Freedom’s Champion

FEE’s current president, Lawrence W. Reed, takes a break this week from his Real Heroes series to focus on the man who founded FEE nearly seven decades ago and served as its president until his death in 1983, Leonard E. Read. “Real Heroes” resumes next Friday. What follows are (1) a few introductory paragraphs by Roger Ream, president of The Fund for American Studies and chairman of the FEE board of trustees; and (2) an abridged and updated version of a 1998 essay by longtime FEE staff member Bettina Bien Greaves, who at 98 now resides in Hickory, North Carolina.

Comments from Roger Ream

I was fortunate at a formative time in my life to accompany my father to a FEE seminar in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. At the seminar, Leonard delivered three lectures: “The Essence of Americanism,” “The Miracle of the Market,” and “How to Advance Liberty.” The experience that summer led me eventually to spend three years at FEE as director of seminars and a member of the senior staff.

Leonard Read believed freedom was inextricably linked with the practice of self-improvement.

If I were to summarize Leonard’s vision, it would be by way of a quotation from the 17th-century essayist and poet Abraham Cowley, who wrote, “Liberty will not descend to a people; a people must raise themselves up to liberty. It is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed.”

Leonard would have liked that quotation. It captures his lifelong passion for learning and for “raising himself up to liberty.”

Leonard was committed to spiritual growth, or what he would sometimes call “hatching.”…