Lawrence Reed called for students to change hearts and minds during his speech Tuesday night in the Charles V. Park Library Auditorium.
An advocate for economic and social liberty, Reed spoke to a crowd of 70 people about how speech is the connection between liberty and moral character.
“Liberty is a system which requires high standards of character from everyone,” Reed said. “You can’t exercise character if you’re not free to make decisions.”
Reed said honesty, humility and responsibility are some of the most important traits for his concept of moral character. He used the story of Thomas Clarkson to illustrate the link between the concepts in society.
Clarkson created The Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, a group of 12 men who worked to raise awareness about the horrors of the slave trade. Its goal was to affect popular opinion in order to change public policy.
Reed said the group was the first liberty think tank and it worked to “change the conscious of a nation.” He compared the abolition group to the libertarian movement as agents of social change.
William Livingston, 79, is a student in the university’s seniors program. The Dowagiac conservative came to the event to learn more about Reed’s views on capitalism.
“It’s encouraging to see all the young people here tonight, asking deep questions and dedicating themselves to the idea of liberty,” Livingston said.
Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education, an organization that promotes education on libertarian views of economics and government.
He was also the co-founder and president of a Midland-based think tank called The Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The purpose of the center is to develop and advocate for free market economic policies in Michigan.
Some of the biggest challenges facing college students in the future, Reed said, are the war on drugs, federal government debt and healthcare. He said his philosophy of liberty and individual choice are key factors in these issues.
Reed also addressed how the philosophy of liberty works with many current issues. On subjects such as the NSA surveillance program and welfare, he stressed personal choice for individuals and limiting the power of government.
Many of the economic and government policies today are unsustainable, Reed said. He is optimistic about change in the future because of the support the liberty movement has found in young people.
“It was good to learn more about his perspective,” said Tawas City freshman Michael Moran. “The question and answer segment was the best part because we got to hear what he thought about a lot of the social issues we deal with today.”
Attendants were offered free copies of the book “Why Liberty,” a collection of writings by prominent advocates of the liberty movement.