Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast on September 15 welcomed nearly 500 friends and supporters who attended its 32nd Anniversary Benefit Dinner, the organization’s biggest gala event. Under the theme of Freedom Rising, Bast spoke of the evening as a means to celebrate the achievements of The Heartland Institute, to thank Heartland’s staff and volunteers and friends for their hard work, and to recognize and thank the donors whose generosity makes everything Heartland does possible.
Continuing his opening remarks, Bast noted that The Heartland Institute was founded in 1984 for one purpose: to preserve and expand individual freedom. This is done by discovering, developing, and promoting free-market solutions to social and economic problems, Bast said. The organization has accomplished over the year in its successful fights for lower taxes, fewer government regulations, reform of education and welfare policy, and more.
Heartland has also created a literature of liberty with books studies, articles, and videos about America’s unique gift to the world: the idea that a nation can be founded on principles instead of privileges, and on freedom instead of force. Heartland does wear a special badge of honor, having become the world’s leading think tank rejecting claims that global warming is a crisis, caused by human activity, and merits surrendering our freedoms to national or international government authorities.
Bast was not hesitant to note sad news: how in the last decade, our inalienable freedoms, fought for by the Founding Fathers and enshrined in the Constitution, have been greatly eroded. Consequently, we are less free today than we were in 2006, as the national government has greatly expanded its spending, borrowing, and regulating. Accordingly, this nation is on the road to nationalized health, nationalized education (both elementary and secondary and higher education), a nationalized energy sector, and a nationalized banking system. And all this has happened with a socialist in the White House, and with very little opposition from self-described conservatives in Congress and on the Supreme Court – which amounts to a bipartisan crime against freedom, against free men and women, and against all Americans and their loved ones.
Why does this disturbing trend matter? Because without the freedom to choose, there can be no moral actions, no right or wrong, no discovery of every person’s unique skills and potential. Without individual liberty and free enterprise, there would be no human progress, no innovation and economic growth, none of the peace and prosperity we take for granted today. Freedom, Bast said, is the most powerful idea ever discovered by man. It has liberated billions of people from poverty and slavery. It has transformed the world, but we seem to be throwing it away. As Ronald Reagan said, “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”
As Bast warned, it’s about to disappear on our watch. Freedom today is under attack by people who call themselves progressives, liberals, socialists, Marxists, and sometimes – in a rare blaze of honesty – communists. Whatever the label they hide behind, the Left wants more government and less freedom, along with more power to impose their ideas on others, and to live off the work and ingenuity of others. In contrast, those in attendance at Heartland’s benefit dinner want just the opposite – less government and more freedom! This is why Bast spoke of the coming election as one that may decide if we continue losing at the national level, or stop the bleeding and start restoring our lost freedom.
Bast ended his soliloquy is support of freedom with these five things everyone present should attempt to do to help restore American freedom, knowing that it is not through politics alone that freedom will rise again:
- Educate yourself about freedom – its history, institutions, and importance. Check out a copy of The Black Book of Communism to see what happens to societies that lose their freedom.
- Educate the people around you. Share your knowledge with others, give them books, sign them up for subscriptions to magazines and memberships in organizations, like The Heartland Institute and many more, that support the freedom philosophy.
- Be a role model for others. If you live a successful and righteous life, if you are faithful to your spouse and a good mother or father to your children, people will naturally look up to you and respect your political views.
- Help build new institutions. When the Left takes over Ivy League colleges and universities, stop sending your kids to them and donating to them. Support colleges such as Hillsdale and Carthage College instead. When it takes over elementary and secondary schools, vote against property tax hikes and instead support charter schools and private schools – such as Chicago Hope Academy, which filled a table at the dinner.
- Hang together … or else we shall surely hang separately, as Benjamin Franklin famously said.
Bast further asked for the support of brave men and women – in politics and outside politics – that we thank them for their sacrifices, and then work to make sure they keep their promises. For freedom can rise again only if everyone does their part.
Keynote Address: P.J. O’Rourke
Heartland Institute Communications Director Jim Lakely, Director of Communications at the Heartland Institute, introduced the night’s keynote speaker P.J. O’Rouke, who was called by Time and The Wall Street Journal “the funniest writer in America.” An American political satirist and journalist, O’Rourke is the author of 15 books, including his latest, Thrown Under the Omnibus, the essential P.J. O’Rourke anthology.
As a libertarian O’Rourke says he can’t stand either party. Although there were many libertarians in the room because of Heartland’s libertarian bent, there was also a sizable number of conservative Republicans present who didn’t appreciate remarks made by O’Rourke on May 11, 2016 on National Public Radio when he announced he’s be endorsing Hillary Clinton with all her empty promises, because she is the devil we know. At his speech for Heartland, however, he recanted that statement, and said he will not vote for Clinton.
O’Rourke’s recitations of humor, to some, were somewhat risqué at times. But it was clear that his comments about the 2016 election were enjoyed by the audience.
Several of O’Rourke’s comments were especially well received. Since humor depends so much on the way it is presented by the humorist, some of his comments in printed form below might not have the same impact, but I share them nonetheless:
- Why is it so flat in the Midwest? So we can see you coming.
- Citing the Heartland Institute as a center for clear thinking, O’Rourke spoke of himself as not much of a clear thinker – which made him too stupid to be talking to those assembled. As a student of stupid, O’Rourke said he is perfectly qualified to talk about the election, as 50 percent of the American people are, by definition, of below average intelligence. That explains everything!
- In making fun of Hillary: What can be funnier than Hillary’s pantsuits?
- The Republicans’ large list of presidential candidates was eventually whittled down to five, but it was not a list of presidential candidates. It was a list of the finest law firm in the world.
- Jeb Bush had it all. He was young, good looking, and the former governor of Florida, but he was rolling like a dirty dog in campaign contributions.
- Hillary was challenged by Bernie the Socialist. So, is it OK to steal stuff to make this nation more like Europe? But where do we go to get all the Nazis, Commies, and dead people?
- The Clinton Foundation is so large that it must be weighed on Chris Christie’s bathroom scale.
- What’s wrong with the Republican Party when John Kasich could win in a state, Ohio, that is as purple as Barney the Dinosaur.
- There are two parties, the Stupid Party and the Silly Party. Republicans have fewer ideas but not few enough, while Democrats believe that government can make us richer and smarter.
- The words “bi-partisan consensus” are frightening because of the polarization of America, but libertarians want all politics to go away much the same way as you fix a pet. You teach a pet not to beg at the table. Domestic policy would demand that a pet stayed off your bed, while foreign policy would require teaching your pet not to mess on other people’s lawns.
- Politicians attempt to solve every one of the world’s problems, when they can’t even run a post office.
- Government takes 40 percent of our money. Ought that be enough! But is government doing 40 percent of our work, such as doing the laundry or cleaning the house or taking care of our spouse if we are tired? If Bill Clinton is back in the White House this might happen.
- Political corruption is a law of economics. The first thing that gets sold is your votes.
- O’Rourke’s 16-year-old daughter keeps complaining, in general: “It’s not fair.” To which O’Rourke replies: “You’re cute. That’s not fair. You were born in America. That’s not fair. Get down on our knees and pray that things are not fair.”
A Q&A session with O’Rourke was lively and entertaining, and elicited unusual responses from the keynote speaker.
Q: Who will our president be on November 9?
A: “Someone you won’t like.” O’Rourke followed up by musing why it was so important who the president is. The president is not supposed to be so powerful. The large expansion of presidential power began with Abraham Lincoln – and we, as citizens, we never made it go away.
Q: You detailed Libertarian Party Candidate Gary Johnson’s platform without indicating your support of him?
A: America only has two large political parties. We’ll never get rid of either one of the parties until one party collapses.
Q: What do you think of Brexit?
A: O’Rourke said, as an individual, he would probably have voted against Brexit. But Europe is not going to survive. It is more messed up than America, and Britain had to get off the boat. Britain has forgotten border control, spent all its money on social welfare program, and can’t stand up to Putin.
Q: If Trump becomes dictatorial or goes off the deep end in other ways, will Republicans bring up impeachment?
A: O’Rourke said he had not the foggiest idea what would happen, as he has never been so wrong so often in his life than in this election cycle.
Heartland Liberty Prize: Morton Blackwell
Following O’Rourke’s remarks, Morton C. Blackwell, president of The Leadership Institute, was honored as the recipient of the 2016 Heartland Liberty Prize. The award was presented by Jameson Campaigne, founder and president of Green Hill Publishers and Jameson Books, and Joseph Morris, president of the Lincoln Legal Foundation.
Campaigne described Blackwell as “a leader who can create.” It was Blackwell who helped launch Turning Point USA, headed by Charles Kirk. It was Blackwell who predicted a year ago that “we would get Donald Trump.” Campaigne astutely noted that if conservatives don’t seek out the best and the brightest to run for office and win, someone else will.
Joe Morris spoke of Blackwell as “a leader who has devoted his life to advocacy for the cause of freedom.” Furthermore, Blackwell is a “teacher” and hails as “chief of the freedom movement in America.”
As to why Blackwell was selected for Heartland’s award, Joe Bast applauded Blackwell for never turning down a request for assistance, and not caring who received credit as long as a good job was done, rare qualities, indeed.
Upon presented of the Heartland Liberty Prize, Blackwell described what comes out of The Heartland Institute as “sparkling,” given its “healthy sense of moral indignation,” and with staffers who “really enjoys what they are doing.” Blackwell shared a condensation of his article, The Real Nature of Politics, written in the early ’70s, and which is as important today as it was at that time. It outlines what determines victory and why the right side doesn’t always win.
As a teacher, Blackwell has trained thousands of young people who have attended his Leadership Institute conferences over the decades. He tells young people:
- Keep your word.
- Keep your principles.
- Keep your hands out of other people’s pockets.
- Keep your pants on.
- Keep studying and putting into practice how to win.
The evening concluded with a raffle drawing and book signing by P.J. O’Rourke.