Each year, the Foundation for Economic Education recognizes one alumna or alumnus for outstanding contributions to the causes of human liberty and economic education. We do so through the Leonard E. Read Distinguished Alumni Award, named for the founder of FEE. The winner is honored at the Leonard E. Read Distinguished Alumni Award dinner at FEEcon, and receives a plaque and a $2,000 cash prize. This year, we are proud to announce that the winner of the 2018 Leonard E. Read Distinguished Alumni Award is Matt Kibbe.
Matt is the President and Chief Community Organizer at Free the People, an educational organization turning the next generation on to the values of liberty. He is also an Executive Producer at CRTV, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Austrian Economics Center, and the founder of FreedomWorks. His 2014 book Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto was a New York Times #2 Best Seller. He attended FEE Seminars in 1984 and 1988.
Also honored are several Honorable Mentions in the fields of Outreach, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, and a prize for Rising Stars Under 35.
Outreach: Odunola Oladejo
Odunola Oladejo is an activist, lawyer, and entrepreneur based in Ibadan, Nigeria. Through her work as a FEE Campus Ambassador, she hosted educational workshops for eighty students in rural Nigeria. She serves on the Board of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, is a founding member of the Ladies for Liberty Alliance Nigeria, and is an active member of Students for Liberty. She attended FEE’s 2015 Communicating Liberty seminar.
Entrepreneurship: Zak Slayback
Zak Slayback helps ambitious young people get ahead in their careers. He regularly coaches and advises young founders of consulting businesses & venture-backed startups. He writes on networking, sales and business development, and writing at zakslayback.com and is the author of the forthcoming How to Get Ahead When You Have Nothing to Offer (McGraw-Hill, 2019). He attended FEE’s Communicating Liberty seminars in 2013 and 2014, and FEEcon 2018
Leadership: Nigel Ashford
Nigel Ashford is a Senior Programs Officer at the Institute for Humane Studies. He joined IHS from the United Kingdom where he was a professor of politics and Jean Monnet Scholar in European Integration at Staffordshire University, England. Dr. Ashford has also directed the Principles for a Free Society Project at the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation in Sweden and was a Bradley Resident Scholar at the Heritage Foundation and Visiting Scholar at the Social and Philosophy Policy Center in Bowling Green. He is a recipient of the International Anthony Fisher Trust Prize for published work which strengthens public understanding of the political economy of the free society. He is the author of Principles for a Free Society. He attended a FEE Seminar in 1990.
Rising Star Under 35: Wolf von Laer
Dr. Wolf von Laer is the Chief Executive Officer at Students for Liberty, the world’s largest pro-liberty student network. Wolf received his Ph.D. in Political Economy from King’s College London. He was a founding member of European Students for Liberty and served as its chairman. He was also a member of the FEE 100. He attended a FEE Seminar in 2011.
Alumni of the Year: Matt Kibbe
Below is Matt Kibbe’s acceptance speech.
When I first set out for Irvington-on-Hudson as an undergraduate student, I had no idea what to expect. I had already discovered the ideas of Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises in high school and had then stumbled upon a small academic enclave for these ideas at Grove City College. But in 1984, pre-interwebs, so much of the world of ideas was a mystery still to be discovered. You couldn’t just Google it; you had to show up.
So I set out that day on the 6-hour drive to FEE headquarters in Tarrytown, New York, with my college buddy Carl Helstrom. It was a smart move, unlike some of the other decisions I made as an undergraduate. Because it was there, at my first FEE seminar, that I realized that I was not alone.
I discovered a thriving community of liberty, including intellectuals, teachers, reporters, and storytellers. Looking around the grounds of the old FEE mansion during the first social, I marveled to myself: there could be dozens of us! Maybe more? Of course, I would soon find out that there were thousands of us.
Once I connected with the FEE network, the path forward became more clear. There was new strength in numbers, and I had stepped into a welcoming community. I was not alone anymore. As Leonard Read might say: I was drawn to the light.
Today, it’s hard to imagine how powerful that sense of community felt, isolated back in 1984. Those of us who fight for the values of liberty are hardly alone anymore. Today, we are many millions strong, and we gather regularly at celebrations of community like FEEcon or in virtual communities online. Here, young people discover new ideas, connecting with intellectuals, teachers, reporters, and storytellers and spontaneously build out a more powerful structure of production that will change the world, upstream of politics.
For me, understanding the limitless power of community to change the world started at FEE. My passion for ideas evolved over time, first as a Tea Party organizer and always as a quest to communicate to new audiences, particularly the “liberty-curious.” As Chief Community Organizer at Free the People, I am more optimistic than ever before that we can reach, and organize, the next generation around the values of peaceful cooperation and disruptive entrepreneurship. The ideas of liberty have legs today because we can all reach far beyond the dozens of leaders I met—who inspired me—at FEE in 1984.