“We are winning. Our ideas are winning throughout the world!,” exclaimed Johan Norberg, 2018 Walter Judd Freedom Award recipient and the concluding speaker at the TFAS 2018 Annual Conference in New Orleans.
More than 120 TFAS alumni, supporters and friends converged in the Big Easy this September for thought-provoking speakers and discussions on how to work together to bring the benefits of a free society to life for a new generation of leaders.
Norberg’s remarks were an encouraging and fitting conclusion for the weekend. He assured attendees that their efforts have not been in vain, encouraged them to keep fighting and to focus on the progress that is being made “one by one, generation to generation, bit by bit, slowly but steadily.”
“Whenever we manage to give people just a bit of space to go about their own business, to try to improve the lives of themselves, their families and their communities, they create magic,” said Norberg. “During these 25 minutes that you’ve been listening to me, another 2,300 people around the world rose out of extreme poverty because they got a little bit more of that freedom. That is amazing and we should just think of that constantly.”
WINNING THE BATTLE OF IDEAS
Dr. Anne Bradley, the George and Sally Mayer Fellow for Economic Education and TFAS academic director, gave a firsthand account of how TFAS is winning the battle of ideas inside our classrooms by connecting with students using the “economic toolkit.”
Bradley explained that during the first few weeks of classes, she focuses on building the foundation of political economy, ensuring that students have a keen grasp of economic concepts, before applying those principles to the policy arena. The goal is that students walk away empowered with this analytical framework that allows them to think about issues they care about and address them in ways to improve everyday life and expand opportunities for those most in need.
“I tell students, ‘take your political hat off and put your economic hat on,’ and that really liberates them in a very meaningful way,” said Bradley. “It says I don’t have to think the same way that my parents or others wants me to think. Instead, I can think about what economics says about the minimum wage, for example … I think students like that because they feel they have a voice and they have a new way that empowers them to rise above the political fray.”
TFAS professor Dr. Joshua Mitchell of Georgetown University and TFAS alumnus Mark Hemingway (Novak 02) of The Weekly Standard tackled the topic of identity politics, discussing their analysis of today’s divisive political climate and providing advice on how to break through the noise.
“I don’t see any easy way out of this mess such that we can return to a more agreeable cultural and political consensus, short of rolling up our sleeves and doing the hard work of rebuilding our educational and social institutions so Americans can regain some sense of common purpose rooted in the principles of this country’s founding,” said Hemingway. “That task is a critically important one and precisely why organizations such as The Fund for American Studies exist.”
Also speaking at the conference were Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute who gave attendees a preview of her new book, “The Diversity of Delusion,” and TFAS alumna Mollie Hemingway (Novak 04) who spoke about her fight against media malpractice. “This battle for accurate news and fair treatment of important issues is one of the major fights of our time,” said Hemingway. “It’s exciting to see so many people in this fight.”
ALUMNI CONNECT AND CELEBRATE THE TFAS JOURNEY
More than one-third of the conference participants were TFAS alumni or current fellows. They are living examples of the impact of our programs and proof the TFAS Journey doesn’t conclude with one summer or semester. It’s a lifelong network committed to creating a better and freer society.
TFAS honored two of our most outstanding alumni during the conference’s opening dinner. Jennifer Hale (IPJ 99), a Fox Sports sideline reporter, was awarded the TFAS Alumni Achievement Award, and Ken Klatt (ICPES 70), retired counsel to Delta Air Lines and longtime Alumni Council Chairman, was recognized with the Kevin Burket Alumni Service Award.
Klatt attended the inaugural TFAS summer program in D.C. in 1970, and says, “it has been a continuing education” ever since. In 2002, when the TFAS alumni council was first formed, Klatt answered the call to join and in 2012 he was elected to serve as council chairman, a role he held until this fall. “The mission of TFAS was and remains important,” said Klatt. “The Founding Fathers believed that our Republic would work only with a civic-minded and educated populace. Precious few places provide this. TFAS is one of those places.”
While accepting her award, Hale spoke about the tremendous impact of TFAS on her own professional career and encouraged supporters to invest in TFAS students. She said TFAS programs reach the Twitter generation by teaching young people that “you can’t sum up the world’s problems or why democracy is so important in just 140 characters.”
“I hope this work continues for a very long time to come because I think it makes an incredible difference in not only young people’s lives but also those of us who are now adults living in this world looking for those to carry on the torch after us,” said Hale.
The weekend also included the inaugural Alumni Leadership Academy, an invite-only event with special programming for alumni who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to the mission and initiatives of TFAS. Throughout the weekend, alumni selected for the academy participated in conversations with TFAS leadership about the future of the organization and exchanged ideas on how to best meet key goals in the years ahead.
Tricia Beck-Peter (IEIA 15), alumni engagement coordinator at the Foundation for Economic Education, said the academy felt like coming home. “Even though I had never met anyone else attending, everyone was so welcoming and so passionate about TFAS and its mission,” she said. “I consider myself lucky to be associated with this organization and its incredible alumni.”
The 2019 Annual Conference will be held in Washington, D.C. during our U.S. summer programs. Details will be announced at www.TFAS.org/events as soon as they become available.