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Saturday, December 30, 2023

Some Favorite Moments from 2023

There are many great moments to choose from, but a few in particular stand out.

Image Credit: Government of Poland

As 2023 expires, I’m compelled to recall some notable events of a remarkable year. Though much of what I share with you here is personal, FEE was still very much on my mind every day. How could it not be?!

My involvement with this venerable organization dates back nearly 60 years—first as a reader; then as a writer; then as a speaker; then as a trustee; then as chairman of the board of trustees; then as president for eleven years (2008-2019); then as president emeritus for four-and-a-half years; and now as interim president.

This essay originated with a question a good friend posed to me just days ago: “Name the top 5 things that happened to you in 2023,” he asked. I said I would have to think about that. I did, and here they are, in ascending order of importance:

1) Roberto Clemente Museum

In June, an old friend and noted journalist Bill Steigerwald (author of 30 Days a Black Man) and I visited the Pittsburgh museum that honors my all-time favorite baseball player, Roberto Clemente. I admired the Puerto Rican American since my teenage years and devoted a chapter to him in my Real Heroes book. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy a masterful tour, I discovered many things about Clemente I didn’t know before. Don’t miss this place if your travels take you to Pittsburgh!

2) Mexico

In July, FEE en Español’s Arturo Portillo arranged several speaking opportunities in Mexico City and Cuernavaca. The total number of students across the various audiences in both cities exceeded 800, and media interviews reached far more. More than 500 students in Cuernavaca stunned me with a standing ovation after a lecture that explained the connection between heroes of liberty and personal character. It all reminded me of FEE’s incredible growth and success in Latin America in recent years. There’s a hunger in Mexico and throughout the region for ideas of freedom and free markets. The recent election of a libertarian president in Argentina is further proof of it.

3) FEE in the Classroom

Our programs team is deservedly proud of FEE’s increasing outreach to teachers. I delivered lectures on topics like Great Myths of the Great Depression to audiences of teachers in such places as Jackson, Mississippi and Oklahoma City. I was blown away by both the numbers who attended and by the receptivity of the attendees. Many teachers expressed surprise at what they learned, as well as a keen interest in sharing new insights with their students. Now that’s leverage! Teach hundreds of teachers and through them, you end up teaching thousands of students.

4) Speeches All over the Place

Usually at the behest of FEE, I spoke this past year in person to diverse audiences in an array of venues and cities. To mention a few: Spokane, Washington; Atlanta and Greensboro, Georgia; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Wichita, Kansas; Harbor Springs and Midland, Michigan; Mequon, Wisconsin; and Grand Junction, Colorado. I delivered virtual lectures to classes in a dozen states and spoke to audiences via radio and Zoom in at least a dozen more. As the year closes out, I think I had more fun and a sense of impact in 2023 than ever before, despite hitting that daunting age of 70 in September. If I’m slowing down, I haven’t noticed it yet.

5) Poland

Five days in November, in a country I love almost as much as my own, proved to be magical and unforgettable. At Belvedere Palace in Warsaw on November 11, the president of Poland gave me the highest honor that the country bestows upon a foreigner, the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit. I met most of his Cabinet and many long-time Polish friends, sat in a front-row seat for a review of the troops and a changing of the guard, and enjoyed a terrific reception at the residence of the president and his wife. If there were such a thing as a lifetime achievement award in the liberty movement, this was what it would be like for me. It was opposition to Soviet tyranny 55 years ago that first engaged me in this movement. The Poles couldn’t have said a more eloquent “thank you” than what they expressed to me on this occasion. (For additional info, see articles here, here, and here. For a few photos, click here.)

Concluding Thoughts

In late October, the FEE board asked me to step back in as interim president until a new one is found. Now I find myself as the only president in FEE’s 77-year history to hold the position a second time. I feel a little like one of my heroes, Grover Cleveland, who also served as a president for two non-consecutive terms.

I anticipate this interim period to be brief, as the FEE board is working earnestly to select a new president. In weeks or perhaps a very few months, I will step back into my role as FEE’s president emeritus, Humphreys Family Senior Fellow and Ron Manners Global Ambassador for Liberty.

As a Leonard Read libertarian who believes that a person should count his own blessings, not somebody else’s, I thank the FEE board and our supporters for their confidence and support. And I thank the countless others around the world who made 2023 a year of such extraordinary blessings for me.

Happy New Year!

  • Lawrence W. Reed is FEE's President Emeritus, having previously served for nearly 11 years as FEE’s president (2008-2019). He is also FEE's Humphreys Family Senior Fellow and Ron Manners Global Ambassador for Liberty. His Facebook page is here and his personal website is