party. He spoke to 400 hard core libertarians heart to heart.

When he finished the hall exploded with cheering and applause that continued longer and louder than any I can remember. Less than a third of these folks had voted for Russell yet they all stood cheering and applauding for what seemed like forever. How could this be? What did it mean?

What it meant to me was that even the people who voted against him regarded Russell as a hero, a freedom fighter, a good libertarian, and an asset to the party. It communicated love and respect. Russell felt it and began to smile. He later said that he had never felt such love from a crowd since he got out of prison, and that crowd was Indian. Ron Paul felt it too. He later jokingly asked the audience why Russell always got more applause than he did.

Soon many of us were in the hospitality suite with Russell and the mood was very odd. The despair and defeat were still present but there was a peculiar feeling of enthusiasm. We didn't have to form a group because we already were a group, we only needed a name. We didn't have to create a goal because we already had a goal, spreading the word that freedom is for everyone.

There were some revealing comments made. Someone quipped "Well, now they have their candidate and we have our hero". Everyone laughed. Someone asked us to talk Russell into staying in the party. They were told Russell was talking us into staying in the party. Everyone laughed again. We began to identify a lot of talents, skills, and resources.

What to do next? We found a name in the campaign slogan "Freedom is for Everyone". The acronym FIFE suggests the American revolution. The fife is also an Indian instrument. Naming our group after a musical instrument emphasized nonthreatening communication. A vivid image, and easy acronym, it felt right. The newsletter name followed easily "The Sound of the Fife".

Ben Olsen and his feather buttons prompted us to adopt the feather as our symbol. Russell liked that since it was part of his mother's name. I liked it most of all, the feather as a symbol of libertarianism is truly inspired.