By Benita M. Dodd
As the Georgia Council on Economic Education tells it, in 1962, a young professor from Georgia State College addressed the Rebel Chapter of the Young Presidents Organization at Callaway Gardens.
He spoke “so eloquently and passionately about the importance of understanding and appreciating our private enterprise system that he was encouraged to create the first Chair of Private Enterprise in the United States.”
In 1963, that Chair was established at Georgia State University. The eloquent champion of private enterprise, Dr. Michael H. Mescon, became the first to hold the honor. Its influence spread: Today, more than 200 private enterprise-related chairs exist across the nation and around the world.
Mescon created the university’s Center for Business and Economic Education, working with metro Atlanta teachers to introduce K-12 students to the fundamentals of private enterprise. When the Georgia Council on Economic Education (GCEE) was created in 1972, the Center became affiliated with GCEE. Today, there are 12 such centers on campuses across Georgia.
In 1985, the national Association of Private Enterprise Education (APEE) was formed by Mescon, Bill Rushing (who succeeded him in the Georgia State Chair) and Craig Aronoff, who created the Chair of Family-Owned Enterprises at Kennesaw State University. Thousands of teachers and millions of students have benefited from APEE members’ programs that teach teachers economic theory and how it can be taught.
Change came slowly to John Stossel. He began working at ABC News in 1981, eventually becoming co-anchor of “20/20.” He left ABC in 2009 to join Fox Business Network, where he hosts, “Stossel,” a weekly program.
In 1994 Stossel recalled in an interview: “I started out by viewing the marketplace as a cruel place, where you need intervention by government and lawyers to protect people. But after watching the regulators work, I have come to believe that markets are magical and the best protectors of the consumer. I’m a little embarrassed about how long it took me to see the folly of most government intervention.”
Today, Stossel’s economic programs have been adapted into teaching kits by a non-profit organization, “Stossel in the Classroom,” and are used by high school teachers to help educate their students on economics and economic freedom. They are seen by more than 12 million students every year.
In 1991 the Georgia Public Policy Foundation was founded to advance free-market strategies and economic opportunities for Georgians. It drew from the successes of national policy groups like the Heritage Foundation that helped Ronald Reagan formulate his national policy platform of limited government, lower taxes and personal responsibility.
Foundation founder Hank McCamish, an insurance executive and quiet philanthropist, had just three rules. He wanted no personal attacks, no social issues and most of all, that the Foundation work diligently to always get the facts right.
Twenty-five years later, much like its founder’s behind-the-scenes philanthropy, the quiet successes of the Foundation’s efforts are evident. Since the beginning, school choice has moved forward; transportation policy is largely commonsense; taxes are reasonable; personal responsibility is finding success through consumer-driven health care options and welfare reforms; opportunity is expanding amid criminal justice reforms and occupational licensing reforms.
When Foundation President Kelly McCutchen asked Stossel to keynote the 25th Anniversary Celebration on November 11, Stossel readily agreed. His only expectation, serendipitously, was that his speaking fee is donated to one of his favorite charities. A charity that benefits the homeless without taxpayer funding, it’s much like the Georgia Works program that this organization has highlighted.
It’s an extraordinary opportunity to unite three giants under one roof to celebrate: an international catalyst for economic education and entrepreneurship, a national voice for limited government, and a public policy research group that is elected officials’ “Jiminy Cricket” on opportunity and personal responsibility.
Mescon, once called the “Pied Piper of Private Enterprise” by The Wall Street Journal, is the deserving recipient of the Foundation’s Freedom Award, given to a notable Georgian who has exemplified the principles of private enterprise and personal integrity.
The Foundation’s celebration of 25 years of, “Changing Georgia Policy, Changing Georgians’ Lives,” is somewhat bittersweet. It would be so much sweeter to celebrate being superfluous by now. As the saying goes, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” Challenge accepted.
Reserve your seat at the Foundation’s 25th Anniversary Celebration Dinner and Freedom Award on November 11, Veterans Day. The keynote speaker is John Stossel; the Freedom Award recipient is Dr. Michael H. Mescon. Cobb Galleria Performing Arts Centre Ballroom. $150 per person.
Benita M. Dodd is vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.