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Citizenship Needs an Owner’s Manual 

Lawrence W. Reed

When you buy a new car, you get an indispensable document called an Owner’s Manual. Nobody ever throws the manual away while he owns the car. It’s far more important than the slip of paper you get with a new flashlight that tells you where to put the batteries; you could figure that out on your own. A car has a maze of electronic circuitry; lots of buttons, dials and periodic maintenance requirements; and numerous moving parts both visible and hidden. Many things could go wrong if you don’t get things right.

Citizenship in a free republic is similar. Historically, it’s a scarce and valuable commodity. The freedom it conveys is much sought after but most people in history never achieved it and most of those currently living never will. Some who have it will lose it through assault or neglect. If and when you’re blessed to possess it, you will discover that it won’t run on its own.

You must take charge. Maintenance, after all, requires an active maintainer. So it is that citizenship in a free republic requires an Owner’s Manual, and now for Americans at least, activist and philanthropist Helen Krieble has given us one.

Helen Krieble, formerly of Colorado and now a resident again of her home state of Connecticut, is president of the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation. She’s a lifelong promoter and benefactor of freedom-related causes from regulation to immigration. Her late father, Robert Krieble, co-founder of the Loctite Corporation and former vice chairman of the Heritage Foundation, was known for his role in supporting freedom movements within the old Soviet Empire.

Helen has tangled with intrusive governments herself right in her own backyard, battling regulators in Colorado whose nonsense forced her to close and sell her beloved Colorado Horse Park, an international equestrian and events center.

She knows that freedom is never automatic or guaranteed from one generation to the next. She also knows that defending it begins at the most local level, the individual.

Helen is the prime mover behind many effective projects over the years, including the impressive Leadership Program of the Rockies. Her latest is the Lens of Liberty Citizenship Initiative , “a series of projects and programs to educate Americans on what it means to be a United States citizen, and on the responsibilities that come with citizenship.”

It’s nothing like the nondescript mush you hear from groups that purposefully steer clear of any principled message—you know, the ones that go no deeper than tell you to vote (for anybody, so long as you vote), write your congressman, tour the capitol building and attend school board meetings. Everything Helen’s organization produces is aimed at getting Americans to see all issues through the “lens of liberty” and then equipping them to act on behalf of their vanishing freedoms.

The 50-page Your American Citizenship Owner’s Manual is one of the Lens of Liberty’s publications. It includes a “Parts List” and sections on “The Privileges of Ownership,” “Teaching Other Drivers,” “Maintenance Responsibilities,” “Operating the Controls,” “Roadside Emergencies” and even one on “Recalling Defective Parts.” It’s included in the free “Freedom Kit” you can request here.

Citizenship in a free republic, in Helen Krieble’s view, requires that we understand and appreciate these principles: equality before the law, unalienable individual rights, personal responsibility, the rule of law, free enterprise and private property, among others. Moreover, we must put our time and talents to work for them. We must speak truth to power and challenge unconstitutional or unwarranted assaults on our freedoms whether they come from the distant federal government or from the local zoning board. “Every citizen,” says Helen, “must hold government accountable for preserving our freedom, not taking it, and our home towns are great places to start.”

At FEE, we educate people (young ones especially) in pretty much the same ideals that Helen’s new effort does, so we are especially pleased to partner with the Lens of Liberty Citizenship Initiative. When I am asked, as I frequently am, “What can I do now that I’m sold on liberty?” I urge principled people to start a Bastiat Society chapter, sponsor students to a FEE seminar, get involved in media or politics or any number of other activities where their talents are best deployed.

Now to that list I proudly add Helen Krieble’s Lens of Liberty! You can start by learning more about the organization and by ordering your Freedom Kit today.

America is more than just a place—it is an ideal and a set of principles. In America, government exists for and with the consent of the people—a radical concept in the beginning that the founders knew would require informed and responsible citizens. American citizens who enjoy the privileges of a free society must play a role in keeping the nation’s ideals of freedom on course. ~ Helen Krieble, founder of the Lens of Liberty Citizenship Initiative.

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