People who spend their time in the spotlight usually receive the most recognition, but those who labor tirelessly behind the scenes can sometimes have the biggest impact in driving causes forward. Every year, Atlas Network partner the Kansas Policy Institute (KPI) awards its John J. Ingalls Spirit of Freedom Award to “a Kansan who uniquely supports the principles of individual liberty and economic freedom.” At KPI’s 2016 Freedom Gala, the organization’s 20th anniversary celebration, KPI presented that award to its chairman and co-founder George Pearson, who has also long been a board member of Atlas Network.
"Anybody who has had any depth of relationship with George knows that he is the last person to claim responsibility for anything,” said James Franko, KPI vice president and policy director. “But the simple truth is that the 20th anniversary celebration that we’re here gathering for tonight would not be possible without George’s work. And even many of George’s friends here locally have no idea of the work that he’s done internationally and around the country in the cause of liberty.”
Pearson began his career working with Charles and David Koch in Wichita, and has spent decades serving as a manager of various Koch foundations and for Koch Industries in various corporate positions. In addition to his work with KPI and Atlas Network, Pearson has served as a director for the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, among many other organizations.
“President Obama is famous for saying and reminding us that ‘You didn’t build that,’” Franko said. “And he’s correct in the sense that nobody does anything by themselves. But the difference, though, is that President Obama’s solution to that is more government, when what we really need is more men like George. Men of virtue, men of integrity, and men of honor. Men who empower other to succeed, taking none of the credit, but trusting in the power of the individual to succeed when given the freedom to do so.”
Those congratulating Pearson on his awards, and his lifetime of achievements advancing the cause of liberty, included the leaders of Atlas Network.
- “I want to congratulate George Pearson for his long career in defense of the free society,” said Atlas Network President Alex Chafuen. “His passion for freedom, I think, came from his classes at Grove City College, where he had as his professor Hans Sennholz, a disciple of Ludwig von Mises.”
- “He works quietly and modestly and with extreme dedication to achieve the goals of liberty, and to improve the movement itself,” said Atlas Network board member and former Chair Dan Grossman. “Thank you for all you’ve done, George.”
- “George, it’s been great knowing you all those years,” said Atlas Network Executive Vice President for International Programs Tom G. Palmer. “It’ll be great continuing to work with you in the future. Congratulations.”
- “I think of George Pearson as one of the unsung heroes of the freedom movement, and I want to say thanks to everyone at KPI for making sure that George’s praises are actually sung,” said Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips.
“I’m deeply honored to receive the John Ingalls award,” Pearson said during his acceptance speech, thanking many of his colleagues at KPI and in the liberty movement. “I believe if you associate with good people and pursue a cause long enough, something good will happen. … As James mentioned, I’ve been involved with organizations promoting freedom for over 50 years. The last half of that time has been with policy, in the policy arena. Why policy? In the political process, ideas are the input and votes are the outcome. For better or worse, policy shapes the political outcomes. Simply put, good policies produce good outcomes and bad policies produce bad outcomes. As many of you have heard me say, I believe that we are overinvested in political outcomes and underinvested in getting good policy into the political process. Thank you for this award, and thank you all for being part of the effort.”
The John J. Ingalls Spirit of Freedom Award is named after the 19th century Kansas senator who was instrumental in bringing Kansas into the United States as a free state, and wrote the Kansas Constitution. His political philosophy is emblematic of the spirit that infuses the work of KPI today.
“I belong to the school of politicians who think government should interfere as little as possible in the affairs of its citizens,” Sen. Ingalls said. “I have no sympathy for the paternal idea. All legislation can do is give men an equal chance in the race of life.”