Every year Liberty Forum inspires and rejuvenates the individuals in the worldwide freedom movement, and this past weekend was more inspirational than ever. More than anything, there was a palpable connectedness among our partners, our supporters, and various friends and family members. With 58 countries represented, Liberty Forum was jampacked with the energy of the John Blundell Elevator Pitch Competition, the emotions of the Lights, Camera, Liberty! Film Festival, the inspiration from the breakout sessions, the countless personal moments between old friends and new, and so much more. There is no way to truly capture everything that happened in one summary, so instead we compiled a list of our top 10 favorite moments to give you a glimpse inside this year's Liberty Forum.
1) Most world-changing Sharpies and Post-it Notes
Think Sharpies and Post-it Notes are normal everyday office supplies? Not the nine project presenters of this year’s inspirational Unconference, sponsored by EdChoice. There were countless ideas generated over the four hours that Unconference took place, but one of our favorites happened at Station #2. After crowdsourcing ideas from Unconference participants, Patrick Mardini of the Beirut-based Lebanese Institute for Market Studies now plans on tackling the government monopoly on energy in Lebanon by launching a campaign that will bring privatization and less harsh regulations to the electricity market. While his people face daily blackouts of up to 12 hours, Patrick thinks it’s time to “Turn the Lights On In Lebanon.”
2) Most tear-jerking moment of Liberty Forum
During the Lights, Camera, Liberty! Film Festival, we showed the heartwrenching and inspirational video “Armando Valladares: Cuban Political Prisoner of Conscience,” from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The video of his story brought many in the crowd to tears, showing just how powerful storytelling can be when done well. The film festival continued with several other incredible videos from Atlas Network partners, including “All Obsolete Industries Deserve the Taxi Bailout” by the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance; “Everything” by the Institute for Justice; and this year’s grand prize winner: “Friedman vs. Sanders: Democratic Socialism Debunked,” by Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).
3) Liberty Forum’s 17 most nervous people
With a full house and only 60 seconds to pitch their work, Atlas Network’s Think Tank MBA graduates who participated in the fast-paced, high-energy John Blundell Elevator Pitch Competition had enough to be nervous about already, even before we told them we’d be streaming the entire event on Facebook Live. Jorge Colindres, of Fundación Eléutera (Honduras), with his pitch on “creating a human rights and civil liberties defense unit to take the Honduran government to court and defend our constitutional rights,” ended up winning over the audience's hearts as well as their votes to win the competition’s $1,000 grand prize. Runners-up included Michael Iakovidis of Greek Liberties Monitor (Greece) and Jasson Urbach of Free Market Foundation (South Africa).
4) Biggest onstage smile
Our favorite part of Atlas Network’s “Coach, Compete, Celebrate” strategy is the celebration. Sharing these inspirational moments with our partners makes all the hard work we all do worth it, a feeling that couldn’t be more apparent than when Pilirani Banda received the $3,000 2016 Smith Student Outreach Award, sponsored by the Smith Family Foundation, on behalf of the Malawi-based Center for Free Market Enterprise (CFME). His smile, possibly the biggest of the entire weekend, was full of pride and joy for the amazing work the entire CFME team is doing to engage with thousands of students on the messages of liberty in Malawi.
5) The big reveal
Reminiscent of every 80’s arcade game or playlist you’ve ever loved, the announcement videos which were directed and edited by the prodigious Charlie Fritschner revealed the long-anticipated 2016 Templeton Freedom Award finalists. Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips announced the finalists, and they are: Lithuanian Free Market Institute’s Economics in 31 Hours textbook; Foundation for Government Accountability’s Restore the Working Class Project; The Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress’s Economic Reform Campaign for Israel; Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s Legislative and Policy Project; The Centre for Justice’s Litigating for Liberty Project; and Goldwater Institute’s Right to Try Initiative. The winner will be announced at Freedom Dinner 2016 at the historic Capitale in New York City.
6) Best tweet using #LibertyForum2016
John Mozena, vice president for marketing and communications at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, hit the nail on the head with his live tweet at the fourth annual Liggio Lecture by Dr. Lawrence H. White. The lecture took the audience through the historic tradition of sound money, starting with the 1300’s, the Scottish Enlightenment, and through to F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman’s views on government’s role in money in the 20th century. “State disruptions to the supply or demand of money boggle the entire economy,” said White. This years Liggio Lecture was introduced by Atlas Network President Alex Chafuen is named in honor of the late Leonard Liggio, Atlas Network's long-time executive vice president of academics.
7) Best Liberty Forum poetry slam
Being the second-ever to receive the Sir Antony Fisher Lifetime Achievement Award for his legacy in broadcasting the ideals of liberty, Free To Choose Network Founder Bob Chitester shared with the crowd one of his favorite poems during his acceptance speech and one-on-one talk with Dr. Tom G. Palmer. The poem, “Overland to the Islands” by Denise Levertov, is the same poem he once shared with Milton Friedman in the fall of 1977 at the Rotary Club of Erie, Pa. Bob received this award for a lifetime of showing the beauty of liberty in sophisticated visual documentaries that earned widespread attention among diverse audiences.
8) Wildest acronym overload
At LF16, TTLT NoAm and Global project winners won awards; TTMBA alumni celebrated; TTST contestants were announced; ALA participants graduated; and somehow CC kept track of them all.
Acronym key: LF16 = Liberty Forum 2016; TTLT = Think Tank Leadership Training; NoAm = TTLT North American track; TTMBA = Think Tank MBA; TTST = Think Tank Shark Tank; ALA = Atlas Leadership Academy; CC = the one and only Cindy Cerquitella.
9) Liberty Forum speaker who has written the most Spice Girls songs
Glynn Brailsford, director of creative, marketing, and development at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, has the strange claim to fame of writing the Spice Girls song “The Power of 5” that was used in 1997 to launch Channel 5 in the U.K. He gave a fascinating and insightful talk on branding and why just because you are a think tank, it doesn't mean you have to be boring. While introducing Glynn, Daniel Anthony, vice president of marketing and communications here at Atlas Network, opined on the essence of branding: "All the things we do to cause our audiences to love and respect us."
10) Greatest standing ovation
Atlas Network’s outgoing Chairman of the Board Dan Grossman received a standing ovation for his work pushing the Atlas Network team and the entire freedom movement to continue to spread freedom where it does not exist, and to expand liberty where it has been established. When incoming Atlas Network Chairwoman Linda Whetstone took the stage, she spoke about how honored she was to carry on the tradition that her father, Atlas Network founder Sir Antony Fisher, started back in 1981, and about how proud she was to present the $10,000 Sir Antony Fisher International Memorial Award for the book Disinherited: How Washington Is Betraying America’s Young (Encounter Books, 2015), by Manhattan Institute scholars Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Jared Meyer.
Special thanks to the Smith Family Foundation, John Templeton Foundation, and Templeton Religion Trust for funding key Atlas Network programs that were highlighted during Liberty Forum 2016. And thank you to the entire team and all the participants who made this event possible, as well as our hotel host, the InterContinental Miami Hotel.
Be sure to make your plans now to attend Atlas Network’s 2016 Freedom Dinner on Nov. 10 at the historic Capitale in New York City.