Dear Friends of FEE:
2018 marks some important milestones in my life. Here are three big ones.
A month short of my 15th birthday, days after the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia on August 20, 1968, I bought a bus ticket and rode 35 miles to downtown Pittsburgh to join in a public protest against that invasion. It was my first “activist” event on behalf of liberty. It led directly and quickly to learning about FEE and reading its publications. That was 50 years ago.
I turn 65 this September, an age that not long ago seemed so very distant to me. Yet the clock and the calendar don’t lie. Now, when people call me at 9:00 p.m., they ask, “Did I wake you?”
And also in September, it’ll be 10 years since I assumed the presidency of the Foundation for Economic Education. The past decade has been such a non-stop, fulfilling thrill ride that it just doesn’t seem possible I’ve been on it that long.
50. 65. 10.
There’s something about the way those numbers line up. Maybe it’s just that they’re so neatly divisible by 5. Who knows? But for the last year or so, they’ve been playing around in my mind as if to suggest it was time for a move.
I’m a firm believer that a great deal of success in life has to do with timing—like knowing when to come and when to go. I’ve been very much a part of succession planning in every job I’ve ever held because I think it’s a mark of good management. For the sake of any business or organization, the top person should never wait until he (or she) is past his prime and has to be carried out.
So, I recently and quietly asked FEE’s Board of Trustees to commence a search process to identify my successor as FEE President. I made this announcement at the closing dinner this past Saturday night at our spectacular FEEcon 2018 conference in Atlanta. That process will now unfold. Before the next FEEcon (June 13-15, 2019), if not by the end of this year, we hope a new President will be in place. When that happens, I will assume the role of President Emeritus.
This is not “retirement” for me. I wouldn’t know how to do that (and can’t afford it anyway!). Liberty is my life’s passion. I can’t imagine doing anything other than all I can to promote that noble cause. I see this simply as a personal and strategic reassignment that will allow me to focus more on those things—such as speaking and writing—that I have always most enjoyed. I will assist the new President, staff, and Board in every way I can and wherever there may be holes to fill and value to add. No rocking chair or hammock for me! I may also accept occasional opportunities to collaborate with partner organizations.
I first became active for liberty a half-century ago with the hope of being a writer. I’ve written a lot over the years but somehow, I’ve also ended up running a lot of things too: the economics department at Northwood University, the Center for Market Alternatives in Idaho, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan, and then FEE. So when the day comes that I’m not running an organization and I get to write more, I’ll return to my roots I put in the ground when I published my first article for FEE 41 years ago. I have so many things on my list of “stuff to write about” that I’m excited about the prospect.
We’re not in a rush on this. The Trustees and I can take our time, follow a careful process of vetting and selection, and get the job done right. This is one of the advantages of stepping aside when you’re at the top of your game. I know what it’s like to have to fill a vacancy because of an unexpected passing or a crisis of some kind, and it’s never fun. But we have the luxury at FEE of managing a transition that can be planned, seamless, professional, and picture-perfect.
Soon enough, there will be time and occasion for retrospectives and reminiscences. It’s not my intent here to go into such detail. I will say, however, that I am immensely proud of what we’ve accomplished these past ten years! My tenure has been by far the longest and most consequential of any FEE presidency since that of our founder, but it’s not in my nature, nor would it be faithful to the facts, for me to hog the credit for those accomplishments. The immense joy I’ve derived from every job I’ve ever had has come from assembling the best possible team and then being the best cheerleader for what they do that I can possibly be.
FEE is light-years ahead of where it was ten years ago, by every imaginable measure of outcomes, impact, and public support. That kind of progress doesn’t come from one man or one woman. It’s always a team project. In the coming months, as we find occasions to recount the last decade at FEE, I hope our readers and supporters will indeed see our amazing story in that context. With the phenomenal staff and Board we’ve put together and with the wind at our backs, the sky’s the limit for this fantastic and venerable organization.
Our Board has formed a search committee and will make an announcement later this summer about the process that will eventually produce an exciting new FEE President. We’ll keep you informed as appropriate. Please refrain from public guessing about who that finalist might prove to be; it’s at least as likely to be a fresh face as any of the names I’ve already seen in some idle, social media speculation.
In the meantime, I’m not saying “goodbye” but rather, a hearty thank you! for the confidence you’ve shown us and will continue to show us as we build for an even better future!
Lawrence W. Reed