Liberty champions from around the world attend Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner 2019


Sharing the message of liberty was a key theme of Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner 2019, which brought together more than 800 liberty champions from six continents for two days of conference sessions, networking, and building new opportunities for change around the world. The Foundation for Economic Freedom, located in Quezon City, Philippines, was awarded the $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award for their work in land reform.

Cornerstone Talks with Gloria Álvarez, John Papola, and Michael Ko.

The annual event kicked off with four Cornerstone Talks that set the tone for an inspiring look at the ways in which storytelling can be a powerful tool in communicating the benefits of freedom. Media powerhouse Gloria Álvarez, whose books and online presence have reached millions of people throughout the world, discussed how the message of freedom is effectively leveraged to engage diverse audiences. She contrasted the differences between socialism and free markets with an iceberg metaphor, pointing out that the visible surface—in the case of socialism, what sounds positive and socially responsible, does not accurately illustrate the negative consequences that are happening below the waterline.

Filmmaker John Papola, who created content for Nickelodeon and Spike TV, talked about his own filmmaking journey and his realization that stories are really about great characters, and that a great character can help communicate a message that matters. “The messenger is the message,” he pointed out. In the third talk, Dr. Lyall Swim discussed his research in understanding how think tanks can create effective messages. Finally, Michael Ko provided an overview of how Hong Kong’s interventionist government has created the country’s current unrest, and what think tanks like Lion Rock Institute, which ranks as Hong Kong’s second-most influential think tank, can do to influence change.

The winners of the Lights, Camera, Liberty Film Festival. (Pacific Legal Foundation for their film, “Quota”)

Competitions are an important part of Liberty Forum, and this year’s had the audience at the edge of their seats. Quota, a short film by Pacific Legal Foundation that challenges systemic race-based discrimination in Connecticut schools, was named the winner of the 2019 Lights, Camera, Liberty Film Festival. Filmmakers Jaclyn Boudreau and Joseph Kast accepted the award, thanking their team as well as the families who shared their stories with PLF. Short films by Georgia Center for Opportunity in the United States and a collaborative effort between Free Market Foundation and Paradigm Institute in Hungary were also nominated.

Anuki Premachandra (middle) of Advocata Institute, Sri Lanka was the winner of the John Blundell Elevator Competition for their work on lowering the tax on sanitary products.

The finals of the Great Communicators Tournament, which was co-sponsored by Think Freely Media, identifies and promotes individuals who are making emotionally compelling arguments that take a free-market perspective on public policy issues. Trace Mitchell of Mercatus Center took the $10,000 prize, with finalists Hunter Estes at Mississippi Center for Public Policy and Melodie Bowler of Alaska Policy Forum tying for the $5,000 second place prize. Anuki Premachandra of Advocata Institute took home the top prize in the annual John Blundell Elevator Pitch Competition, with Eva Christensen of Mannkal Economic Education Foundation in second and Ines Marrache of Asociación de Contribuyentes del Perú in third.

The busy room paused for a moment to remember Josephine Templeton, a trustee of the Templeton Foundation, the Templeton World Charity Foundation, and the Templeton Press, who died on October 25. Dr. Templeton, or "Pina," as she was widely known, was a pediatric anesthesiologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and very active in the family’s philanthropic efforts. Her daughter, Heather Templeton Dill, spoke movingly of her mother’s legacy of charity and kindness during the Templeton Freedom Award ceremony the next evening.

Established to honor the educational legacy of Leonard Liggio, Atlas Network’s late Executive Vice President, the annual Liggio Lecture showcases the history of intellectual development. This year, the Honorable Douglas Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit talked about the negative consequences of regulatory intervention on the economy. “Those who faile to learn from history are condemned to repeat it,” he said, quoting Winston Churchill. “And to quote my friend Leonard, ‘the history of regulation is no exception.’”

Book signing: The Populist Scam by Gloria Álvarez and Capitalism: An Antidote Against Poverty by Antonella Marty.

With two full days of panel discussions, networking opportunities, and films, Liberty Forum attendees had plenty of programming to keep them occupied. Nigeria’s Japheth Omojuwa shared insights on creating effective social media—an important communications tool in countries where liberty is under threat. Book signings featuring Ron Manners, Gloria Álvarez, and Antonella Marty attracted many readers interested in taking books about liberty back to their home countries, and a digital escape room, sponsored by Universidad Francisco Marroquín’s Video Game Center, took amateur detectives through a downloadable, do-it-yourself trip through the dangers of totalitarianism.

The conference culminated with the annual gala Freedom Dinner, held this year at Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum at Chelsea Piers. More than 800 freedom champions packed the enormous room in celebration of an exciting conference and to recognize the winner of the $100,000 Templeton Freedom Prize, which is sponsored by the Templeton Religion Trust. The evening began with a tribute to Donald Smith, a longtime liberty movement investor who died on October 30. His longtime friend Tom Palmer, Atlas Network’s George M. Yeager Chair for Advancing Liberty and Executive Vice President for International Programs, told of Smith’s extraordinary legacy of support of groups engaged in promoting freedom over a backdrop of photos of Smith’s life as a family man, successful businessman, and friend of liberty.

The Foundation for Economic Freedom, an Atlas Network partner in Quezon City, Philippines, was awarded the $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award for their work to end restrictions on agricultural land patents.

The Foundation for Economic Freedom, an Atlas Network partner in Quezon City, Philippines, was awarded the $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award for their work to end restrictions on agricultural land patents, liberating billions of dollars in land values and potentially transforming the country’s entire agricultural sector. “In the Philippines the face of poverty is rural," said FEF President Calixto Chikiamco. “Giving farmers the right to do what they would like with their land will be a big step in turning this trend around and will strengthen our democracy. This award can only inspire us to achieve even greater heights.”

Liberty Forum 2020 will be held November 11-12 In New York City.