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Maintaining Our Republic: Mitch Daniels Delivers Annual Neal B. Freeman Lecture

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Former Indiana Governor and TFAS Trustee Emeritus Mitch Daniels delivered the annual Neal B. Freeman All-Student Lecture on June 11 to students attending the TFAS Academic Internship Program.

Thanks to the generosity of businessman, television producer and political writer Neal B. Freeman, this annual lecture allows students to hear from notable speakers who address the principles of a free society, free markets, personal responsibility and virtue.

Students listen intently to Mitch Daniels.

Daniels, former president of Purdue University, began his remarks noting that Freeman gained firsthand knowledge on leading a successful career from TFAS founder William F. Buckley.

“Like his mentor William F. Buckley, Neal has done so with a wit, a depth of knowledge and a sunny disposition that disarms his opponents and has even enabled him to infiltrate some of their most ideological, hostile institutions,” Daniels said.

With Buckley’s and Freeman’s legacies in mind, Daniels delivered a lecture on democracy, or as he calls it, the “American Experiment.” Observing that the system of our nation is not a pure democracy, but a republic, he recalled the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin that we have, “a republic if we can keep it.”

The Fund for American Studies has been serving and preparing such idealists now for more than a half century.” – Mitch Daniels

Students line up to ask Daniels questions about how to maintain our Republic.

Daniels explained to the students that the founders were keenly aware and concerned about the dangers that would lie ahead in maintaining a republic. They understood that foreign predators anticipated our failure and that it is our job as a society to safeguard the nation for when that day comes.

“It’s not improbable that your generation will be the one called upon to react to America’s next great ordeal,” he said. “You will be occupying positions of influence as a shaken – or even shattered society – attempts to reshape itself.”

Daniels connects with students following the lecture.

He shared that every four generations or so, societies experience significant upheaval and that our nation’s fiscal integrity, basic rights of property and free speech were weakened in recent years.

He urged the cohort to be ready to face the next ordeal, because it will be the rising generation’s responsibility to respond to challenges so that our free society can persevere. Daniels expressed that the hope lies in the courageous leaders who will be champions of liberty and who believe in “an identity rooted in personal autonomy and the liberty to exercise it in shaping one’s own life.”

“The Fund for American Studies has been serving and preparing such idealists now for more than a half century,” he said. “If not for many of them, our traditional freedoms would have eroded even more than they have.”

To learn more about the lecture, watch Daniels’ full remarks below or read a transcript of the lecture on Law & Liberty. Daniels was also a featured guest on the Liberty + Leadership Podcast. Listen to his conversation with TFAS president Roger Ream here.


This Neal B. Freeman All-Student Lecture has been generously endowed by businessman and political writer Neal B. Freeman since 2015. Freeman graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and served as the Washington editor for National Review magazine from 1978 until 1981. Freeman was nominated by President Reagan and served on the board of directors of the Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT). He is chairman of Blackwell Corporation and was executive producer of the public television series “American Interests” and “TechnoPolitics.” He also served as director of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from 1972 to 1975.

Thanks to Freeman’s generous support, the annual lecture series features an effective and engaging speaker each year who speaks to TFAS students on the principles of a free society, free markets, personal responsibility and virtue. Previous speakers include:

  • David Bahnsen, managing partner and chief investment officer of The Bahnsen Group, author and commentator.
  • Dr. Samuel Gregg, distinguished fellow in political economy and senior research faculty at the American Institute for Economic Research, a fellow of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University, the visiting fellow for the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation, and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
  • Johan Norberg, Swedish author and historian.
  • Dr. José Piñera, Chilean economist and one of the nation’s famous “Chicago Boys” who were influenced by Milton Friedman.
  • Lawrence Reed, former president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the President Emeritus of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).
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