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Published April 21, 2011 in Psychology by Sharon Harris
Lanny Friedlander passed away on March 19, 2012.
You may not know his name – I didn’t until recently – but he had a profound effect on the liberty movement.
Friedlander founded Reason magazine, today the world’s largest and most influential libertarian magazine, in 1968.
I’m writing about him here because of what Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of Reason.tv and Reason.com, wrote about Friedlander at Reason’s blog last month when he learned of his death.
Friedlander had dropped out of sight many years ago. When Gillespie began working at Reason, no one at the magazine even knew how to get in touch with him.
“When I began working at Reason in late 1993, I remember asking around a bit about this Friedlander guy who'd gotten the ball rolling, whose name was all over the early issues, right there, at the top of the masthead even. … Virginia Postrel, editor in chief of Reason from 1989 until 2000, told me via email [that] not only had she never met him, but during her time at the mag, folks didn't even know what had happened to him. …
“When we opened our D.C. offices a few years ago, I hunted around for a picture of Lanny to put on the walls -- libertarians aren't much for shrines to fearless leaders, but come on! -- and nobody in the organization could find one.”
This last paragraph is what provoked me to write this column. I salute Gillespie for trying to honor Friedlander, to display a picture of him, and to include him in Reason’s 35th anniversary celebration.
Far too many libertarian organizations don’t recognize and honor their past heroes, their major contributors, their founders, their candidates, their past chairs…
This is tragic and short-sighted. Every organization has a history. There was a founding. There were people who made it possible. People who kept it going through difficult times. Leaders. Notable activists. People who made significant contributions, often at considerable personal cost or sacrifice.
And yet, too often, we libertarians act as if the organizations we are participating in were founded just last week.
That’s bad policy, morally and pragmatically.
When an organization recognizes the people who contribute to its success, good things happen.
Newer members are encouraged to give a little more, or a lot more – knowing their efforts will be appreciated.
The act of recognition and celebration warms hearts and creates unity and good feelings.
Newcomers in the organization know that the organization has roots and a history and substance.
The celebration of old achievements spurs us on to new ones.
And besides, it’s just the right thing to do.
Of course, the people I’m talking about didn’t do their important work for this kind of recognition. But they nonetheless have earned it.
The Advocates has an annual awards program, Lights of Liberty, which recognizes and rewards grassroots activism in three important areas of outreach: writing letters to the editor, public speaking, and OPH outreach.
Some libertarian organizations congratulate their members who win Lights of Liberty awards, at their conventions or in their newsletters, as a way of thanking them. I think that’s great.
There are many ways an organization can recognize people for important contributions. Awards and public acknowledgement at conventions. Mentions and articles in newsletters. Photos on walls and websites. The naming of buildings, rooms, scholarships and the like. The inclusion of their names and achievements in histories of the organization posted at websites.
Several years ago at an Advocates event, we gave an award to a nationally-known libertarian leader for his contributions to the Advocates.
He was deeply moved when I gave him the award. Later he thanked me. “I’ve never gotten an award before,” he said.
I was stunned. This person had made enormous contributions to liberty. He had run for office, played a major part in national organizations, written countless important articles for numerous publications, and done much more besides. And this was his first award?
Nick Gillespie’s story about Lanny Friedlander has at least something of a happy ending. He concludes:
“Thanks to longtime reader and supporter Bob Smiley, we managed to reconnect with Lanny not long ago, and started sending him the magazine… I wish that Lanny could have enjoyed it more while he was here, and I wish to hell that he would be with us as the future unfolds.”
Who do you know in your local, state or national organization that should be recognized?