All Commentary
Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Bob Chitester Captured the Popular Imagination with the Ideas of Liberty

The cause of human liberty has lost a great champion with the passing of Bob Chitester.

The cause of human liberty has lost a great champion with the passing of Bob Chitester.

Friedrich Hayek famously said, “We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage… a task that challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds.”  

No one responded to that call with greater talent and vitality than Bob. His legacy to us includes a vast body of work, a thriving organization to continue the fight, and the memory of his contagious excitement and encouragement to keep telling the story, each of us in his own way.

In 2016, FEE awarded Bob its Blinking Lights Award, named for the multitudes of Poles who resisted Communist rule, each in his own way, and showed their solidarity by the blinking of lights in the Warsaw night. In Bob’s case, perhaps we should have called it the Searchlights Award, given how many popular shows he had to his credit.

Since the immensely successful Free To Choose series on PBS in 1980, Bob and his teams at the Free To Choose Network have produced more than 500 hours of high-quality programming for broad distribution. He created the Stossel in the Classroom program, developing a network of high school teachers who were hungry for articulate and entertaining classroom material about freedom in everyday life.  He followed that up with the concept of, an online education resource that now offers a library of 70 video-centric teaching units, daily current events lessons, and more, reaching over 300,000 teachers. He also created The Idea Channel, a library of more than 200 video recordings of intellectual discussions with leading scholars, including Hayek himself.

It is the earnest desire of so many of us in the freedom movement to permeate the popular imagination with the ideas of classical liberalism and free-market economics. With his rare combination of intellect, creativity, and enthusiasm, Bob was remarkably successful at that. 

Bob never lost sight of the fact that the ideas we cherish are not an ivory-tower exercise in logic, but a humane study—one that illuminates how everyday people thrive and flourish. His productions about ideas were alive with storytelling; rather than dwelling on abstractions, they explored and celebrated life. This is why his work captured the imaginations and changed the minds of so many.

We at FEE have been fortunate to work with Bob and the teams of professionals at Free To Choose Network and on a number of occasions.  We will greatly miss the irrepressible optimism and energy that he brought to every encounter and every project. We look forward to continuing his legacy as best we can. We extend our condolences to Bob’s family and his many friends throughout the world.

  • Wayne Olson is the Chairman of FEE's Board of Trustees and a former executive director of the Foundation for Economic Education.